The Business of Fancydancing

( 1 )

Overview


Poetry. Fiction. Published in 1992, well before Sherman Alexie became well-known as the screenwriter for the film SMOKE SIGNALS, THE BUSINESS OF FANCYDANCING has now been turned into a film with none other than Alexie himself in his directorial debut. The screenplay for the movie, which recently won the Audience Award at the San Francisco Film Festival, is loosly adapted from this book. Many film-goers will want to visit or revisit the elegaic poems and stories that set the tone for the film itself. "In an age ...
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Overview


Poetry. Fiction. Published in 1992, well before Sherman Alexie became well-known as the screenwriter for the film SMOKE SIGNALS, THE BUSINESS OF FANCYDANCING has now been turned into a film with none other than Alexie himself in his directorial debut. The screenplay for the movie, which recently won the Audience Award at the San Francisco Film Festival, is loosly adapted from this book. Many film-goers will want to visit or revisit the elegaic poems and stories that set the tone for the film itself. "In an age when many 'Native American' writers publish books that prove their ignorance of the real Indian world, Sherman Alexie paints painfully honest visions of our beautiful and brutal lives"—Adrian C. Louis.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Alexie ( The Business of Fancydancing ) here emerges as a Native poet of the first order. He captures the full range of modern Native experience, writing both with anger and with great affection and humor. Detailing the continuing deprivation and colonialism, the poet pointedly asks, ``Am I the garbageman of your dreams?'' and defines Native ``economics'': ``risk'' is playing poker with cash and then passing out at powwow. Focusing on the Leonard Peltier case, Alexie exposes the ineffectualness of both white Indian-lovers and some Native leaders in ``The Marlon Brando Memorial Swimming Pool'': ``Peltier goes blind in Leavenworth . . . / and Brando sits, fat and naked, by the Pacific ocean. There was never / any water in the damn thing. '' General Custer is allowed to give an accounting of himself, as Alexie links genocide of America's indigenous peoples with Vietnam, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and other acts of warfare and destruction. Alexie writes comfortably in a variety of styles. Many of the poems turn on grim irony, putting the author himself in the traditional role of the trickster. Adrian Louis provides a powerful foreword, and Elizabeth Woody's moody illustrations add to the volume's impact. (Mar.)
Library Journal
When most Americans say, ``Hi, how ya doin'?'' they don't expect an answer, much less the truth. But when Alexie responds, he does so faithfully and with full eye contact whether you want it or not. A veteran of several literary publications, he has now published his first book of poetry. He is young, talented, and happens to be Native American, and his art is not aimed at the tourist. Instead, Alexie writes affectingly about life on a reservation in eastern Washington state. His work displays tremendous pain and anger, but there is also love, humor, and plenty of irony. Real-live late 20th-century human beings flesh out his poems and short prose. Not to be relegated to the New Age section, this work is recommended for literature collections in all types of libraries.-- Susan M. Olcott, Columbus Metropolitan Lib., Ohio
School Library Journal
YA-- This collection of poetry and sketches is the ninth in a series published ``for the purpose of encouraging American Indian authorship in expressive literature.'' In a style reminiscent of John Dos Passos and e. e. Cummings, Alexie opens a window into the hearts and minds of contemporary Indians who, for the most part, find their existence painful and disconnected from their heritage. YAs interested in broadening their cultural sensitivity will be profoundly affected by the strong images and harsh realities that arise from the wide range of everyday experiences and scenes covered here. The complex use of language and metaphor also provides layers of understanding that would make these selections wonderful discussion pieces. Every high school library will want this addition to multicultural collections. Encourage classroom teachers to peruse these writings as soon as the book arrives.-- Jessica Lahr, Edison High School, Fairfax County, VA
Kirkus Reviews
A terrific second novel by the talented young Native American author whose highly praised fiction (The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, 1993; Reservation Blues, 1995) has already moved him on to the short list of the country's best young writers.

It's a rich, panoramic portrayal of contemporary Seattle that uses the form of the mystery to tell some uncomfortable home truths about Indian-white relations, and indeed racism in all its forms. Alexie begins by focusing on the ironically named John Smith, who was either given up for adoption by, or stolen away from, his teenaged Indian mother. He is raised by loving and conscientious white "parents" and finds himself in traumatized adulthood "an Indian without a tribe," a misfit who belongs to no culture, wandering the streets among the city's homeless, seeking an outlet for the unfocused rage he knows he can no longer suppress. Is John Smith the "Indian killer" who stalks and murders white men, scalping them for good measure, terrorizing the city and provoking a rash of racially motivated violence? Alexie teases us with that possibility right up to the last page, meanwhile populating his exciting story with a host of keenly observed and rigorously analyzed characters. The most memorable include Marie Polatkin, a fiery Native American college student and activist with no use for sentimental white liberals; Jack Wilson, an ex-cop turned popular novelist, whose exploration (and exploitation) of a small trace of "Indian blood" in his ancestry infuriates his full-blooded "brothers"; and John Smith's adoptive parents, Olivia and Daniel, whose decency and good will are portrayed with fairness and respect. Alexie succeeds brilliantly at suggesting the time- bombticking character of John Smith's ravaged psyche, and the novel rips along at a breathless pace.

