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The Business of Fancydancing

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  1,582 ratings  ·  78 reviews
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 f ...more
Paperback, 84 pages
Published May 1st 1992 by Hanging Loose Press (first published 1991)
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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman AlexieThe Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman AlexieBeyond Oria Falls by Sheryl SealLove Medicine by Louise ErdrichCeremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
Native American Fiction
94th out of 527 books — 505 voters
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba BrayRebel Angels by Libba BrayThe Sweet Far Thing by Libba BrayThe Luxe by Anna GodbersenThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Teen Historical Novels
286th out of 514 books — 899 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,935)
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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 f ...more
Thomas Builds-The-Fire left me crying in a Starbucks.
His first book, the most raw, the least structurally organized, and in some ways the most powerful. It's almost like, lacking the formal tools, he writes with the only thing he knows—unfiltered emotion. Mostly poems in this book. Just five stories, most very short; you can see that he is just starting to move from poems to prose narratives.
Ryan Dunk
I wonder if it's my inexperience with verse or my understanding and appreciation for Alexie's later work that have the stronger effect on my perception of this collection. Overall, I felt like the poems were overwrought and even perhaps a bit trite. Alexie usually does a great job of balancing the serious themes of his work with moments of humor. This has the effect, at least to me, of making his more serious moments that much more powerful, and giving a more realistic portrayal of contemporary ...more
3.5 stars!
The Business of Fancydancing" is another collection of some great short stories and mostly poetry by a brilliant writer.Sherman Alexie is one of my favorite authors but this book did not move me the way all of his other works did.

Typically, I find myself re-reading pages of his novels because his descriptions remind me of a sucker punch-hard hitting and void of warning; not this time.

Mary Helene
Painful - but insightful. I've read his later books (most recently The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, which is marvelously accessible to all kinds of readers,) and his humor and hope sustain one through the pain. This is his first book, and the pain is more raw, but the humor is still there. I am wondering if I might have the courage to look at despair as he does.
p.s. I write my review before reading other reviews - and then I go on to avidly read what others think. If you do that
Tom McDade
One of the pieces I liked a lot:

Eugene Boyd Don't Drink Here Anymore

The Stranger walks into the bar, orders a beer, and asks me where
the hell Eugene Boyd is, and I tell him, he got shot last year in the
parking lot of the Gold Coin, man, he's dead. The Stranger looks
me in the eyes, looks the whole bar straight in the eyes, and drinks
his beer in one drink. Who the hell did it, the Stranger asks me,
and I tell him that everyone knows but the police ain't going to do
anything about it because when o
This collection of poetry and short stories has the power to knock the wind out of you from moment to moment, sometimes with a completely exhaled breath of despair, and at other times with a gasp of laughter - sometimes one right after the other. The poems Evolution and Father Coming Home deserve to be widely anthologized. The poems Powwow and The Reservation Cab Driver are very funny, yet sad at the same time. The short story Special Delivery is exceptional and will stay with me for quite some ...more
Ben Klayer
A friend recommended that I start reading Sherman Alexie in chronological order. Since "Fancydancing" is the first book he published, I picked it up and began reading.

I cannot wait to grab more of his works.

Quite simply, I am impressed with Alexie's profound imagery. He isn't very abstract or over-the-top. Instead, he focuses on making metaphors out of everyday things, like sandwhiches and basketball games.

Furthermore, Alexie doesn't fluff his poems. Honestly, they are pretty bare-bones, and mos
(3.5 stars)

The first time I read Sherman Alexie was in my freshman year of college, nearly eight years ago. I took a class that focused entirely on reading the works of women and persons of color, and one of the first books we read was The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. I loved that book so much I read it twice, and I hardly ever read anything twice. I received this collection of Alexie's poems and short stories -- his first book -- from my best friend a long time ago and only now go
Eirian Houpe
Poems and Stories to Connect with the Soul

It is hard to know where to begin in a review of this collection of stories and poems evocative of the life and culture of the Native American people in today's society; life on the reservation, simply to say that the writing is fantastic... excellent and opens up your heart and soul to the myriad emotions held up like a mirror, right in your face.

The language used is both poetic and earthy, uncomfortable at times, and yet makes you listen, draws you in
Sherman Alexie has a way with words, a way to bend them to be so beautiful and so heartbreaking, so real. I love his poetry just like I love Flannery O'Connor's short stories (I just finished reading Everything That Rises Must Converge as well) - they are both comfortingly predictable writers. And Alexie is not consistent in a boring way. His stories are always new but recall upon the same dreams and characters, so that you feel you can share in his world, almost as if you and he are old friends ...more
pretty much perfect...moments of brilliant vision, and comic phrasing of tragic stuff, made me think more about the twisted past and present of this country, american indians, reservations, and me--but I loved Flight and Absolutely True Diary a million times more, for my star system to mean anything I guess have to go with three stars for this one. ...partly that has to do with the printing though--I'm not down with gritty independent poetry private-publishing books, with tweake ...more
It was really pretty heartbreaking. The poetry is pretty free-form, and the language is not usually elegant, but the picture is created and the feelings are felt.
Feb 28, 2014 K.m. rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
While I am always wooed by Alexie's lyric chops, I prefer his more worn-in voice. This feels more youthful, less integrated, than some of his other work but still chock full of the raw goodness.

