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War Dances

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In his first new fiction since winning the National Book Award for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, best-selling author Sherman Alexie delivers a virtuoso collection of tender, witty, and soulful stories that expertly capture modern relationships from the most diverse angles. War Dances brims with Alexie’s poetic and revolutionary prose, and reminds us once again why he ranks as one of our country’s finest writers.

With bright insight into the minds of artists, entrepreneurs, fathers, husbands, and sons, Alexie populates his stories with average men on the brink of exceptional change: In the title story, a son recalls his father’s “natural Indian death” from alcohol and diabetes, just as he learns that he himself may have a brain tumor; “The Ballad of Paul Nonetheless,” dissects a vintage clothing store owner’s failing marriage and courtship of a Puma-clad stranger in airports across the country; and “Breaking and Entering” recounts a film editor’s fateful confrontation with an thieving adolescent.

Brazen and wise War Dances takes us to the heart of what it means to be human. The new beginnings, successes, mistakes, and regrets that make up our daily lives are laid bare in this wide-ranging new work that is quintessential.

209 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2009

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About the author

Sherman Alexie

136 books6,143 followers
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 include The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Smoke Signals, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 912 reviews
Profile Image for Fabian.
957 reviews1,623 followers
August 30, 2020
One of the top ten most important fiction writers RIGHT NOW. Themes arise from the existence of Native peoples in the contemporary world which IS ABSOLUTELY facing extinction. Stories like these, poems that reach the abysmal layers of the gut, are extremely valuable, important, exciting.

Does a Native American man perish of natural causes when its cyrrhosis of the liver, caused by alcoholism? Is it his fate to suffer when his contributions shut him out of society. Alexie offers immeasurable hope in this age of darkness. HOPE
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews41 followers
August 18, 2019
War Dances, Sherman Alexie
War Dances is a 2009 collection of short stories and poems by Sherman Alexie. It received the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. War Dances takes us to the heart of what it means to be human.
تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز هجدهم ماه آگوست سال 2014 میلادی
عنوان: رقص‌های جنگ؛ نویسنده: شرمن الکسی؛ مترجم: مجتبی ویسی؛ تهران : مروارید‏‫، 1389؛ در 232 ص؛ شابک: 9789641911098؛ موضوع: داستانهای کوتاه از نویسندگان امریکایی - سده 21 م
فهرست: «در قید و بند»؛ «ورود غیرقانونی»؛ «برو، روح، برو»؛ «مشاهده‌ی پرنده در شب»؛ «پس از ساخت جورچین (جنگ ستارگان)»؛ «آخرین ستاره‌ی مرگ»؛ «رقص‌های جنگ»؛ «حکمت الهی خزندگان»؛ «پرسش‌نامه‌ ی مسیحی»؛ «اعلامیه‌ ای دیگر»؛ «سگ نامرئی قلاده‌ دار»؛ «تقارن ترسناک»؛ چکامه‌ ای برای نوارهای گلچین»؛ «هایکو عضو سابق کلیسای کاتولیک»؛ «آینه»؛ «نمک»؛
مجموعه «‌رقص‌های جنگ» دربرگیرنده چند ‌داستان کوتاه‌، ‌شعر‌، ‌پرسش‌نامه‌، ‌مصاحبه‌ و ‌یادمان «شرمن الکسی» است، کتاب در ژانر ویژه ای، قرار نمی‌گیرد، اما موضوعاتی همانند: بحران هویت، روابط اجتماع،ی و تنش‌های موجود در برقراری ارتباط میان قشرهای مختلف در جامعه ی آمریکا، درون‌مایه‌ های اصلی آن است. ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for William Thomas.
1,231 reviews2 followers
August 21, 2011
I don't suffer from white guilt. So I'm not one to blow smoke up an author's ass for the simple fact that they are black or Asian or American Indian. I won't go easy on a writer for the simple fact of their ethnicity. But I will praise them when they deserve it and damn it all if Sherman Alexie doesn't deserve all of my praise.

I know that sounds strange with the three star rating. The book wasn't perfect by any means. What it was was honest. Completely unabashed honesty. Not stories from a writer content to wallow in his own self-pity, not one to mentally masturbate all over the pages, but one that analyzes all of his own bullshit from the periphery. A step back out of the situation and commenting on the events of his own and other peoples' lives with humor and wit and honesty that adds up sometimes to an awkward empathy and other times to mocking absurdity.

But as with any collection of stories and poems, there are winners and losers. The biggest loser in this collection is The Senator's Son, which is a complete waste of time and utterly unnecessary. The biggest winners are the most heartbreaking moments when Alexie talks about his alcoholic father and his love for Patsy Cline.

