“Your past is a skeleton walking one step behind you, and your future is a a skeleton walking one step in front of you. Maybe you don’t wear a watch, but your skeletons do, and they always know what time it is.” ― Sherman Alexie (Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven)
With the severity of the Native American plight, escapism is a very realistic and practical defense against misery. This is quite evident in Sherman Alexie’s The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven. In this novel, Alexie captures an elaborate depiction of reservation life. The characters are terminally suspended in the abyss commonly known as the Spokane Indian Reservation. As Alexie catalogs their hardships, the characters of the novel indulge in the comforts of alcoholism and unbridled imagination. Through alcoholism, the character Thomas Builds-The-Fire uses the depths of his own creative mind to hide himself in the past.
There is a commonality among the reservation Indians in the novel that centers on alcoholism. The men and women of the Spokane Indian Reservation see their world largely through a thick, alcoholic haze. Drinking is a powerful defense against the stark reality that nothing ever changes on the reservation. In this state of shared depression, this familiar stupor, the reservation Indians cloak themselves in sorrow. If the characters were unable to mend their hardships in reality, through alcohol they most certainly could bend their perceptions of truth. There are several instances throughout the novel in which Alexie describes alcoholic experiences as a positive means of escape. For example, in All I Wanted To Do Was Dance, Victor looks over to his drunken parents and “Everything was familiar and welcome. Everything was beautiful” (87). The warmth of the alcoholic embrace was apparently comforting to Victor, and he goes on to say that his father would “sit with a cooler of beer beside him…his bad breath and body odor covering me like a blanket.”(26). In Every Little Hurricane, Victor depicts his father drinking in a dream; Victor describes the alcohol as “near poison” and a “reservation tsunami”, using very negative connotations. Yet, Victor also portrays his Father as being bold while drunk, with statements like “[He] wasn’t shaped like a question mark…more like an exclamation point” (6). Victor reflects in hindsight that “He thought one more beer could save the world.”(88). So, throughout the novel, Sherman Alexie perpetuates this duality of notions toward alcoholism.
Though alcohol brought release, it also leeched away the sweet vitality of the reservation Indians. In the novel, drinking only serves to ruin relationships, twist lives and magnify their difficulties. Sherman Alexie brings this reality into full view by coupling this theme with every drunken interlude. For example, “I…wished I was drunk enough to pull the trigger” (43). “I got drunk…so I wouldn’t be scared.”(112) and “With every glass of beer…he began to understand too much about fear and failure” (134). These passages indicate not only the reality of such a grim comfort but also a continually deteriorating cycle within the Spokane Indian society.
My favorite movie of all time is Ben-Hur, the 1959 Cecil B. Demil epic film starring Charlton Heston. The costumes. The sets. The drama. The chariot race. I couldn’t wait to read the book, the original Ben-Hur that was written by Lew Wallace in 1880. Surely, this would also become my favorite book, right? Well, not so fast.
Ben-Hur was the first Biblical novel, and it was widely successful in its early days. Until Gone With the Wind, this was the highest selling American fiction novel of all time. Ben-Hur was even blessed by the Pope. But was it a great novel?
Ben-Hur, the movie, was an epic motion picture. The book felt even longer and spanned more time than any of the films adapted from the book. The author’s description of setting and character was absolutely unparalleled. Wallace spent pages and pages just establishing scenes, placing the reader completely in the world of a young Judean prince out for revenge. Yet, the novel tended to drag on. It was middle heavy and stilted in places. Truly, the greatness of the work was in its historical backdrop and not in its character or plot development.
Then, there was Jesus. I loved the way that Lew Wallace placed Jesus as a supporting cast member in this story and not as the focal point. Ben-Hur is a Tale of the Christ, but not directly. It’s a book about the effect of Jesus Christ on someone’s life at the time. Judah BenHur encountered Christ once as a prisoner and once again while Jesus was on his way to crucifixion. These encounters were pivotal moments for the book’s main character and allowed the reader to imagine what it would be like to see Jesus through the eyes of a contemporary. Overall, this was a very effective literary element and made this Tale of the Christ stand out as a must-read American classic.
“God creates dinosaurs, God kills dinosaurs, God creates man, man kills God, man brings back dinosaurs.” – Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park)
There are times when a poem leaps off the page and flies right into your heart. This is the domain of spoken word poetry. Some of my favorite poems weren’t discovered until someone actually read the words aloud (I Am A Sword, Still I Rise, etc.)
There is currently a refugee crisis in Southeast Asia as ethnic Rohingya migrants flee their native country of Myanmar. Check out this video about the crisis and listen as the voice of the poet speaks to your heart.
I just wanted to share another fun little literary map. This one was created by LoveReading.co.uk and it’s absolutely AMAZING!
Have you ever wondered how many books were written about New York City or which authors wrote about life in the Australian Outback?
This world map is your one stop shop…and it’s free. Just follow this link >Love Reading < and have FUN!
“Shall I tell you what sociology teaches us about the human race? I’ll give it to you in a nutshell. Show me a man or woman alone and I’ll show you a saint. Give me two and they’ll fall in love. Give me three and they’ll invent the charming thing we call ‘society’. Give me four and they’ll build a pyramid. Give me five and they’ll make one an outcast. Give me six and they’ll reinvent prejudice. Give me seven and in seven years they’ll reinvent warfare. Man may have been made in the image of God, but human society was made in the image of His opposite number, and is always trying to get back home.” – Stephen King (The Stand)