Green Grass, Running Water

( 7 )


Strong, Sassy women and hard-luck hardheaded men, all searching for the middle ground between Native American tradition and the modern world, perform an elaborate dance of approach and avoidance in this magical, rollicking tale by Cherokee author Thomas King. Alberta is a university professor who would like to trade her two boyfriends for a baby but no husband; Lionel is forty and still sells televisions for a patronizing boss; Eli and his log cabin stand in the way of a profitable dam project. These three—and ...

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Strong, Sassy women and hard-luck hardheaded men, all searching for the middle ground between Native American tradition and the modern world, perform an elaborate dance of approach and avoidance in this magical, rollicking tale by Cherokee author Thomas King. Alberta is a university professor who would like to trade her two boyfriends for a baby but no husband; Lionel is forty and still sells televisions for a patronizing boss; Eli and his log cabin stand in the way of a profitable dam project. These three—and others—are coming to the Blackfoot reservation for the Sun Dance and there they will encounter four Indian elders and their companion, the trickster Coyote—and nothing in the small town of Blossom will be the same again…

With a totally fresh voice--carefully controlled yet without artifice--Thomas King presents a complex web of character, myth, folklore, and very contemporary experience. Green Grass, Running Water is a rich tale that ranges from a Blackfoot reservation to Hollywood, weaving magical humor, revisionist history, nostalgia and sacred humanity into one bright fabric.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“King has established himself as a first-rate comic novelist. At his best, he is as savagely and darkly funny as Twain...King has produced a novel that defies all our expectations about what Native American fiction should be. It is a first-class work of art.”—Newsweek

“King confirms his place as the best American Indian novelist to emerge since Louise Erdrich…King’s playfulness makes the story jump off the page.”—San Jose Mercury News

“At once plainspoken and poetic, King is equally at home with his vivid, often comic characters and with the vibrant natural world in which their dramas are played out.”–People

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Fresh, inventive, funny and intriguing, this latest novel from King ( Medicine River ) is an imaginative exploration of contemporary Native American culture. The plot revolves around the escape from a mental hospital of four very old Indians called Ishmael, Hawkeye, Robinson Crusoe and the Lone Ranger. These, however, are no ordinary natives. They may be the last survivors of the Indians interned at Fort Marion in Florida in the 19th century. Or perhaps they are the first human beings, as described in tribal creation myths. Their repeated breakouts--37 to date--have coincided with disasters: the 1929 stock market crash, the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, etc. Their mission this time brings them into the lives of an eccentric Canadian Blackfoot family: Lionel Red Dog, who sells TV sets and has no ambition; his sister Latisha, who owns a restaurant that bilks thrill-seeking tourists by purporting to serve them dog meat; Uncle Eli Stands Alone, a former university professor who is determined to prevent the operation of a dam on Indian land; and Charlie Looking Bear, a smarmy lawyer who works for the company opposing Eli's cause. Wavering emotionally between Lionel and Charlie is Alberta Frank, who dates both of them and wants a baby but knows that neither man is husband material. King, a professor of Native American studies at the University of Minnesota, skillfully interweaves Native American and EuroAmerican literatures, exploring the truths of each. He mixes satire, myth and magic into a complex story line that moves smartly from Canada to Wounded Knee to Hollywood, and to a place beyond time where God and the native trickster, Coyote, converse. With this clever, vastly entertaining novel, he establishes himself firmly as one of the first rank of contemporary Native American writers--and as a gifted storyteller of universal relevance. Author tour. (Mar.) .
Library Journal
King's auspicious debut novel, Medicine River ( LJ 8/90), garnered critical acclaim and popular success (including being transformed into a TV movie). This encore, a genially wild tale with a serious heart, confirms the author's prowess. It involves the creation of a creation story, the mission of four ancient Indians, and the comparatively realistic doings of 40-year-old-adolescent Lionel Red Dog, unfazable cleaning woman Babo, and various memorable Blackfoot and others in scenic Alberta. Clever verbal motifs not only connect the stories but add fun visual themes, including missing cars and a ubiquitous Western movie. In the end, everyone is thrown together by an earthquake at white human-made Parliament Lake, compliments of the four old Indians and the loopy trickster Coyote. Smart and entertaining, this novel deserves a big audience. Essential for public libraries.-- Janet Ingraham, Worthington P.L., Ohio
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553373684
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/28/1994
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 469
  • Sales rank: 299,661
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.65 (h) x 1.03 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas King is of Cherokee, Greek, and German descent and is currently chair of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota. His short stories have been widely published throughout the United States and Canada, and a film, based on his much acclaimed first novel Medicine River, has been made for television.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2004

    An interesting look at a universal problem

    An interesting and funny book that explores the personal and cultural search for an identity. Through the juxtaposition of multiple stories one can see the culture clash that drives King¿s story forward. Lionel searches for his place in a world that is pulling him in two different directions. Not only does he have the familial pressure to stay true to his heritage, he also has the societal pressure to be assimilated into the white culture, is entire life is at constant war with each other. His aunt Norma continually tells him that he should be proud of his family and where he comes from yet Lionel works as a television salesman off the reservation where he was born and his family still lives. As well as Lionel there are a host of other characters that struggle with their place in the world. While some characters thrive on the stereotypes about Indian, such as Latisha and the Dead Dog Café, others hide and attempt to run away from their past and what is ultimately their future. Along with this idea of identity problems comes the story of the four characters that are Anglo and either have a native sidekick or attempt to live the native life. These four ¿men¿, Hawkeye, Robinson Crusoe, Ishmael, and The Lone Ranger, are out to fix the world and return it to the right path. The world has gone out of balance and so these four ¿men¿ are out to return the balance of the world.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2003