On the whole the book reminded me of both Paul Auster and Raymond Carver, an honest voice touched with sadness and self deprecation and a lilting voice that mesmerizes.
Profile Image for Madeline.
781 reviews47.2k followers
April 18, 2013
I haven't read any Sherman Alexie since The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian back in college, and I had forgotten how much I missed him. Another reviewer, when writing about this book, called Alexie's work "honest", and I think that's really the best description of this little collection of short stories and poems (there's even a chapter where Alexie gives us a poem he wrote about his father and then deconstructs all the lies in it). Not all the stories are fantastic, but most are lovely and sad. Especially the last one, "Salt," which will stomp your heart into tiny little pieces and not apologize for it. I also loved the sections where an unknown interviewer asks questions, and Alexie's responses generally ignore the question completely and create something else entirely, like this exchange in "Big Bang Theory":

"After our earliest ancestors crawled out of the oceans, how soon did they feel the desire to crawl back in?

At age nine, I stepped into the pool at the YWCA. I didn't know how to swim, but the other Indian boys had grown salmon and eagle wings and could fly in water and sky.

Wouldn't the crow, that ubiquitous trickster, make a more compelling and accurate national symbol for the United States than the bald eagle?

Okay, that Indian-boy salmon-and-eagle-wings transformation thing is bullshit, but I'm trying to tell a creation story here, and by definition all creation stories are bullshit. Scientifically speaking, we all descend from one man and one woman who lived in what we now call Africa - yes, we are all African at our cores - but why should we all live with the same metaphorical creation story? The Kiowa think they were created when lightening struck the mud inside a log. I think the Hopis are crash-landed aliens who are still waiting for a rescue mission. Christians think God built everything in a week - well, in six days - and then rested. Yeah, like God created the universe in anticipation of the Sunday funny pages."

This was also my first time reading any of Alexie's poetry, having only read his novels and short stories before, and I decided that I was in love with it after the very first poem in the book, which goes like this:

"The Limited

I saw a man swerve his car
And try to hit a stray dog,
But the quick mutt dodged
Between two parked cars

And made his escape.
God, I thought, did I just see
What I think I saw?
At the next red light,

I pulled up beside the man
And stared hard at him.
He knew that'd I seen
His murder attempt,

But he didn't care.
He smiled and yelled loud
Enough for me to hear him
Through our closed windows:

"Don't give me that face
Unless you're going to do
Something about it.
Come on, tough guy,

What are you going to do?"
I didn't do anything.
I turned right on the green.
He turned left against traffic.

I don't know what happened
To that man or the dog,
But I drove home
And wrote this poem.

Why do poets think
They can change the world?
The only life I can save
Is my own."
Profile Image for Bean.
60 reviews5 followers
October 28, 2009
Loved it.

So, on Sunday I went to see Sherman Alexie read from his new book, War Dances, at Wordstock09, and it was nothing short of great. If you’re unfamiliar with him I’d recommend any of his books, but my favorite so far is still his young adult novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, a mostly hilarious coming of age story of growing up on a reservation, but going to an all white private school.

One of the great parts of his reading that that he told stories to segue into the reading, so it wasn’t just a man reading from a book that you’ve already purchased (-cough- Richard Dawkins -cough-)…

Anyhow, I’m telling you all of this because in his talk he did say one thing that made me think of you guys.
He was talking about how [politically:] lefty, white-women are the best people in the world, because behind every positive movement in this society there’s a lefty, white-women running the show. Then he said, and I’m paraphrasing,

"Especially you vegan women, you really crack me up. Don’t eat meat! Eat local! Buy Organic! You and your privileged eating choices. And another thing, I mean the temperature is low now, so we’re fine, but when the temperature is high… your Tom’s deodorant is NOT working. If you’re coming to see me read, please, on your way just stop of at the Wal-Mart,

[audience groans:]

“… and buy a stick of deodorant. You only have to apply one stripe! Just one! One strip of aluminum, and it will make me so happy that his Indian WILL shed a tear.”

I realize in retrospect that this kind of makes him sound like a DB, but it was actually pretty funny. You’ll have to take my word for it.

I’m just glad I wore my antiperspirant yesterday.
Profile Image for Mari Butler.
22 reviews2 followers
November 23, 2011
I first saw Sherman Alexie as a featured guest author on an episode of The Colbert Report. At the time he told Stephen Colbert that he didn’t want his books on the Kindle. He felt that it compromised the integrity of the book because it wasn’t written in ink on paper and could be altered. I thought it was interesting that he was Native American and he was resisting technology to preserve traditional publications. I got both the hardcover copy and the audio book of “War Dances” from the library so I could listen to the author read them to me in his own voice while I looked at the pages.

This modality enriched my reading experience because I could literally hear his distinct almost singsong way of speaking. This unique rhythm becomes the language of a man who comes from a people who have a history of oral storytelling so it only seemed fitting. I could imagine myself sitting around a tribal fire. I am not sure what this compilation is called because I have never read a book of this nature before. This book contains nonfiction accounts miss-matched with fictional stories, sonnets, soliloquies and odes. I was listening to Jazz on the television when I first picked up the book. Hearing Alexie recite the poem on the CD over the background music gave the poem a beatnik feel.

