Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories

Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories

4.5 6
by Sherman Alexie

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Sherman Alexie’s stature as a writer of stories, poems, and novels has soared over the course of his twenty-book, twenty-year career. His wide-ranging, acclaimed stories from the last two decades have established him as a star in contemporary American literature. A bold and irreverent observer of life among Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest, the daring,…  See more details below


Sherman Alexie’s stature as a writer of stories, poems, and novels has soared over the course of his twenty-book, twenty-year career. His wide-ranging, acclaimed stories from the last two decades have established him as a star in contemporary American literature. A bold and irreverent observer of life among Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest, the daring, versatile, funny, and outrageous Alexie showcases all his talents in Blasphemy, where he unites twelve beloved classics with twelve new stories in one sweeping anthology for devoted fans and first-time readers.

Included here are some of his most esteemed tales, including “What You Pawn I Will Redeem,” "This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona,” “The Toughest Indian in the World,” and his most recent, “War Dances.” Alexie’s twelve new stories are fresh and quintessential, about amateur and donkey basketball leagues, extreme hoarding, lethal wind turbines, marriage, and all species of contemporary warriors in America today.

An indispensable collection of new and classic stories, Blasphemy reminds us, on every thrilling page, why Sherman Alexie is one of our greatest contemporary writers and a true master of the short story.

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Editorial Reviews

Sherman Alexie's Blasphemy celebrates the twentieth anniversary of a vibrant writer's debut: it was in 1992 that Alexie burst onto the scene with The Business of Fancydancing, a collection of poems. The focus of his work since, which centers on the Native American experience within and outside the reservation, has not changed. Nearly every single story in this collection ? which brings together fifteen previously published stories alongside fifteen new ones — pivots on the experience of the people of the indigenous tribes, specifically that of the Spokane. Though the issues his characters face, such as criminal violence, abandonment, and health crises like alcoholism and cancer, may constitute familiar territory, Alexie continues to surprise ? and to make the details of such loss relatable to anyone. In "War Dances," the narrator soberly describes his father's grave after his death from alcoholism. "We buried my father in the tiny Catholic cemetery on our reservation. Since I am named after him, I had to stare at a tombstone with my name on it."

Alexie's open, plainspoken narrative style allows the reader to take in the intense experiences of his characters without feeling weighted down. Humor is a constant throughout: In "Indian Country," Low Man calls up an old friend. "Are you still an Indian?" she asks. "Yes I am," he answers. "Are you still a lesbian?" The cleverly titled "The Search Engine" finds a young native woman explaining that she actually enjoys being made to feel special, but when it comes to white roommates, "it's tough to share a bathroom with an Indian and continue to romanticize her."

The combination of Alexie's classic stories and new offerings make Blasphemy the perfect book for first-time and devoted readers alike. Reading it from beginning to end makes it plain to see why the voices in Alexie's work have struck a chord with readers for the past twenty years: they occupy that honest place between warmth and sorrow. Jessica Ferri is a writer living in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared at The New Yorker's Book Bench, NPR,The Economist, The Daily Beast, Time Out New York, Bookforum, and more. Find her at

Reviewer: Jessica Ferri

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Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
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What People are saying about this

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"Over the years, Alexie has carved out a space in American literature as the great, tragicomic bard of the modern Native American experience. The stories in Blasphemy offer ample proof why. . . . Told in [Alexie's] irreverent, unforgettable voice . . . You'll feel you've been transported inside the soul of a deeply wounded people. But they are a people too comfortable in their brown skins to allow those wounds to break them. . . . With irony and sardonic wit, the Native men and women in Alexie's imagination find a way forward, and they endure. . . . [A] great triumph."—Los Angeles Times

"Alexie once again reasserts himself as one the most compelling contemporary practitioners of the short story. In Blasphemy, the author demonstrates his talent on nearly every page. These are deceptively simple, swift-moving stories awash with characters in the thrall of various sins and existential quandaries. Alexie deftly administers near equal doses of pathos and humor, providing such smooth entertainment that some readers may glide over his empathetic treatment of such themes as racism, identity, family, loyalty, and ceremony. . . . Will appeal to fans of Junot Diaz, George Saunders, and readers new to Alexie will find this enriching collection to be the perfect introduction to a formidable literary voice. . . . [Alexie] illuminates the lives of his characters in unique, surprising and, ultimately, hopeful ways."—Boston Globe

