rachel's Reviews > Reservation Blues

Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie
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's review
Jul 20, 2014

liked it
bookshelves: own, this-is-america, 2012, wild-wild-west
Read from April 25 to May 04, 2012

This is some very American magical realism, what with its mash-up of the Robert Johnson crossroads legend with life on a Spokane Indian reservation and rock star ambitions. Perhaps even more American than apple pie?!??

As a concept, I love American magical realism (see also: Swamplandia!, which coincidentally is about people who like to pretend they're Indian). The execution of the book I really, really liked too. Reservation Blues is full of nightmares and alcoholism, but also, funny digs at white people and corporeal encounters with God. Alexie's writing is charming and emotional, without being over the top on either account.

There is a lot going on here thematically too. Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil for his guitar skill (a blues legend which is taken for truth in the book) runs parallel to Thomas & Friends' quest to become rock stars, using the same guitar, ultimately hoping to escape the poverty of the reservation. To achieve this dream also involves the shirking of some essential part of themselves, their cultural "soul" too. Thomas's girlfriend Chess personifies the struggle. She resents certain traits of Indian men, but she also resents the white women who make tokens of them.

All of the mysticism and themes double back on each other in true fairy tale fashion. Alexie is a Storyteller, just like Thomas. As someone with ambitions to write but who always struggles with the damn telling a good story part of it all, I appreciate how intricately every part of this book loose-threads together. But I have to say that in the world of US magical realism, I do have a preference for the crunchy, lyrical wonders of Karen Russell.
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Reading Progress

04/25/2012 page 55
04/28/2012 page 145
47.0% "I totally love how Thomas smiles at the thought of all the people who live in his memory."

Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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message 1: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Oh, I liked him!

mark That's a good one - will you review it?

rachel Hoping to. I like it very much at ~50 pages in. I read his YA book and thought it was just OK, because it seemed kinda glossed over for teens. Already my hunch that I would prefer his adult writing is correct.

Snotchocheez Curiously, though, a cover jacket quote from him is on the cover of the book I'm reading right now: "Thirteen Reasons Why"...strange synchronicity at work.

message 5: by rachel (last edited Apr 28, 2012 07:16PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

rachel Oooh, I haaated that book. I actually hosted an event for him to sign it when I was working at a bookstore, after I had read and hated the book. He was a really nice guy, so I had to avoid giving any indication that I had read it.

To say the least, it bothered me that he was writing a book for teens where a girl who committed suicide is a martyr -- like, oh my god, please do not give them that idea that the mystery of suicide is sexy. Even if the book is also anti-bullying, that is just not very wise.

message 6: by noelle (new)

noelle hm, i might want to read this. i wanted to enjoy swamplandia! so much more than i did, but i just couldn't get over the white family pretending to be indians. blech. i'll have to keep my eyeballz open for this one.

Snotchocheez And bonus! Sherman Alexie loved Thirteen Reasons Why (Ahem...Braaaaaaaaaap)

(Remind me sometime to tell you my story of how I came this close to living near one of the NE Washington rezes Alexie depicts. Good times! Braaaaaap)

rachel I kind of love Sherman Alexie as a person, and how happy he looks all the time, but that demonstrates questionable taste. Do tell!

Noelle: I can see you maybe liking this one. Not sure, hard to tell. You can have my copy if we meet up for Memorial Day if you really feel strongly about it either way.

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