The first poem called “The Limited” is an 8 stanza poem about a time when the narrator witnessed a man going intentionally out of his way to run over a dog with his car. It reminded me of a poem I read in my Introduction to Non-Fiction, Fiction and Poetry class. It was about a man driving a truck and the dog flew out of the truck bed when the owner took a corner too fast. Speeding away, leaving the dog in the road. The reader immediately sympathizes with the dog and can identify with the author who wants to take action against the driver. I was left wondering if this actually happened to Alexie or if maybe he had read the poem and was so inspired. Having the book in front of me was essential for the poem “Ode For Pay Phones” to get the full visually effect.

There is a fictional account entitled “Breaking and Entering” where a man alone in his home hears a crash in the basement and makes the decision to confront the burglar. The home owner bashes a young hoodlum who breaks into his home to steal his CDs. In a jarring culmination he hits him so precisely in the head with his own son’s Little League baseball bat that he kills him instantly. Later he finds out that the boy had no prior record and was basically good.

The story “Kafka’s Baggage” is the first enumerated first person entry in the chapter “War Dances”. The use of the word “baggage” is both metaphorical and literal when a man finds a dead cockroach in his suitcase and wonders if it felt “existential dread”. Numbered entries recount a son slowly losing his father to a “natural Indian death” from liquor and diabetes. He subsequently learns that he himself may have a brain tumor.

As far as I’m concerned Sherman Alexie dances to the beat of a different drummer. Overall, I found the book to be an eclectic weird grouping of literary genres. I had to check the spine of the book for the “F” that designates it as fiction. Alexie’s tone of voice is so conversational and because it was in first person I thought at first that it was all autobiographical. “The Theology of Reptiles” is structured like a poem and has a rhythm. I loved the way he gives an account about his brother finding a snake that has died in “midmolt” and he shocks it back to life using “lightning bolts” by hanging it over an electric fence. The author gives me encouragement that if I am courageous I too can write about ordinary things stylistically.

Profile Image for gorecki.
238 reviews47 followers
November 29, 2017
Sherman Alexie’s War Dances is a book I was really looking forward to and really enjoyed reading. I loved it without being in awe with it, enjoyed it without making a song and dance about it. It’s a book you don’t really have much to say about once you finish reading it. Like having a coffee with a friend you see often – you talk about things in life: family problems due to alcohol, falling for someone you’ve met at an airport, politics and finding out your high-school friend is gay, some poetry, some questions, but these things are not life-changing, or eye-opening, or emotionally intense. They are just things that happen. Things you’d talk about and move on to another topic. As Alexie himself puts it in the opening poem:

“Why do poets think

they can change the world?”

Sherman Alexie writes with unparalleled honesty and fluency. He’s frank and open, does not aim to shock or surprise, to preach or teach. His writing is so believable because of the irony and sarcasm he uses. A character in any other book would faint or do something drastic when they learn they have a benign brain tumor. Sherman Alexie’s character would crack a joke about it. He’d be scared witless, that’s a fact, but he would still crack a joke. Another character would start feeling a deep understanding and sympathy for an old, demented lady who speaks incoherently. Alexie’s is making polite excuses while trying to get closer to the door and run for it. Wouldn’t most of us? Honestly? And this brings Alexie’s characters so much closer to being like a real and believable people.

I can’t really say more about this book. I would not go recommending it, but I will surely drink some more coffee with Sherman. You decide if that’s a good recommendation.
Profile Image for Jennifer (formerly Eccentric Muse).
468 reviews998 followers
June 26, 2011
Suffered by comparison to Erdrich's The Plague of Doves, but I needed a palate cleanser and this was nearby. The short stories were ... okay. The poems were less than okay and didn't add anything. Generally, I like poems that play with language and are more lyrical - this kind of spare, naive stuff only works when it's clearly integrated into the rest of the collection - these didn't seem to be so.

I found the whole thing a mish-mash, lacking any clear focus or overall point of view. The quality from story to story, and poem to poem was erratic, too. It didn't really hold together for me.

The Ballad of Paul Nonetheless and The Senator's Son were two bright spots - the former because of how it traced the shocking downward spiral into despair that loneliness brings; the latter because of a unique point of view and an unlayering of motivation that reveals a shocking cynicism and helplessness.

This feels like some of his minor work - I'll get to the novel(s) soon.
Profile Image for Dan.
1,135 reviews52 followers
May 8, 2021
War Dances

This collection is a mix of 23 short stories and poems and garnered Alexie the PEN/Faulkner award in 2010.

I enjoyed “Breaking and Entering’”, a realistic story about a tragedy following a B&E at the protagonist’s home and I enjoyed “Invisible on a Dog Leash”, which is a grievance story about being tricked by felonious men of the carnival variety. But not so much the others.