"Tough, warmhearted, rowdy, and moving . . . Alexie's achievement here is his depiction of the tangled complexities of race—that great open secret of American life—in an undidactic and utterly natural way."—The Washington Post

"A timely reminder of Alexie's genius."—The Guardian

"The truths [Alexie] mines are so insightful that even the most ardent critic must pause and consider his words. The depth of Alexie's stories is complemented by the self-awareness and unapologetic humor that suffuse almost every page. Again, Alexie draws out laughter, even as a reader struggles to understand the overwhelming sadness these tales can evoke. . . . The strength of Alexie's work is his unrepentant exploration of what it means to be 'other.' . . . Blasphemy is blasphemous only in disrespecting the boundaries that many would place on those who mine otherness."—Washington Independent Review of Books

"[Alexie] has been celebrated for his acerbic, funny, politically charged stories. . . . Tenderness along with passion—governable or otherwise—are elements as pervasive in his impressive body of work as his subversive humor, his grief and outrage over the exploitation and neglect of indigenous populations in the United States. . . . If literary fiction in its purest form is meant to be an accurate reflection of human experience and its inevitable ambiguities, Alexie skillfully offers us this in Blasphemy. . . . What Alexie makes poignantly clear in the stories he has written in his long and robust career is that we cannot choose whom we fall in love with, nor can we choose who, fundamentally, we are."—San Francisco Chronicle

"[Blasphemy] haunts the reader with men whose choices lead to misfortune. One can also expect the humor and small redemptions that are present in Alexie's best work."—Time Out New York (5 stars)

"Sweet, salty, and full of heart . . . In his stories [Alexie's] stories are wide open to love and death, fathers and sons, grief and loss, and the multiple dilemmas of marriage and race and waking up pathetically human. His stories speed along, most first-person narration, in a voice so captivating you don't want him (or her) to stop."—Star-Tribune (Minneapolis)

"Shot through with emotional strain . . . A powerful thwap against mainstream knowledge of American Indians . . . Each story is a page-turner . . . a series of literary sprints, each one quickening your heart rate and leaving you pausing to catch your breath before you're on to the next."—Huffington Post

"You'll finish this first-rate collection wanting more."—People

"The supreme irony of all identity writing . . . is that the literary trick does not click unless everyone is in on it. . . . Sherman Alexie, with his shamanistic convicts, drunken fathers, homeless heroes, and gay boxers, understands this imp or inclusion to an almost supernatural fault. . . . Alexie's voice, for so long the go-to growl of the contemporary American Indian experience, seems to have gotten braver with age. . . . Alexie's authority here is an inclusive comic sorrow that befits the entire world."—Dallas News

"A beautiful anthology . . . Each character is distinctly memorable. . . . [Alexie] leads his readers through a minefield or grave situations while turning back to wink and crack jokes along the way."—Brooklyn Rail

"Blasphemy succeeds in placing new stories within the solid foundation of what are now Alexie classics. The result is a thoughtfully arranged overview of Alexie's most important themes and some of his most loved characters, complemented by dynamic new work."—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"A masterful gift . . . It takes a special talent to tackle despair and isolation while maintaining an overarching optimism. . . . Alexie writes concisely and simply, which makes following the author's whimsy a breezy joy and constant surprise. The stories teeter between serious, philosophical musings and bitter sarcasm, which together give the stories a unique rhythm. . . . Blasphemy acts as Alexie's definitive statement about common human experiences."—Daily Nebraskan

"Brilliant . . . A fearless two-decade examination of Sherman Alexie's Native America, and also a testament to his mastery of the short-story form."—The Toronto Star

"A poet and fiction writer for adults of all ages, National Book Award winner Alexie is a virtuoso of the short story. His first two blazing collections, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven and The Toughest Indian in the World, established him as an essential American voice. Now, many books later, best-selling Alexie has created a substantial, big-hearted, and potent collection that combines an equal number of new and selected stories to profound effect. In these comfort-zone-destroying tales, including the masterpiece, 'War Dances,' his characters grapple with racism, damaging stereotypes, poverty, alcoholism, diabetes, and the tragic loss of languages and customs. Questions of authenticity and identity abound. . . . Alexie writes with arresting perception in praise of marriage, in mockery of hypocrisy, and with concern for endangered truths and imperiled nature. He is mischievously and mordantly funny, scathingly forthright, deeply and universally compassionate, and wholly magnetizing. This is a must-have collection."—Booklist