"All us stoic Indians rehearsing for parts as extras in some eternal black and white western. Shit, used to be only whites expected Skins to have monosyllabic faces, but now, we even expect it of each other."
From Eugene Boyd Don't Drink Here Anymore
Sherman Alexie's first book is a little too esoteric for me. I have the same problems with it that I have with some of the stories in his other books, but as always, he's at the very least extremely engaging. Only read this if you are a fan, and I'd most definitely recommend that you read The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven and The Toughest Indian in the World (which contains my favorite story of his, "Dear John Wayne").
A short book full of poems and stories centered on modern life around the reservation. There are times when the writing is deep and emotional, times when it is laid back and thoughtful and times when the story is only that; a story told to those who are listening. It is all very modern-creative type writing with a deeper meaning settled somewhere within, but it is all so beautifully done that you might just find yourself revisiting the book again and again. You might even have a different experi ...more
Sep 12, 2010 Rachel added it
Confronting myself with other realities. Literature scares me the most when I go so far out of my constellations of referents that I can't even discern for myself a language for talking about what I've just read. I'm much more comfortable with Alexie's YA work.

Indian Boy Long Song (#1,2,3,4) was the most accessible to me.

This collection gives permission to publish chapbooks that are in series, stories and poems together, prose and verse mixing and informing each other.

Sherman Alexie I love you.
Though this is pretty early on for Alexie, this has some really good stuff in it. It may not hit the same heights as some of his later writing, but you can see in it where he is going to go later. And, as with some of his other collections, I like getting some of his poetry mixed in with some of his prose. I'm less likely to pick up a book of pure poetry and this way I still get to see some of Alexie's poetry. All in all, this is a good collection and I'm glad I read it.
The Good
Favorite poem: "Grandmother"

The Other(wise)
This was like a bad dream where you can't figure out what the story is but it is very important that you know what it is. Some atrocity happened and will happen and you can't amend or avoid it.

I may not have gone on with the whole thing if I didn't already know and love Alexie stories.

The Line
for my 2013-Books found poem:
- "Me, closing my eyes."
Great first book-left me wanting to read more Alexie.
Alexie's first major book - his stories, as I'd expect from reading later books, are great but it's his poetry here that packs a terrific punch - his poetry just sings! I think it's interesting how in this book he uses Crazy Horse in the same fashion that Thomas King uses Coyote in Green Grass, Running Water - a figure who has physical presence, mythological scope and a cultural resonance that is wonderfully provocative.
Short stories and short poems about a way of life that I know very little about. "Fancydancing" seemed to just scratch the surface, unlike the story of his that I heard on Selected Shorts, "Breaking and Entering." "Fancydancing" is an earlier work so the difference in depth between those stories and "Breaking and Entering" is very encouraging. I enjoyed Alexie's authorial voice and would like to read more of his work.
Revisiting my Alexie shelf - can't recommend this miraculous collection enough! One of my top ten favorite poems by anyone, anywhere, anytime is found here: "Giving Blood." It makes me laugh and then cry no matter how many times I have read it. I think, when Alexie is at his best for me, is when he adopts the voice that flows through this poem, that is storytelling and prose-poem-like.
Alexie is a great author who rights from the heart. Very raw. He has a way of describing circumstances and feelings through these different poems and short stories that makes me hurt for the Native Americans who live on reservations.

Althouh the book has some language, I could see using it in class as an example for writing poems without punctuation, possibly.
I had forgotten how much I love Sherman Alexie`s writing. It was great to go back and read his very first book after all these years. Some of the poems took my breath away. ...more
Humorous, moving, and insightful, this collection of poems and short stories is Alexie first book EVER. The content is focused more on the reservation and "Indian-ness" than in his later works, which focus more on relationships. Reoccurring images include house fires, pow wows, and fancydancing. It was fun to read this book to see where Alexie began.
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Sherman J. Alexie, Jr., was born in October 1966. A Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian, he grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, WA, about 50 miles northwest of Spokane, WA. Alexie has published 18 books to date.
Alexie is an award-winning and prolific author and occasional comedian. Much of his writing draws on his experiences as a modern Native American. Sherman's best known works in
More about Sherman Alexie...
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven Flight Reservation Blues The Toughest Indian in the World

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“Everyone I have lost
in the closing of a door
the click of the lock

is not forgotten, they
do not die but remain
within the soft edges
of the earth, the ash

of house fires and cancer
in sin and forgiveness
huddled under old blankets

dreaming their way into
my hands, my heart
closing tight like fists.

- "Indian Boy Love Song #1”
“and then she asks me how many sexual partners I've had and I say one or two
depending on your definition of what I did to Custer . . .”
More quotes…