I normally like Alexie’s writing but this collection felt a little too average. The stories each involve different protagonists but most often feature a successful middle aged man of Native American heritage trying to understand his relationships. I did not find much imagery in this collection that inspired me - unlike his earlier works and the poems were uninspiring.

3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Mohammad Khazaie.
155 reviews42 followers
December 14, 2021
کتاب را دوباره خواندم، یکبار چند وقت پیش نصفه خوانده بودم و بعد که برگشتم ادامه اش را بخوانم؛ انقدر تر و تازه بود که دوباره همه اش را خواندم.

رقص‌های جنگ مجموعه‌ای است از اشعار و داستان‌های کوتاه. اشعار برایم چندان جذاب نبودند اما داستان‌ها به وجدم آوردند! رک بودند و صریح، با طنزی که لابلای
داستان همیشه می‌خزید. طنزی که گاه نوازش می‌کرد و اغلب می‌گزید.

با اینهمه به نظرم مهم‌ترین ویژگی قلم شرمن الکسی همان رک بودن و بی‌تعارفی است. او به راحتی ضعف‌های خودش و دیگران را تشریح می‌کند و داستان‌های هراس‌انگیزی که اغلب بر لبه تابوهای اجتماعی می‌دوند را به سادگی داستان‌های کودکانه روایت می‌کند ‌و همین است که داستان‌های او را اینهمه جذاب می‌کند.

به هرحال این سرخپوست اسکوپانی را بخوانید، ضرر نمی‌کنید.
Profile Image for Nicole.
1,167 reviews19 followers
October 27, 2009
Oh Sherman, you somehow manage to make me feel like a friend, an enemy, a racist, and a coconsipirator all at the same time. You evoke emotions and then distance me from them. Oh the experience of reading a Sherman Alexie book! OH the experience of hearing him speak live.

Reading the purportedly non-autobiographical (lies!) short stories and poetry of War Dances, I felt like Sherman was standing naked in front of me saying, "Look! This is me! See this blemish? Look closer!" It was not always the most comfortable reading experience but I was certainly engaged and invested!

As for the event, well, we took stock and decided he was hands-down the funniest author we've (maybe ever) had. His humor is raunchy, no question, but if masturbatory confessions and mocking ethnic accents are up your alley then SA is the man for you. I found myself laughing and then looking around to see who else was laughing with me.

To be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about meeting Sherman in person. On the one hand, he is obviously an intelligent man who writes well and is capable of holding pretentious intellectual conversations about his works and the world at large. In fact, he mocked grad students repeatedly on that very point. So I was disappointed that he stayed superficial during his talk. On the other hand, his writing is more concerned with emotions than critical theory. Of course it makes sense that his in-person presentations would be just as funny and emotionally evocative, so I can hardly fault him for that. But I found myself resisting the urge to stand up and yell "stop making jokes and just talk seriously for one freaking minute!"

Alexie blurs the lines between cultures, exposing prejudices and clearing the way for meaningful discussion. Most often, he does all that through humor. I imagine his mantra to be something along the lines of "Get them laughing and then they'll start talking". Of course I could be full of crap. Maybe he just wants to make us laugh...but I doubt it.
Profile Image for Christina M Rau.
Author 13 books26 followers
November 14, 2015
Having fallen in love with Sherman Alexie's writing style and themes, I picked up War Dances, a collection of his short stories. That's what its label says, but that's not really what it is. This collection has stories, but it also has poetry and even fragments that are in the form of Q&A that tell a story through the juxtaposition of question content and incongruent answers. Alexie's emotional description of alcohol abuse on reservations and the often overlooked difference between white and Spokane is riveting. Riveting: I finished the book in a day. His characters here, as in Absolutely True Tales Of A Part-Time Indian, smack of the true life Native American experience.

The poetry rhymes. A lot. However, some of it becomes part of telling the tale. It works to link the fragments and stories together. He even refers to Springsteen at one point, and the poetry becomes metapoetry, more aware of itself than the story it tells. It reveals vulnerability of self, of Alexie the poet, Alexie the writer, which makes the writing more endearing.

War Dances is fascinating in its style and themes. Alexie rules the Native American perspective in literature.
Profile Image for Rana Heshmati.
529 reviews778 followers
March 14, 2014
در قید و بند: ۳.۵
ورود غیرقانونی: ۴
برو، روح، برو: ۳
مشاهده‌ی پرنده در شب: ۴
پس از ساخت جورچین«جنگ ستارگان» آخرین ستاره‌ی مرگ: ۳
رقص‌های جنگ: ۵
حکمت الهی خزندگان: ۴
پرسش‌نامه‌ی مسیحی: ۴.۵
اعلامیه‌ای دیگر: ۳
سگ نامرئی قلاده‌دار: ۳
تقارن ترسناک: ۵
چکامه‌ای برای نوارهای گلچین: ۵
هایکو عضو سابق کلیسای کاتولیک: ۴
آینه: ۳
نمک: ۴.۵