Both a splendidly constructed and wonderfully readable thriller—and a haunting, challenging articulation of the plight and the pride of contemporary Native Americans.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780914610007
  • Publisher: Hanging Loose Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/1992
  • Pages: 84
  • Sales rank: 697,603
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie's poems, fiction, essays and films have won him an international following since his first book, THE BUSINESS OF FANCYDANCING, was published in 1992. SMOKE SIGNALS, the film he adapted from one of his short stories and co-produced, enlarged his audience still further. Alexie's awards include the Stranger Genius Award in Literature, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards for Excellence in Children's Literature in Fiction, and the National Book Award for Young People's Literature as well as honors and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Lila Wallace Reader's Digest Foundation, and a citation as "One of 20 Best American Novelists Under the Age of 40" from Granta magazine. An enrolled Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian, Alexie lives in Seattle with his wife and sons.
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Table of Contents

I Distances
Traveling 13
13/16 16
Distances 18
Translated from the American 20
Morphine and Codeine 22
Grandmother 23
The Fausto Poems 24
Sudden Death 27
Penance 28
House Fires 29
November 22, 1983 30
Love Hard 31
Transient 32
When I Die 34
Futures 35
Dead Letter Office 36
II Evolution
Special Delivery 39
Evolution 48
At Navajo Monument Valley Tribal School 49
Artificial Respiration 50
Powwow 51
Independence Day 53
Indian Boy Love Songs 54
Reservation Love Song 58
Some Assembly Required 59
Lottery 60
III Crazy Horse Dreams
Father Coming Home 63
War All the Time 65
Misdemeanors 66
No Drugs or Alcohol Allowed 67
The Business of Fancydancing 69
Heroes 70
Missing 71
Ceremonies 72
Native Hero 73
Spokane Tribal Celebration, September 1987 74
Eugene Boyd Don't Drink Here Anymore 75
The Reservation Cab Driver 76
Basketball 77
Giving Blood 78
Pawn Shop 79
Gravity 80
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 27, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    from missprint.wordpress.com

    After reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian last summer, I decided to work my way through Alexie's oeuvre since I had already also read and enjoyed Reservation Blues. Two short story collections and one novel later, I was done. Not in that my task was completed but in that I couldn't take anymore. Then The Business of Fancydancing came into my possession after waiting about six months for it. Unwilling to let the book go after waiting so long for it, I decided to see what the first page was like. Ten hours later I had finished it.

    The Business of Fancydancing: Stories and Poems is Alexie's first published work (from 1991). As the subtitle suggests, the book is considered a collection of stories and poems. However, since most of the stories are less than five pages I think a fair argument could be made that the five stories are actually prose poems instead of stories. That might just be me though.

    Like any of Alexie's other writing, this collection includes instances of beauty as well as sadness. In the opening story "Travels" a hungry youth is told to make a jam sandwich by taking two slices of bread and jamming them together (unless a wish sandwich is more to his liking). This image recurs often in the collection.

    After reading The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven and The Toughest Indian in the World, I must admit I had my doubts about Alexie's short stories--they never seemed as engaging as his novels. That isn't a problem here even though all of the stories are much shorter than anything found in his later collections. Very like the poems, Alexie's stories here are bare bones. Instead of full stories (in the sense of having a conventional plot) most are vignettes painting brief, eloquent pictures of what life can mean for a Spokane Indian on and off the reservation.

    The bulk of The Business of Fancydancing is comprised of poems. The English major in my wants to make some kind of comparison to illustrate what these poems are like, but no quick comparisons come to mind. Suffice it say, the lines are long and the poems deeply grounded in the concrete. One of my favorites in the collection is "Distances" which is literally a series of vignettes along with aphorisms like "Remember this: 'Electricity is lightning pretending to be permanent.'"

    Familiar characters who turn up in one of Alexie's later story collections as well as Reservation Blues also make their first appearances here. Thomas Builds-The-Fire, a personal favorite, even has a story all to himself.

    I don't know how illustrative this book is of Alexie's current style since his latest work has been novels, but that detail aside The Business of Fancydancing is a superb collection of poetry and serves as a good introduction to Sherman Alexie and his unique style/themes without the visceral, harsh details so often found in his newer writing.

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