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Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories [NOOK Book]

Overview

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 ...
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Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories

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Overview

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

From Barnes & Noble

Sherman Alexie is now justly hailed as "a virtuoso of the short story." We first honored this talented Native American writer in 1993 for his debut fiction collection The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.

Publishers Weekly
The National Book Award and PEN/Faulkner Award-winner’s latest work combines 15 classics (“The Toughest Indian in the World”; “Salt”; “Indian Education”) with 15 recent stories of varying length and tenor, and the result should attract new converts and invite back longtime fans. Heralded for his candid depictions of life on a reservation in the Pacific Northwest, versatile Alexie traverses familiar territory while also branching out. A son envisions his dead father’s “impossibly small corpse” peering out of his morning omelet in the page-long “Breakfast.” In “Gentrification,” a white narrator’s do-gooder intentions go predictably awry in his all-black neighborhood. “Night People” finds a sex-starved insomniac and a connection-hungry manicurist at a 24-hour New York City salon finding common ground in their loneliness and lack of sleep. In “Faith,” a married man and a married woman at an evangelical dinner party who have an instantly easy rapport deliver witty repartee at the expense of their sheepish spouses. As in previous volumes, 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. Agent: Nancy Stauffer Associates. (Oct.)
From the Publisher

"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 (starred review)

"[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 (starred review)

"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 (starred review)

"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)

Library Journal
This collection includes some of the best-known short pieces by Alexie (War Dances), along with a number of new stories. Loss, loyalty, dying fathers, basketball, Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest, and life on a reservation are themes repeated throughout. In "Whatever Happened to Frank Snake Church?" a man experiences a false vision of the death of his father and later, when grappling with real loss, tries to recapture his love of basketball. In "Breaking and Entering," a Native American man, misidentified as white, is vilified after fighting off an intruder in his home. The protagonist in "Gentrification" makes an enemy when he decides to remove a dirty mattress from the neighbor's sidewalk, while in "Old Growth," an accidental killing is awkwardly resolved. At times explicitly the subject of the story, as with "Indian Education," cultural identity is not always the dominant theme. For instance, "Do You Know Where I Am?" tells of a couple's courtship, life together and the lies they've told, while "Night People," features a New York manicurist who is watched at work for months from a nearby terrace. VERDICT A large and diverse collection for fans of literary short stories. [See Prepub Alert, 4/30/12.]—John R. Cecil, Austin, TX
Kirkus Reviews
Sterling collection of short stories by Alexie (Ten Little Indians, 2003, etc.), a master of the form. The reader can take his or her pick of points where the blasphemy of Alexie's title occurs in this multifaceted assemblage, for there are several solid candidates. One falls about two-thirds of the way in, when a hard-boiled newspaper editor chews out a young Indian writer who might be Alexie's semblable. By that young man's count, the editor had used the word "Jesus" thrice in 15 seconds: "I wasn't a Christian and didn't know much about the definition of blasphemy," Alexie writes, "but it seemed like he'd committed some kind of sin." In Alexie's stories, someone is always committing some kind of sin, and often not particularly wittingly. One character, a bad drinker in need of help to bail out some prized pawned regalia, makes about as many errors as it's possible to make while still remaining a fundamentally decent person; another laments that once you start looking at your loved one as though he or she is a criminal, then the love is out the door. "It's logical," notes Alexie, matter-of-factly. Most of Alexie's characters in these stories--half selected and half new--are Indians, and then most of them Spokanes and other Indians of the Northwest; but within that broad categorization are endless variations and endless possibilities for misinterpretation, as when a Spokane encounters three mysterious Aleuts who sing him all the songs they're allowed to: "All the others are just for our people," which is to say, other Aleuts. Small wonder that when they vanish, no one knows where, why, or how. But ethnicity is not as central in some of Alexie's stories as in others; in one of the most affecting, the misunderstandings and attendant tragedies occur between humans and donkeys. The darkness of that tale is profound, even if it allows Alexie the opportunity to bring in his beloved basketball. Longtime readers will find the collection full of familiar themes and characters, but the newer pieces are full of surprises. Whether recent or from his earliest period, 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."
The New York Times Book Review
…to understand Sherman Alexie as he often presents himself—as a clown, a cynic, a glib comedian, a blasphemer—is to miss the undercurrent of deep longing for the gravitas, the wisdom, of the storyteller…Alexie's best stories bring the two sides of this literary persona—the embittered critic and the yearning dreamer—together in ways that are moving and extremely funny.
—Jess Row
The Barnes & Noble Review

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 www.jessicaferri.com.

Reviewer: Jessica Ferri

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802194060
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/2/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 173,339
  • File size: 4 MB

Meet the Author

Alexie is a poet, novelist, and screenwriter. He has won the Pen/Faulkner Award, Stranger Genius Award in Literature, Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature, and the Malamud Award.

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 10, 2013

    Laugh, Cry; Engaging Realistic Stories

    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!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 10, 2014

    Introspective, thoughtful, compassionate short stories

    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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    Posted April 16, 2013

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    Posted January 20, 2013

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    Posted November 21, 2013

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