با تشکر از ارغوان :}
Profile Image for Amir .
555 reviews38 followers
July 29, 2014
من اگر همت کنم
یک زندگی را فقط نجات خواهم داد
مال خودم را
عطر و طعم یه ونه‌گات تازه میاد از این شرمن آلکسی. این هم یه کتاب خوب بی‌سر و صدا

Profile Image for Electra.
562 reviews49 followers
May 1, 2019
Un vrai plaisir de retrouver l’humour de Sherman
Profile Image for Rob.
700 reviews97 followers
March 8, 2015
Ever find you really like a book but don’t have much to say about it? So it is with Sherman Alexie’s War Dances. It is, in typical Alexie fashion, a gracefully written collection of short stories and poems that manages to be insightful not just about what it means to be Native American in the 21st Century, but how personal identity is a profoundly unreliable thing that nevertheless greatly influences the way we get by in the world. Each piece is – if I can use such a word without fear of ridicule – delightful, even when they tackle questions of racism, homophobia, marital dissolution, and dementia. Some of my speechlessness is due to my short story overdose in 2008; the rest of it is feeling like sometimes it’s enough just to say, “Yeah, that was pretty good,” and not belabor the point.

So rather than wrestle with finding my way in to another lengthy screed, here’s a quick snapshot of three of my favorite stories in the collection, and I’ll close with a brief personal story about Alexie.

“Breaking and Entering.” George is home alone when he hears someone shatter a window in his basement. He descends the stairs to find a black teenager rifling through his possessions. George casually, almost thoughtlessly, picks up his son’s aluminum Little League bat, more for protection than aggression. When the teenager attempts to bolt past him for the door, George swings the bat, catching the thief in the temple and killing him instantly – and totally accidentally. George is pilloried by the African-American community as another in a long line of white men responsible for the death of a black youth. The catch, though, is that George is Native American. Alexie never tips his hand about this fact too early, and once he’s made the big reveal, spends the rest of the story reflecting on the nature of power. Is it possible for a story to be even more relevant years after it was written? Recent events in Ferguson, New York, Cleveland, and elsewhere make it unfortunately so.

“The Senator’s Son.” William, the son of a remarkably (and atypically) progressive Republican senator, is involved in a hate crime, taking part in an attack on three gay men late at night. It turns out that one of the victims is William’s former best friend, a fellow Young Republican who came out to him in high school. Provocative (and resonant) not just for what it tells us about the lengths people are willing to go to in order to protect their reputations, but also for William’s acknowledgement that, yes, homosexuality is biologically hard-wired into some people, but hatred might be just as inescapable for others.

“Fearful Symmetry.” A marginal writer gets his shot at the Hollywood big time when he’s hired to write a screenplay adapting a book about a firefighter. He fails miserably, suffers an existential crisis, quits writing altogether, takes up competitive crossword-puzzle-solving, and finds redemption in lying to strangers. It’s the lightest story of the bunch – a breezy read that still manages to say some important things about recognizing one’s place in the world.

For the uninitiated, War Dances is a quality entry point into Alexie’s world, an award-winning collection that doesn’t overstay its welcome while still giving the reader plenty to chew on.

And now the personal story. I’ve been a fan of Alexie’s since the late 90s, coming to him first through the movie Smoke Signals, and more recently through his spectacular Young Adult novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. When I heard he’d be doing a book signing at the National Council of Teachers of English Conference a few years ago, I set aside other obligations to make sure I was there.

When I got up to the table, the man was kind and generous, making each person feel noticed and appreciated despite the long queue that had already shuffled past and which still wound through the exhibition hall behind me. Alexie signed a couple books for me, and I asked him if I could get a photo with him.

His response: “Can we take it like we’re at the prom?”

What was I going to say?
Profile Image for Randy.
181 reviews6 followers
December 12, 2010
Driving through Doghill, Arkansaw the other day, I just happened to dodge one of the numerous canine fucks that inhabit the roadside there when the Sherman Alexie poem that opens this book popped into my head deranged as it was with fresh groud, dark roast, bartered in the sex trade, shade grown by anthill coffee:

The Limited

I saw a man swerve his car
And try to hit a stray dog
But the quick mutt dodged
Between two parked cars

And made his escape...

Why do poets think
They can change the world?
The only life I can save
Is my own.

Now, that's only the first and last verse but you get the picture and Alexie often in classy form and from a unique perspective presents his misfits, I think from memory, but however the reader looks at it even if it is a bit over written and the whoa-is-me-Indian theme a bit overused, I come away amazed by the writing and am inspired to write poetry again.

Although sadness is integral in these stories, interviews and poems, Alexie wants you to learn and not wallow in it.

