War Dances by Sherman ALexie (2009)

Alexie’s War Dances is a multigenre collection of writing that offers a little of every emotion: humor, anger, disenchantment, pain, fear, regret, and just about every other feelings humans are capable of.  Much like his other writing, he portrays mostly Spokane Indian characters—surely41wpYbaylTL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ some it it autobiographical—in perplexing, often uncomfortable, situations, even bringing in a bit of dry humor to a story about being diagnosed with a brain tumor, another about a teenage boy who discloses to his best friend that he’s gay, and a story about accidentally killing a boy who broke into a home to steal the main character’s DVDs (the intruder ran into the narrator just as the narrator swing his son’s baseball little league bat with one hand which somehow ended up killing the intruder).  It’s a wacky collection of plots, but that’s Alexie through and through.  He manages to take on serious issues with compelling characters, strange plot lines that are completely believable, and humor in unexpected places.  And it all works.  I’ve yet to read any of his writing that I haven’t enjoyed.  Another unique aspect of this book is its multigenre nature: a collection of poetry, short stories, and episodic stories that flow seamlessly despite the somewhat unorthodox structure. My favorite poem in this collection is “On Airplanes” (in which the narrator is constantly asked to switch seats so a couple may sit together, though they did not book their seats early enough to be together) and my favorite short story is “The Senator’s Son” (in which a senator’s son beats up a  gay man who is in a car with his lover, but this same senator’s son does not know at the moment that say gay person is also his high school best friend).  This is a great read, and especially so because you can pick it up and read a single poem or a very short story and then put the book back down—perhaps not picking it up again for a long time.  I, on the other hand, read it straight through because I was in the mood for Alexie humor.  (fiction)

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