7.17.2009

I left my heart . . . in S.F -- (that's Santa Fe, not San Francisco, BTW.)


I've been a little prickly this week



because I'm supposed to be in Santa Fe.



Unfortunately, my vacation had to be rescheduled due to my husband's work conflict. (It's hard to complain too loudly, since I'm lucky enough to be married to a patron of the arts who is happy to go to work and allow me to just kick around a studio every day.)


But I'd be dishonest if I didn't admit there's been some (loudish) mourning around here.



I've read my latest "New Mexico Magazine"
cover to cover.




I've eaten Mexican food for lunch 3 (three) times.



And I've planted myself a little cactus garden for my kitchen table.



I'm working through my grief.


But since my heart has been out west this week,
I guess it's only fitting that we head out west for today's


Small Works' Summer
Reading Recommendation!


I'm a completely dorky fan of the most ridiculous sort when it comes to today's author:




The Incomparable Sherman Alexie.

Believe me when I say that he is wholly worthy of my
complete worship and adoration.

Yes, he's an Indian -- but not from New Mexico -- from Spokane.

One of my favorite Sherman Alexie reviews contains a sentence that makes a perfect caption for his picture, and says so much about his captivating appeal:

" . . . laughing my ass off
while my heart is breaking."


That pretty much sums up Sherman Alexie in a nutshell.

The book I've chosen to introduce you to the wonders of Alexie's world is:



It's one of his newer books, a YA novel with appeal across a broad spectrum -- you'll love it, and so will your kids.


The book begins with a quote from W.B. Yeats, which I feel could be used as an intro to every piece of Sherman Alexie's work:



From his writing we invariably get an unflinching portrait of life on the rez, but also an appreciation of that life.

There's a true dual nature at work in Alexie's writing, and perhaps that is the thing that mesmerizes me most. He can almost be darker than is bearable -- holding you spellbound over a yawning abyss -- but he can also make you laugh until you can't stand it.


And if you're looking for some screen time this weekend, check out Sherman Alexie in one of my top-pick movies:



"Smoke Signals" was a favorite long before I was introduced to Alexie's writing.

(If you've already seen it, you'll appreciate this story: Once at a car rental counter in Santa Fe, Russ and I saw Victor [the guy on the left], and Russ tried to get me to go up to him and say, "Hey, Victor!" Hee hee. I don't think he would have thought it was very funny.)

This movie is particularly fascinating because he adapted the screenplay from his amazing book, "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven." But while the movie is lighthearted heartbreak with emphasis on the lighthearted, the book is heartbreaking heartbreak with emphasis on the heartbreak.

It is an amazing dual treatment of the same material, and is such a stunning example of the dichotomy that is Sherman Alexie.

Alexie is actually a poet-turned-fiction-writer, and there's nothing better than the prose of an outstanding poet. There is a spareness that comes from a poet's training and honing that makes the prose luminous.

Sherman Alexie also has a wonderful bank of characters and images that surface in his work again and again in a variety of forms. I am delighted each time I recognize them, and whenever they appear the work is immediately informed by the nuances of their previous "lives", infusing it with a sort of mythical power.

If you like the first book and want to delve more deeply, I'd definitely recommend any of Sherman Alexie's short story collections.



"Ten Little Indians" contains what is perhaps my all-time favorite short story (and my daughters' as well), "What You Pawn I Will Redeem." Really powerful stuff.

And for a rollicking, "buckle-your-seatbelt" novel, I'd recommend "Reservation Blues." It's Sherman Alexie at his best and will give you an entire week of world-class entertainment.

Whether you're interested in the Indian aspect of Alexie's work or not, great writing is great writing and you're guaranteed to find that.

More than just an accomplished wordsmith, he is an honest and accomplished image-smith --
the kind of images that stick and leave your life permanently enriched.


HAVE I CONVINCED YOU YET?

I told you I was nuts for him. If he did a booksigning at my Barnes & Noble, I would probably have to be restrained/escorted off the premises. I would almost certainly be wearing a Sherman Alexie tee (with tears streaming down my cheeks) and screaming,
"Sherman! Sherman! I love you!!!!!"

While you're thinking about that, here's our favorite Santa Fe recipe to make use of your farmer's market bounty this weekend:

Calabacitas

2 Tbsp. corn oil
2 Tbsp. butter
4-6 sm. to med. zucchini or yellow squash, sliced
1 med. chopped onion
2 cups fresh or frozen corn
1/2 c. chopped green chile
(Anaheim is readily available and will work)
3 Tbsp. water (more as needed)
1/2 tsp. salt
cayenne pepper to taste
crumbled Queso Fresca or other Mexican cheese, if desired.

In large skillet, heat oil and add squash and onion. saute over medium heat until they begin to wilt. Add corn, green chile, water and salt. Cook, covered over low heat until tender (15-20 min.) Another Tbsp. or two of water can be added if it becomes dry. Remove from heat and mix in cheese, if desired.

Best darn side-dish this side of the Rio Grande!
(And on the other side, too!)


Happy Reading and
Happy Weekend, Pardners!



8 comments:

VO said...

I've read Reservation Blues and Indian Killer. Good reads both. Highly recommend.

Allie said...

Thanks - I'll have to check him out!

susan m hinckley said...

I heard Sherman Alexie during an interview recently say that he had renounced some of his early works (including Indian Killer) because he found them to be overly bitter. I enjoyed Indian Killer, but he has definitely mellowed with age. He has certainly not lost that hard edge, but his work seems to me to be a little less "about that" and a little more about "in spite of that."

Jake and Chelsea said...

I REVERE SHERMAN ALEXIE.

that's all i have to say about that.

april said...

SOLD!!! i think this will definitely be the next book i read. (after i get through my anne perry mystery; i'm currently at the rate of about 5 pages a night since i can't seem to keep my eyes open any longer than that. but one of these days i'll get a good chunk of time to read it. it is called the lazy days of summer, right?)

mary read it at the cabin due to jeanie's recommendation. i think they both loved it.

susan m hinckley said...

Yes, Jeanie told me her book club was reading it, but when I talked to her she hadn't started it yet. I think that book has been quite popular for him -- a little more mainstream in some ways, I guess. But if it gets people interested in reading some of his more serious stuff, I'm thrilled! It's a fun read -- you'll like it. And Gracie will probably be ready for it soon as well.

Jeanie said...

Actually Susan, when I talked to you I had already read "The Absolutely True Diary..." but I hadn't read any of his other writings yet. "Absolutely True..." is one of my all time favorites as well. Christian read it before he left for school and loved it too. Wish I could convince Mike to read it, know he'd enjoy it, but reading and Mike don't really get along. Enjoyed your post and would love to see you yelling "Sherman!" at a Barnes and Noble book signing someday!

susan m hinckley said...

Oops! Sorry, Jeanie -- my memory is getting scary. I don't know why I didn't remember that you'd already read it, but I'm glad you loved it as well. Have you read any of the others? I'd love to know if you have and what you think.

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