Profile Image for NamLitFollows.
973 reviews13 followers
September 7, 2021
This short story collection is vintage Sherman Alexie: sad, self-deprecating and with narrators often feeling sorry for themselves. Even though this had been published in 2009, I had waited a long time to read this. Mr. Alexie had been one of my favorite writers since I was an undergrad, and even saw him read live at the 92nd Street Y lecture series in New York City in 2016. I think his language is coarse, biting, and abrasive because he really does have something to say about the pain that Native Americans and other people of color often face with a white patriarchal society that either A) Wants to commit to spreading racism and white superiority; B) White allies who think that they are doing good, but actually doing emotional damage with an unawareness to their microaggressions and aggressions towards communities of color.

With that said, since Mr. Alexie had been accused of abusing his power and authority in 2018 by taking advantage of aspiring female writers sexually, and some he even had sex with, reading Mr. Alexie now is a bit creepy and discomforting, especially it seems some of the experiences of his characters are semi autobiographical. For example, in his story "Breaking and Entering" about a Native American filmmaker who has killed an African American teenager, who stole his DVDs, with a kid's baseball bat, Mr. Alexie's character confesses to having made a film that wound up pornographic, and the poor actress, a young black woman has been exploited, "it wasn't artistic, or not the kind of art it pretended to be. This young woman had been exploited, with her permission of course, but I was still going to do my best to protect her" (Alexie 6). These sentences are eerily prophetic of Mr. Alexie's fall from grace in 2018.

Even more disturbing since I read this through the 2021 lens, the story "The Senator's Son", about the son of an up-and coming Republican, bipartisan senator, who engages in bashing a gay couple- in which to his horror, finds out he's bashed his former friend Jeremy, who confessed that he was gay 15 years ago. Since Jeremy is also a Republican, he still supports the party that oppresses his community. But he is willing to go with it because he is white, "Listen, I am a wealthy American male. I can't campaign for something as silly and fractured as gay marriage when there are millions of Muslim women who can't show their ankles" (Alexie 102). The passage of gay marriage happened in 2015 under the Obama/Biden administration, and this story reminds me of the log-cabin closeted gay Republicans I know of who moved to the right side of politics because gay marriage allowed them to abandon other communities who are in need. White privilege never felt so appropriate.

I really despised the story "The Ballad of Paul Nonetheless", about a collector of vintage clothing who ends up chatting up and stalking a woman he refers to as "Sara Smile" as in the song by Hall and Oates. This character had no redeeming qualities: he is a serial cheater, and has stopped having sex with his wife because he was grossed out from having seen her body change from three pregnancies. Then he attempts to bond with his daughters by making them mixed tapes via their I-Pods to which one says, "it's okay Daddy, I can just load my music over your music. Thanks for the I-Pod" (Alexie 142). He cannot grasp that he is simply trying to buy his girls' love. This might as well be the ballad of a douchebag. Though I did not like this story, I hand it to Mr. Alexie for his bravery of writing about such an unsympathetic character that left such a horrible taste in my mouth.

Perhaps it was a little too brave, and a little to autobiographical in writing about himself, of how Mr. Alexie treats women and others in real life, since now he has been branded as a problematic and predatory writer. His art is still wonderful- and I will remain a fan of his work. But reading this proved to be difficult because of my own inability to separate the artist from the art.
Profile Image for Natalie.
691 reviews182 followers
May 1, 2021
You ever find yourself giving the same rating that you'd give to a mediocre vampire smut trilogy to one of your favorite authors because the bar on the latter is set so high and the bar on the former is set to ant head height? And then for a minute feel really guilty about it? Yeah, so that's where I'm at right now.

There is never a time that I don't love reading Sherman Alexie. There are just times that I LOVE LOVE LOVE and those times get the 5 stars.

This is typical Sherman (may I call you Sherman, Sherman?). You've never read anything by him?
Shame. On. You.
If you're looking to laugh and be punched in the heart almost simultaneously, then you'd love this guy. He touches on a bit of everything - infidelity, family, illness and death, and more - and weaves in tribe tradition. The tribe tradition is both honored and chuckled at. No, somehow it feels all the more honored because it is chuckled at. It makes it accessible to those of us with skin as pasty as an uncooked pie crust. I'm given permission to find the humor in a serious situation, a stereotype, an embarrassment. It's like I can laugh about my kooky uncle who sports a mullet and cut-off jorts, but I'll be damned if I let anyone else do it...without my permission.

You know what? Nevermind. I just gathered all the short stories in this one (the poems were not his best) and they're stellar.

5 Stars
Profile Image for Matthew McElroy .
215 reviews
August 10, 2022
What are we going to do with all these Americans who think anything written by someone who doesn't check the boxes of: male, European descent, writing between 1850-1950? (You can probably add one or two other qualifications on your own.) If you aren't getting great stuff like Sherman Alexie (or Paul Beatty, or Toni Morrison, or Min Jin Lee), then what are you getting? I'm not sure that Alexie wrote anything revolutionary in this collection. He just wrote it better than almost anyone I've ever read.