"[A] sterling collection of short stories by Alexie, a master of the form. . . . . The newer pieces are full of surprises. . . . . These pieces show Alexie at his best: as an interpreter and observer, always funny if sometimes angry, and someone, as a cop says of one of his characters, who doesn’t 'fit the profile of the neighborhood.'"—Kirkus Reviews

"Alexie hammers away at ever-simmering issues, like racism, addiction, and infidelity, using a no-holds-barred approach and seamlessly shattering the boundary between character and reader. But while these glimpses into a harried and conflicted humanity prod our consciousness, there’s plenty of bawdiness and Alexie’s signature wicked humor throughout to balance out the weight."—Publishers Weekly

"An unsettling and very American panorama."—Vogue (Fall's Standout Fiction)

"Like the best storytellers, Alexie can toss off heartbreakingly expressive and profound sentiments with a humor and nonchalance that cleverly conceal their gravity. It's these deceptively poignant moments that drive Alexie's work and provide an earthly backdrop to the cosmic swap meets of our souls. . . . [He] translates the beauty of his forbears' straightforward philosophy into a jarring and transcendent literary experience. . . . Told with his hallmark wit and candor [Blasphemy] captures the splendors of [Alexie's] considerable talent."—Portland Monthly

"Highlights Alexie's unique ability to create deeply moving and thought-provoking stories that can make you laugh out loud and simultaneously break your heart . . . Alexie's stories do not shy away from depicting the poverty, addiction, and violence that affects many Native American communities, but he explores these darker aspects of life with biting humor and a lot of compassion, letting the joy shine through as well. . . . Explores the universal themes of relationships and identity along with the thornier issues of American life, like race and class, with remarkable heart and humor."—Kasia Hopkins, The News-Gazette (Illinois)

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Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Mybookreview More than 1 year ago
Story after story I found myself alternately crying and laughing as I was drawn into and engaged in the seemingly real events in the stories. I couldn't help feeling empathy for every character. I read the book straight through and immediately went out and bought several other books by Sherman Alexie---a great story teller!
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories by Sherman Alexie (2012) I've read several of Alexie's earlier story collections as well as his novels Flight, Reservation Blues and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Alexie is an incredibly talented writer shining a light onto a part of America's culture that is very rarely seen in modern literature. That said, his work is never easy to take filled with wasted potential, sadness and a pervasive sense of everything that an entire culture has lost thanks to Western expansion and modernization. It is a bleak, cold world. It is bleaker and colder if you are an Indian in an Alexie story. While Alexie provides some moments of whimsy and wonder, his stories are generally heavy. Clocking in at 480 pages Blasphemy is even heavier than earlier collection or novels. It is also not at all indicative of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian so if you're expecting that kind of story here just walk away now. The collection is comprised of new and older stories so it's a nice introduction to Alexie except that most of my favorite stories ("Somebody Kept Saying Powwow", "Distances", "Saint Junior", "A Good Story") are not found in this collection though other familiar ones including "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven" and "The Toughest Indian in the World" do appear. My favorite of Alexie's collections is either The Business of Fancydancing or The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. They were shorter, more balanced collections that tempered the inherent sadness of many stories with lighter stories of hope and sometimes even redemption. Even the characters who didn't get that happy ending had a certain dignity--something the felt lacking to me in this collection.
Wisconsin-reader More than 1 year ago
I had never heard of Sherman Alexie until I read a review of BLASPHEMY, a collection of short stories and novellas. Then I rushed to my local library to see if I agreed with the rave review. Happily I did, and I immediately purchased two copies from B&N, one for myself, one as a gift. I will probably buy more. My first thought, upon first reading, was, "Here's a Philip Roth of the Northwest!" But Alexie's style is unique. Like Roth, Alexie skewers human hypocrisy and writes powerfully about bitter social issues, but throughout his writing there is a distinct gentleness, rooted in unmistakable love and reverence of his Native American background. This lends a memorable poignancy to descriptions of even the most harrowing situations. Often I laughed out loud as I read, but I found myself thinking deeply about characters and plot long after reading each story. Thank you, Sherman Alexie!
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