Friday, August 14, 2009

Face by Sherman Alexie

The New York Times Book Review has said that Mr. Alexie is one of the major lyric voices of our time. I would have to agree. I love his poetry. Kiowa novelist and poet N. Scott Momaday won a Pulitzer in 1969 for "House Made of Dawn" and is a talented native american writer. Leslie Marmon Silko and Joy Harjo are two more native american writers that I admire. But I think Sherman Alexie is probably the most famous native writer in the land, and has been for years now. His work is funny, self-deprecating, profound, and above all honest. He was born and raised on the rez and that background is a rich source of material for his writing. There is a taste of poetic genius in his poems. He writes sometimes in sonnets, rhymed couplets, short quatrains, villanelles, and even manages to incorporate footnotes. The title of one of the poems in the book gives you a clue to Sherman's poetic approach. It's called "Comedy is Simply a Funny Way of Being Serious." His verse is sometimes confrontational and therefore he is controversial and maybe not everybody's cup of tea. But I find him truly amazing and thought provoking and I look forward to anything new from him that comes along.

And here is a quote from Mr. Alexie that I really enjoyed, as it pertains to librarians. And by the way, just so you know, I'm a tour guide!

"During my journeys in the children's book world, I have found that librarians enjoy a kind of promotional power that they don't have in the adult book world. And, generally speaking, I've also found there are two types of librarians: the gatekeepers and the tour guides. The gatekeepers are the traditionalists of children's literature. They seem to be far more culturally and aesthetically conservative, and are wary and sometimes censorious of contemporary realism (sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll). These librarians seek to promote a few great books, often historical classics (To Kill a Mockingbird) that they believe should be read by everybody. These librarians are a minority. A large majority of librarians are tour guides who seek to find the one book that matches the loves and hates of any one reader. These librarians could very well hand To Kill a Mockingbird to a certain reader, but they are more apt to deliver Walter Dean Myers or Sonya Sones or E. Lockhart or Chris Crutcher. My summary? Gatekeepers favor the book; tour guides favor the reader."

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