War Dances is a short book of assorted short stories and poems. I can't recall anyone being so good at both. Alexie somehow has the amazing ability to deliver crushing material in a lighthearted way. He's not glib or satirical. He's just an amazing writer whose resilience comes through in every story. I've heard that people who grow up in tougher situations develop unique coping mechanisms. (God, I hope that doesn't sound as patronizing as I fear it does.) Alexie seems to be channeling the stress of growing up on a reservation into the ability to handle failure and loss of all kinds.

The stories aren't connected by any specific theme, but they are almost definitively autobiographical. Many of the characters are writers. Some of have lost their fathers to alcoholism. Most are Native American- usually Spokane, from Eastern Washington. Alexie tells these stories with someone who is proud and knowledgeable of his culture, while knowing that much of what he does is part of a larger American culture, which is largely unconcerned with 10,000 year of Native American history. Trust me- read these, and you'll see how deftly he intertwines these ideas.
Profile Image for Danny Shelton.
23 reviews1 follower
October 13, 2010
War Dances is a book best read in one sitting for no other reason than the likelihood that a reader wouldn’t want (or need) to stop reading it in the first place.
Sherman Alexie is a Spokane Indian, and Grove Press published the book in 2009.
The book follows a general pattern and is divided up into sections, making the book very fluid and easy to read, with a length of just over 200 pages. Roughly, the sections begin with a poem, are followed by a short story, then a sort of interview with the author’s psyche, and are tailed by another poem. The poetry is easily read and would bear meaning without context, but taken together with the supplements Alexie supplies their impact is multiplied. They are sometimes chilling and haunting, and other times hilarious. The sections themselves are Breaking and Entering, War Dances, The Senator’s Son, The Ballad of Paul Nonetheless, Fearful Symmetry, and Salt. Each follow their own theme but are alike in that they all lay bare the human core; rarely does Alexie examine someone who an audience would have trouble empathizing with. On another level while each character is exceptionally human, each is flawed, and comparisons arise between War Dances and Winesburg Ohio, by Sherwood Anderson.
As opposed to a brief of what the sections of the book entail, it would be more befitting War Dances to detail the collective mural that the book paints. Alexie never shies away from an issue, at one end dealing with death, drug abuse, sex, infidelity, divorce and loneliness and at another dealing with mass media, consumerism, cultural authenticity, religion and racism. The myriad emotions the book evokes in a reader is compounded by the empathy, in every work, that the reader is forced to regard.
As an example, in the Ballad of Paul Nonetheless Alexie discusses a man who is fiscally and domestically successful, running a successful business, married to a strikingly beautiful woman, and the father of 3 teenage daughters. In spite of these things his success is meaningless, as he is separated from his wife after cheating on her. Still madly in love with her, he simply fails to have a sexual desire for her because her pain through childbirth made him feel inadequate as a husband. He could not comfort her, or make the pain stop, or assist her in any way, and the fear and terror he felt forever altered his relationship with her. This knowledge is only divulged to the reader, and he is never able to repair his relationship with his children or his wife and is stuck between his fiscal success and his lack of connection to anyone, especially those that matter most to him. Alexie manages to force empathy for a man who in another work might be reprehensible, concerned only with outward appearances and with little regard for the well being of his wife or his children.
What Alexie does in War Dances is to show ordinary people for what they truly are. Each character has their own story, and Alexie manages to turn their blank faces into a canvas on which the deepest human emotions can be seen and felt, those of alienation, loneliness, and failure.
Profile Image for Emily.
652 reviews37 followers
August 12, 2014
This is the best book I've read in a long time. And I got to listen to Alexie read it himself. These are (some of) the themes that are important to Alexie, infused in his life and this collection of poems and short stories: truth, music, identity, rage, sex, storytelling itself, nationalism/imperialism/capitalism, grief, loss. Maybe I love Alexie and everything he touches because all of these things are fascinating to me too.

Not all, but many of my strongest friendships were cultivated after I had very strong and very negative first impressions of the people I now consider loved ones. Something about them rubs me the wrong way. They say that you fight or complain most about the things in other people that you see reflected in yourself. So maybe it's a namaste situation. Late in my undergraduate career, I took a lit class and we read Alexie's "Indian Killer." It was well written but I HATED it because it made me both feel both angry and extremely impotent, and then angry at my impotence. And angry at him for not giving me a way out.

Alexie lays his own emotions and musings bare. I love watching his mind work and I empathize and ache with some of his pain. He's on the slowly growing list of authors whose entire ouevres I will read because I'm in love.
Profile Image for Tyler Hill.
124 reviews
September 4, 2011
Sherman Alexie is one of those authors that, for a while now, I've felt like I should check out. He's a fellow Seattleite, and when I've heard him speak on NPR and other places, I've generally found him pretty entertaining to listen to. That said, I also tend to be wary of authors who's subject matter could be described as one-note... and with most of his novels titles featuring the word "Indian" in them, I was concerned it might be the case with his writing.

