Marble, Rivets, and the Rules of a Fistfight

First things first, lets quickly cover the merits of this most gorgeous table. Marble, dark wood, rivets. Need I say more? Gorgeous!

Second, I hope that when you read this book review you will imagine that you and I sit down on a couch that looks similar to this one (check out the Klein Sunny swatch, nice!). We have our drinks. Hot, cold, clear, colored, fizzy, frothy, fluffy, whatever suits your fancy. We place said drinks on this gorgeous coffee table (on coasters, of course!).

We settle back in the couch cushions a bit and put our feet up on this beautiful piece of furniture (because lets be honest, if you can afford this coffee table, you can afford to put your feet up on it and enjoy a book and a drink). Then we talk. We just talk. We talk about The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, about how your kids or spouse or dog or cat or grandma or partner or date or… We talk.

Third, on with the review!

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was fantastic. I loved this book from start to finish. This came as no surprise, as I have read Alexie’s work since being introduced in college. First reading The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist-fight in Heaven followed by Reservation Blues, I enjoyed each thoroughly.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is declaratively semi-autobiographical which brought the story of the sickly, young, macerated, hyper-intelligent Native American youth’s story even more pound per punch. The book is really a quick-read. Alexie’s thematic bent always lies on the sage-graveled, sometime bloody perimeter between modern Native American life and the white-white world all around.

As a Native American transplant into this white world, Alexie’s pointed critique of both Caucasian and Native American culture feels like a prescient elegy for a dying way of life– his home, his people, his culture, his reservation– all wiped off the face of the earth. Granted Alexie is not saying that Native Americans on reservations are already non-existent. In fact, his writing reflects the stiff, stringy, vehement, tenacity with which Native Americans cling to the hardscrabble realities of reservation existence.

One scene in the book I will never forget, was a fistfight between Junior, the young Native American protagonist, and Roger, the #1 white boy at Reardan High, the all-white school Junior asked/chose to attend. Here Alexie puts the divergent mind-set and utter differences of these two cultures, White and Indian (in Alexie’s own words), into stark relief.

Through the voice of Arnold Spirit, otherwise known as Junior, Alexie recites:

THE UNOFFICIAL AND UNWRITTEN (but you better follow them or you’re going to get beaten twice as hard) SPOKANE INDIAN RULES OF FISTICUFFS: 1. IF SOMEBODY INSULTS YOU, THEN YOU HAVE TO FIGHT HIM. 2. IF YOU THINK SOMEBODY IS GOING TO INSULT YOU, THEN YOU HAVE TO FIGHT HIM. 3. IF YOU THINK SOMEBODY IS THINKINGABOUT INSULTING YOU, THEN YOU HAVE TO FIGHT HIM. 4. IF SOMEBODY INSULTS ANY OF YOUR FAMILY OR FRIENDS, OR YOU THINK THEY’RE GOING T0 INSULT YOUR FAMILY OR FRIENDS, OR IF YOU THINK THEY’RE THINKING ABOUT INSULTING YOUR FAMILY OR FRIENDS, THEN YOU HAVE TO FIGHT HIM. 5. YOU SHOULD NEVER FIGHT A GIRL, UNLESS SHE INSULTS YOU,YOUR FAMILY, OR YOUR FRIENDS,THEN YOU HAVE TO FIGHT HER. 6. IF SOMEBODY BEATS UP YOUR FATHER OR YOUR MOTHER, THEN YOU HAVE TO FIGHT THE SON AND/OR DAUGHTER OF THE PERSON WHO BEAT UP YOUR MOTHER OR FATHER. 7. IF YOUR MOTHER OR FATHER BEATS UP SOMEBODY, THEN THAT PERSON’S SON AND /OR DAUGHTER WILL FIGHT YOU. 8. YOU MUST ALWAYS PICK FIGHTS WITH THE SONS AND/OR DAUGHTERS OF ANY INDIANS WHO WORK FOR THE BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS. 9. YOU MUST ALWAYS PICK FIGHTS WITH THE SONS AND/OR DAUGHTERS OF ANY WHITE PEOPLE WHO LIVE ANYWHERE ON THE RESERVATION. 10.IF YOU GET IN A FIGHT WITH SOMEBODY WHO IS SURE TO BEAT YOU UP THEN YOU MUST THROW THE FIRST PUNCH, BECAUSE IT’S THE ONLY PUNCH YOU’LL EVER GET TO THROW. 11.IN ANY FIGHT, THE LOSER IS THE FIRST ONE WHO CRIES.

Details of the fight unfold:

“You punched me,” Roger said. His voice was thick with blood. “I can’t believe you punched me.”
He sounded insulted
He sounded like his poor little feelings had been hurt.
I couldn’t believe it.
He acted like he was the one who’d been wronged.
“You’re an animal,” he said.
I felt brave all of a sudden. Yeah, maybe it was just a stupid immature school yard fight. Or maybe it was the most important fight of my life. Maybe I was telling the world that I was no longer a human target.
“You meet me after school right here,” I said.
“Why?” he asked.
I couldn’t believe he was so stupid.
“Because we’re going to finish this fight.”
“You’re crazy, ” Roger said.
He got to his feet and walked away. His gang stared at me like I was a serial killer, and then they followed their leader.
I was absolutely confused.
I had followed the rules of fighting. I had behaved exactly the way I was supposed to behave. But these white boys had ignored the rules. In fact, they followed a whole other set of rules where people apparently DID NOT GET INTO FISTFIGHTS.

As you can SEE, this diary is not only a book, it’s also part graphic novel, part cartoon and the artwork is brilliant, thanks to Ellen Forney! I mean, there aren’t many other texts that include bio-sketches based on cartoon caricatures. Get to your local bookstore, library, or coffee-house book swap and pick up a copy of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian! Make it a Monday, friends! X

P.S. Now that you waded through the above I’d like to share with you a short, short version of my soliloquy, my heart-song to books, paper (as in paper the physical substance), writing and the written words’ collision with technology (which will be saved for another post, or day, or book that I eventually write about loving books). I give you this information so that you will understand why I like books.

There are a few links that provide a general summation of my feelings:

1) The most wonderful commercial of all-time, aptly titled “Paper is Not Dead”: here.

2) The article describes the almost geographical, or place-based memory that books possess vs. tablets, iPads, or reading at your desktop computer monitor. Books, the written word on actual paper, enable our brains to track and store and REMEMBER information more accurately than any electronic source, and partially its because for some reason we store the PLACE we read a particular fact, opinion, statistic on the page itself in relation to where we saw it on the page and where we FELT it in the book itself. The tactile experience See article here. Which means you may read this blog post and promptly forget anything I’ve written.

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