Sherman Alexie: Storyteller
I attended Sherman Alexie's lecture last week and it was awesome. Very funny and pretty insightful. I found his comment that "Political Correctness has made racists into poets" interesting, and I can understand what he means. At some point, every euphamism becomes just as hateful as the term it replaces. As a non-involved white person, I thought the comments about the Crow were a little harsh, but then I don't have any cultural context. On the other hand, my aunt is Chippewa-Cree and she can't stand the Crow, just on general principle, so I suppose there is a certain amount of historical tribal warfare still at work.
Of course, I'm an outsider looking in, not being a member of the Ameican Indian community, but this in no way detracted from Alexie's storytelling abilities. He was a master of digression and diversion, and managed to weave what was essentially one stroy through the entire evening. "So I'm on the airplane" reappeared every fifteen minutes or so after a pretty substantial discussion of something else. For instance: cheekbones, poetry, sickness, and the possibility of regurgitating a whole and perfect cantaloupe ball despite the fact you can't remember eating cantaloupe any time recently.
Ultimately the main story was about memory as well. He told the story of his efforts to get his grandfather's war medals reissued and how the memory of a man he never even met so affected his life and that of his father. The emotion when he discussed recieving the medals was incredible. My life is very different from Sherman Alexie's. Very different. But my dad's is remarkably similar to some of the stories in Alexie's family. My father lost his dad when he was 5, not to war but to a heart attack brought on by weakened heart muscles caused by consuming tainted milk as a child. Mr. Alexie was right when he said there's no childhood after that .
My dad grew up really poor. They had an outhouse until he was four. He was the man of the house as soon as his father died, at the age of five, because he was the only one bringing income into the house through veteran's benefits and Social Security. It became a personal battle for my dad to prove he could over come. My dad grew up poor and has become the most educated and wealthiest member of his family. I have a cousin in Deer Lodge with a proclivity for meth labs. I could relate to Mr. Alexie even through our lives were so significantly different. That is probably the truest gift of a magnificent storyteller.