With that in mind, this book (or "mix tape" as he's described it), was probably a good place to start. On one hand there is a sameness to the characters he's writing here (exclusively male, mainly from the Northwest, and predominately Native American), but the range of topics and emotions covered by these characters is impressive and varied. Race, sex, politics, coming-of-age... they're all hit her, along with a variety of other topics, written in both short story and poem form.

That's the Alexie's voice, they who book makes for a quick and (despite some weighty subject matter) light read. For the most part, its a good thing, and for the most part this is a good book. ER, I mean mix tape.
Profile Image for Mark.
206 reviews9 followers
October 22, 2009
This is my first experience reading Alexie, even though I've known about and admired him for years. He moved to Seattle and started writing in the early '90s -- about the same time I did moved here, so I feel an affinity with him for that reason. However, he is also the kind of accessible writer that appeals to you on a down to ear level. You feel like he's your friend even though you've never met him. His writing is effortless to read, it flows and twists and takes you on a trip. It makes you laugh and cry sometimes in the same sentence. He's a realist with a sense of humor. This book of shorts and poetry is less about Indian identity related themes, although he mentions being a member of the Spokane tribe quite often, and more about being a middle aged guy living in a post-modern society. It's never too heavy becuase he's constantly showing us the absurd sid of things. I especially liked the stories "War Dances", "Salt" and "The Ballad of Paul Nonetheless"
Profile Image for Brenda.
93 reviews17 followers
November 11, 2009
If you've never read Sherman Alexie, please do not start here. Get a copy of Tonto and the Lone Ranger Fist Fight in Heaven or The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian ASAP. These works will make you laugh and cry and marvel at Alexie's genius. Established fans will most likely read this one, and although the short stories and poems are well written, might find War Dances lacking that wry humor and force that Alexie's other works carry.

P.S. Sherman Alexie - when I read Flight, I thought to myself that it would be a great YA book. And then The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian came out and it was perfection. You are perfectly suited to be a YA author. Can you please write more? Thank you.
Profile Image for George.
802 reviews86 followers
October 15, 2015

“After our earliest ancestors crawled out of the oceans, how soon did they feel the desire to crawl back in?” (l. 1718)

Sherman Alexie is an extremely gifted storyteller with a penchant for hopelessness. His collection of well written stories and poems, War Dances, despite moments of wry and sardonic humor, offers the reader mostly futility, wrought with existential angst.

“Does a holy song lose its power if its singer is untalented?” (l. 452)

Recommendation: Of course you should read anything by Sherman Alexie, he’s riveting. Just be prepared to be very depressed before your through.

“If God really loved Indians, he would have made us white people.” (l. 732)

Kindle edition, 256 pages (2,400 locations)
Profile Image for Kit.
771 reviews46 followers
July 12, 2014
Very entertaining collection of stories by Alexie, told with the wit and honesty he is known for as a poet. I have been reading through his work as a start to increase my understanding of the Native American experience, particularly here in Washington. My partner has a family history linked to the Coeur d'Alene Native Americans, and I would like to understand as much as I can. His body of work alone has introduced me to so many concepts that I was completely unfamiliar with in my public school education about the American West, and it consistently surprises me how little I was taught. This book, however, leans more on present-day issues of understanding and misunderstanding race, and is not as focused as say, Flight. I particularly liked his poems to and about his father.
Profile Image for Nate.
487 reviews32 followers
July 6, 2016
I always forget how great Sherman Alexie is until I pick up another one of his books. War Dances is a concise powerhouse of hilarity, emotion, bitter truth, and even more bitter revelations about history and the American experience. Alexie proves to be a master of the short form here, featuring poems, essay-like meditations, and short stories. The Ballad of Paul Nonetheless (which is the inspiration for the red Pumas on the cover) might be the funniest, most intelligent heartbreaker I've read in years. I'm not sure I could enjoy a short story more. The rest of the collection is top notch as well, and would serve as an excellent intro to Alexie and is a must-read for his fans. Enjoy!
Profile Image for بهاره ارشدریاحی.
Author 4 books124 followers
December 11, 2019
طنز شرمن الکسی منحصربفرد است؛ نه خیلی تلخ و گزنده نه خیلی ساختگی و آبکی. هرطور که بخواهد و فضا و زمان و شخصیتش بخواهد شوخی می‌کند، در هر فرمی: شعر، داستان کوتاه، خاطره و حتی نقل قولی طولانی وسط قصه اصلی. از خواندن «رقص‌های جنگ» خسته و دلزده نمی‌شوی، چون نویسنده‌اش این اجازه را به تو نمی‌دهد؛ یک دیکتاتوری طنازانه در قصه‌گویی که فقط مختص خود اوست. در این کتاب نگاه شوخ و شنگی دارد به مسائلی مانند نژادپرستی، فیلمنامه‌های بنجل هالیوود، رابطه‌ی پدر و پسری، خشک شدن چشمه‌ی نویسندگی، عذاب وجدان، مذهب، نوستالژی و مرگ.
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