I’ve read several of Alexie’s earlier story collections as well as his novels Flight, Reservation Blues and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Alexie is an incredibly talented writer shining a light onto a part of America’s culture that is very rarely seen in modern literature.
That said, his work is never easy to take filled with wasted potential, sadness and a pervasive sense of everything that an entire culture has lost thanks to Western expansion and modernization. It is a bleak, cold world. It is bleaker and colder if you are an Indian in an Alexie story.
While Alexie provides some moments of whimsy and wonder, his stories are generally heavy. Clocking in at 480 pages Blasphemy is even heavier than earlier collection or novels. It is also not at all indicative of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian so if you’re expecting that kind of story here just walk away now.
The collection is comprised of new and older stories so it’s a nice introduction to Alexie except that most of my favorite stories (“Somebody Kept Saying Powwow”, “Distances”, “Saint Junior”, “A Good Story”) are not found in this collection though other familiar ones including “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven” and “The Toughest Indian in the World” do appear.
My favorite of Alexie’s collections is either The Business of Fancydancing or The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. They were shorter, more balanced collections that tempered the inherent sadness of many stories with lighter stories of hope and sometimes even redemption. Even the characters who didn’t get that happy ending had a certain dignity–something the felt lacking to me in this collection.