This post comes to you because somebody pooped in a pool.
I’m in the middle of Christopher Moore’s book “A Dirty Job,” which is a very good book and deserving of its own review, which it will get when I finish it. However, yesterday I took the kids to Splash for the afternoon, because for some reason Denver’s weather lately resembles the inside of my mouth after 7 jalapenos, and we needed to escape said heat with a pool trip. So, on my way out the door, I remembered that Splash has a “beach” area with sand and such, and when we’re at the beach area, the kids play by themselves and I sit and watch. My kids have a little bit of a separation issue, so anytime I can get them to play without me is productive time.
Up to speed? Good.
So I remembered I wanted to bring a book to Splash so I can pass the time with a good read. And my copy of “A Dirty Job” is a signed first edition and there’s no way I’m taking that to Splash. Because there’ll probably be a splash and I don’t want to ruin it. I like to keep good books as good books. Ask to see my first edition of “The Moon Is Down” sometime. Anyhow, so I remembered that I purchased this book recently in paperback, because for some reason I missed the hardback release, so I brought it.
Up to speed now?
A little backstory, in case you aren’t confused enough already. I’ve been to exactly one book signing in my life, outside of my own book signings for “E-Male.” And that book signing was a Sherman Alexie book signing, back in 2000, for “The Toughest Indian In The World.” I remember it clearly, because we were pregnant with our first son and we met Mr. Alexie and told him we wanted our fetus to hear him speak. He, naturally, thought that was a little creepy. Still, that tidbit shows you what a big fan of the writer I am.
Now you’re up to speed.
So I had this book and my reading glasses (ah, the joys of old age) in my swimming bag and we went to Splash. After about an hour there, they closed the pool for an hour because, yes, somebody pooped in it. So the kids went over to the beach and I grabbed a chair and started reading this book. Yesterday afternoon.
Tonight I finished it.
Now I’ve been moved by books before. Most notably in my senior year of college, when I took a lit class as an elective and discovered Steinbeck and Hemingway. “The Sun Also Rises” totally resonated with me in college because, like Jake, I was having trouble consummating a sexual relationship with a young lady. In fact, I wrote a paper on that very topic that was well received by the professor. Not bad for an engineering student. But I digress. The point is, I’ve been moved by books before.
But not like this. Oh, no. I put this book down tonight with tears in my eyes. It is a stunning novel, unlike anything I’ve ever read. Here’s a description from the author’s website:
“Sherman Alexie’s first novel in ten years is the hilarious and tragic portrait of an orphaned Indian boy who travels back and forth through time in a violent search for his true identity.”
It’s not for the faint of heart: A 15 year old orphaned and abused Indian kid, nicknamed “Zits,” is about to commit a horrific act of violence and shoot up a bank full of people in Seattle. Just as the crime goes down, he is transported through time and space into the body of an FBI agent in the 1970s, in Idaho, as the FBI agent takes part in the killing of an innocent Indian. Then he is transported to the body of a mute Indian child at Little Big Horn, to the body of an Indian tracker in the 1800s, and to the body of a pilot with a Muslim friend in 2007. There are a couple of other stops, but I won’t give it away. Safe to say, it’s a violent book, with brutal images and scenes. But it’s also extremely well written and, as told from the point of view of an aimless 15 year old kid, is rife with poignant observations and dark humor and comments on the human condition. Ultimately, it’s a heartbreaking novel of redemption and transformation, and you won’t be able to put it down. It’s easily the best book I’ve read in a long, long time and Sherman Alexie might just be the best American writer alive today.
For more Sherman Alexie, rent or buy “Smoke Signals” on DVD (It’s based on his short stories) – I watched that again tonight after finishing the book and it’s a great, great movie. Heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time, without going to that shmaltzy area that movies like to go to. That shmaltzy area that makes me puke. Also, read “Reservation Blues” – that’s another great Alexie book. In it, Robert Johnson (the famous bluesman who allegedly sold his soul to the devil for the ability to play guitar) comes to the Spokane Indian reservation and gives his guitar to Thomas-Builds-The-Fire, who starts an Indian rock band. It’s an excellent book.