Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories

Blasphemy is a superb collection of 15 new and 15 old short stories by National Book Award-winner Sherman Alexie (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian). It must have been tough for him to choose among the latter, given how consistently good his work has been for so long.

There is no story titled "Blasphemy," however; instead, it's a subtext running throughout many of these stories that deal with Native American life, especially on the reservation, the battle between reverence for the sacred and the loss of or contempt for it. In the powerful "Cry Cry Cry," the narrator turns to dance as a way out of his self-destruction, a way back: "I was dancing for my soul and the soul of my tribe," Alexie writes, "for what we Indians used to be and who we might become again." The narrator of "Indian Education," meanwhile, reflects on the death of another Indian and the relentless hopelessness of reservation life: "Believe me, everything looks like a noose if you stare at it long enough."

Many of these characters suffer mightily, but thanks to Alexie's amazing sense of humor and his own reverence for the historical greatness in the Indian way of life, the stories rise above the ennui and the sadness with the touch of a poet: "It was so quiet, a reservation kind of quiet, where you can hear somebody drinking whisky on the rocks three miles away." Blasphemy reveals an artist in full command of his material and style, able to astonish and move us in story after story. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

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