Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sherman Alexie

So far, we've read one or two Alexie poems and an Alexie essay and we've watched an Alexie interview.  Tonight, you read an Alexie story and tomorrow, we'll begin watching an Alexie film.  Had enough yet?

I think this is a great opportunity to look at how one writer explores issues by using different genres.  Alexie's voice is much different in each piece.  The two we'll look at this one make this especially clear.  On the surface, each tells the same story...but that's ONLY on the surface.  You'll notice he makes different choices in each, starting with the title and going far deeper than that.

For instance, I love that we get to hear his dialogue with the Tribal Council in the story, even though it is shorter and would seem to have more time/space limitations.  I love, too, that almost every line spoken by the Council starts with, "Now, Victor..."  I imagine that every one of us, regardless of our cultural background, knows what it means when someone says, "Now, [insert your name here]..."  The subtext is universal: we, the wiser, will instruct you, the over-reaching, on how to get back in touch with reality as we see it...."

That said, I have to acknowledge how very different the story "This is What It Means to Say Pheonix, Arizona" and the film Smoke Signals are from one another.  Part of me wants to compare and contrast, and part of me wants to separate them entirely into two pieces that need to be treated as distinct bodies.  After all, though there names remain the same, even the characters seem different (notice how Victor treats the gymnast in the story vs. the film, for example).  Much of the film draws from other stories in the collection as well as this one, but even with that in mind, I'm not sure if I want to treat the film as an adaptation of the collection or as whole new material treating a similar topic.  I'm inclined toward the latter.  I'm interested to hear what you think.


  1. So far, Ive liked everything I've read of Sherman Alexie's so I am looking forward to watching the movie.
    I also picked up on the "Now Victor..." as the council kind of talking down to the main character in a gentle but "it doesn't matter what you think because we hold power over you" way.

  2. I don't think that I've had enough Alexie. He is by far the most intersting writer that we have looked at in class. I for one would love to compaire and contrast the movie to the story. I liked the reading so if the movie is anything like it I'm sure it will be good.