    Green Grass, Ambitious and Pithy

    Rarely does an author dare to write such a serious novel in such a jocular style. Apart from the impressively ambitious manner in which King writes, the book deals with content that few mainstream Americans understand or feel comfortable with. Juxtapositioned with multiple narratives of highly amusing and colourful characters is the story of the native American peoples of the Midwest, and the gradual descent of their culture into the murky waters of the past. King's intimate knowledge of his subject allows him to paint a particularly vivid portrait of Native American life modern America. The thoughtful yet troubled Lionel searches for a direction in a world unsure of its place for him, while his roots on the reservation call him back to his people. Dr Hovaugh, Alberta,Babo, and a host of other eloquently designed characters grapple with the same existential and material problems that will lead them all eventually back to the core and theme of King's witty and experimental masterpiece, Green Grass and Running Water.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2002

    Laugh-out-Loud Fun Read !!

    First-rate comic novel about Lionel Red Dog, a Canadian Blackfoot stereo and TV salesman, his uncle Eli Stands Alone, and his sister Latisha (who runs the Dead Dog Cafe).' This summary was quirky enough to peak my interest so I got the book and now 2 days later I'm happy to report it was terrific ! The last book to make me laugh out loud was Catch 22...what a delight to have another to recommend to my friends ! If you enjoyed the off beat fun of the first 2 seasons of Northern Exposure on TV..this is the read for you. If the mistakes and implausible twists to a well known nursery tale that a 5-year old child can make in trying to tell you the story in her own words , can have you biting your lip in repressed giggles..this is the read for you!! If the sly play on words that a good episode of Frazier can be counted on to deliver is your cup of Chateau Thames Embankment...this is the read for you !!! Enjoy and spread the Word !!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2001

    Green Grass, Running Water -a delight to read!

    <P> Man has questioned the meaning of life since the beginning of time. This issue is complex as well as dynamic, and often times involves one questioning his or her identity. Thomas King displays his comprehension of this dilemma in ¿Green Grass, Running Water¿, by cleverly intertwining various worlds into one intricate tale. In this story, Canadian Indians struggle to define their identity while resisting white oppression. As each character undergoes hi or her own personal tribulations, an unnamed narrator insists on retelling the story of creation until it is told correctly with the assistance of coyote and four old Indians: Lone Ranger, Hawkeye, Robinson Crusoe and Ishmael. <P> As with any society, when two or more cultures attempt to co-exist side by side with one another they begin to transpose, often times leaving one culture more deeply influenced than the other. King utilizes this truth by using it as a tool to convey to the reader the true realities of life as an Indian. What makes the book a good literary piece is the fashion is which he applies it. Irony is the manner in which he implements this tool. The three old Indians who are ¿out to fix the world¿ (133) all possess names of characters found in western literature; characters whom were Anglo and either had an assistant who was non-Caucasian, or lived a glamorized indigenous lifestyle. The Lone Ranger had a Native American assistant Tonto, Hawkeye was an Anglo man whom adapted the Native American lifestyle, Robinson Crusoe had Friday and Ishmael befriended a South Sea Islander, Queequeg. <P>

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2000

    A great comedy by Thomas King

    ¿Green Grass Running Water¿ is a rather interesting book, that is written to enlighten and give humor to it¿s reader. The book keeps switching back and fourth between the stories main characters, and a kind of comic relief in which some other characters like ¿Coyote¿, and ¿that G O D¿, discuss about how everything came to be what it is today. But they can¿t seem to do it without disagreeing with each other. The book is mainly about a handful of people, who have their own desires and wants that seem to conflict a bit with their heritage and tradition. The characters are Native Americans and give an insight to how other people and cultures might think. For example there is one woman in this book named Alberta. She has two boyfriends, neither of whom know about the other and both are fairly serious. She can¿t decide which one she wants to keeps, and just decides that she¿s better off with both. The one thing that she really wants though is a child of her own. She doesn¿t care with whom or how she gets it she just wants one. She even tries to get herself pregnant with some guy off the street, but of course no one picks her up. Kind of a funny situation, and the way that she deals with it is even better. It¿s that kind of writing that makes a reader wonder if there are really people out there who think like that, and it just gives a whole new perspective on the world today. <P> A reader might think that Thomas King accomplishes his goal in writing this book. It seems that he wants to allow people from other cultures see what Native American is like, and how it is adapting to this whole new world. He¿s showing how old traditions and heritage¿s are being forgotten, and left in the dark, while the rest of society moves on. Though it¿s the same idea that all cultures seem to be following, it was interesting to view it from another. King does it in an amusing and fun-to-read way. It keeps the book flowing and easy to read. Defiantly a great book full of comedy that still allows the author get his point across.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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