“Happy Trails” a Sherman Alexie short story


I drew the ace of clubs from my short story deck, and thus this was my week 50 pick for 2015’s Deal Me In short story reading challenge. In 2015, Clubs were my suit assigned to “stories from The New Yorker” of which I’ve enjoyed many. I’ve read Alexie before and own his story collection “War Dances.” He has also been featured by other participants in the Deal Me In challenge the last couple years. Mr. Alexie was in the news earlier this year when he cancelled some appearances in Indiana amid the national “outrage” about my state’s passing of a “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” – legislation for which I (among many) didn’t believe we had any need.  Politics aside, I found Alexie’s response disappointing in that it punished the wrong people (like me, or those who would attend his events – one of which was in honor of Banned Books Week(!) – and make no real impact other than publicity-wise). What did end up prompting an amendment to the law was a feared ECONOMIC impact (surprise!) to the state. For a moment, I considered removing Alexie’s story from my roster in a “ha! how do you like them apples?” tit for tat, but I thought it better to take the high road and not censor art based on political activity.

Ugh, I feel dirtied by even mentioning politics on this blog, so let’s get on with this story, which was first published in The New Yorker magazine in 2013. It’s narrated by a Native American member of the Coeur d’Alene tribe of the U.S. Northwest, a man who had a favorite uncle disappear some forty years ago. Our narrator decides he wants to hold a memorial for this uncle, now presumed dead (saying at one point “…we need to make the dead better people than they were, because it makes us look better for loving them.”), and the story follows his musings about how the uncle may have died (it is presumed that he would have contacted his family at some point over the years if he was still living – he “wasn’t the kind of person” not to do that. It also provides the opportunity for him to comment on the modern day world and conditions that the Coeur d’Alene live in.

It’s an eminently sad story, and perhaps the narrator has some self-loathing of his people too, hinted at when he refers to the uncle as a “half-assed warrior” of whom he speculates at the end of the story that:

Maybe he thought he could kill the world and instead learned that the world is undefeated.”

I loved that line. Have you read anything by Sherman Alexie? Perhaps his most famous work is “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” which has itself been the subject of multiple book banning incidents.


This story is available online at http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/06/10/happy-trails (I believe the New Yorker allows a limited number of views per month for non-subscribers)

 
This picture of Alexie was taken in 2008 (from Wikipedia)

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Deal Me In Week 7 Wrap-Up

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Greetings all! A great week of reading for me here, figuratively snowed in and not motivated too much to go out so it’s option B – stay home and read! Below are links to everyone’s stories that I found since our update last Sunday. Make sure to pop over to your fellow DMI participants’ blogs and see what they’ve shared with us this week.

Dale at Mirror With Clouds ( http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/ ) reads his 2nd Edith Wharton story in a row, “The House of the Dead Hand” http://mirrorwithclouds.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/edith-whartons-the-house-of-the-dead-hand/

Two weeks, two Edith Wharton (below) stories for Dale.  That’s one per dog. 🙂

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Returning Reader ( http://returningreader.wordpress.com/ )drew the ace of hearts and read Liam O’Flaherty’s “The Sniperhttp://returningreader.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/short-story-7-the-sniper-liam-oflaherty/

Katherine at The Writerly Reader ( http://katenread.wordpress.com/ ) is taken away to Montana in Eric van Lustbader’s “The Singing Tree.” http://katenread.wordpress.com/2014/02/15/deal-me-in-week-7-the-singing-tree/. (Her post includes a great clip of a Penn & Teller “magic trick” too)

We also have a couple stories from Candiss at Read the Gamut (http://readthegamut.wordpress.com/)  –  Haruki Murakami’s “Samsa in Love” and Sherman Alexie’s “Saint Junior” http://readthegamut.wordpress.com/2014/02/16/deal-me-in-challenge-stories-6-and-7/

Hanne of Reading on Cloud 9 brings us her four of clubs, Lorrie Moore’s “Referential” – another story from the pages of The New Yorker. http://readingoncloud9.wordpress.com/2014/02/16/week-7-referential-by-lorrie-moore/

For my part, I drew the Queen of Diamonds which led me to Glen Hirshberg’s creepy ghost story, “The Two Sams.” https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/02/16/the-two-sams-by-glen-hirshberg/

And as a DMI ’extra’ I read Donald Hall’s short story “Argument and Persuasion” for a local discussion group. It presents an interesting question that I’ve shared with my readers. If you have time and would like to play along, it’s at https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/argument-and-persuasion-by-donald-hall-who-would-you-pick/

Happy reading & see you next week!

Rough Days in Chain Saw History…

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I recently read Sherman Alexie’s short story, “War Dances,” which included some of the most humorous material I’ve read so far this year. Alexie, a Spokane Indian, writes a lot about his alcoholic father and his foibles. He wrote a short poem about one incident:

“When I was nine, my father sliced his knee
With a chain saw. But he let himself bleed
And finished cutting down one more tree
Before his boss drove him to EMERGENCY

Late that night, stoned on morphine and beer,
My father needed my help to steer
His pickup into the woods. “Watch for deer,”
My father said. “Those things just appear

Like magic. “It was an Indian summer
And we drove through warm rain and thunder,
Until we found that chain saw, lying under
the fallen pine. Then I watched, with wonder,

As my father, shotgun-rich and impulse-poor,
Blasted that chain saw dead. “what was that for?”
I asked. “Son, my father said, “here’s the score.
Once a thing tastes blood, it will come for more.”

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Alexie goes on to explain the many embellishments he made to the actual story to satisfy the demands of his poem, but it is a funny story and good poem nonetheless. It reminded me of a somewhat similar “incident” during a childhood visit to my Granddad’s property in West Virginia… Read the rest of this entry »