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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Reservation Blues

Sherman Alexie's Reservation Blues manages to combine the blues (Robert Johnson is one of the characters!), native americans (most of the action takes place on the Spokane indian reservation where the author was born), basketball and is harshly sarcastic in its portrayal of (American) society. The book might thus be a perfect example of the best ingredients not always leading to an optimal result - or in other words the whole in this case is not better than its parts.

Why that is the case I am a bit at loss to say. Maybe Alexie's characters lack in depth, his deep and philosophical reflections are just a tad too superficial and, especially, predictable in their morals. Maybe I am just not a big fan of this trend in current literature which replaces reflection with references to cultural or historical figures who are supposed to hint at and incarnate greater ideas (General Sheridan and Robert Johnson in this case). While that usually works and is quite suitable for a shorter format (whether an essay or a short story) I feel it leaves much to be desired in the novel form.

Reading up on Alexie I gathered the impression that his first bookThe Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, a collection of short stories, was far better received and I can see why. As stated above, his writing seems well-suited to make a few quick-witted points, a few revealing comparisons, but it doesn't convert well into a lengthy book.

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