Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sherman Alexie


Last night I headed to Monterey to hear a guest lecture by Sherman Alexie, an extremely talented writer and probably the most famous living Indian. His talk was much more like a stand-up comic act, though as he's repeatedly stated, his tactic is to make us laugh to disarm us then beat us over the head with a message. He's a master at it. If any of you ever get the chance to go see him, I highly recommend it. And needless to say: read his books!

No flash photography was permitted during the talk, but here's a picture of the poster outside of the theater:

The place was packed. There was a young woman behind me who was annoyingly appropriate. At every lewd reference or controversial remark he'd make, she'd gasp and say "that is so offensive" ... no fucking shit, lady.
I haven't laughed so hard while being so moved in a long time. I thought I'd share some of the wisdom Alexie imparted on us:

On being a father:

“Parenthood is body fluids being flung at you in high volumes.”

On Indians supporting Barack Obama for President:

“You’re Native American. He’s a government official.”

On his own success:

“Rez to riches. Horatio Alger with more melanin.”

On right-wing Republicans claiming gay marriage threatens his marriage:

“Gay men don’t threaten my marriage. Gay men catered my marriage.”

And to be more profound...

On what he's observed in the Presidential primaries:

“Misogyny is more acceptable than racism.”

On our culture:

“We want our art to reflect the full complexity of human beings but we don’t live that way.”

On being on-stage with an audience expecting him to have answers:

“All I got are questions.”

His parting words on what he's learned in his life thus far:

“Being older means you can live with the contradictions and I suggest you start trying."

He encouraged all of us to spend time not only with people who are like us, but with people with completely different views and lifestyles in order to help us learn how to live together in our world. Simple wisdom that is, sadly, not often practiced.

After the talk and the Q & A with a professor, he signed books outside. I hadn't expected him to do this so was unprepared, though hurried into the line. My friend the lovely Nikolina handed me a book to have him sign for her, as well. As I got closer I grew increasingly nervous. This man has taught me so very much over the years through his artwork (I've already blogged about Smoke Signals) - he's an idol. I was star-struck.

"Hi Kellie," he said as he glanced to me with a smile then signed my book. I have no idea if I said hi back or not. He then looked at Nikolina's book. "And Nikolina is....?" He glanced around and I pointed her out. She waved and he gawked at the tall beauty. "Wow - she's tall." Poor Nikolina is used to hearing that. I sheepishly asked for a picture and he happily complied and rose and put his arm around my shoulders and said "You're tall, too. Do you guys have a requirement for being tall to be friends?" The lady snapped the picture. The poor guy was in mid-sentence but it is now the proudest background I've ever had on a computer. I was too idiotic to say anything to his joke other than, "Thank you. It was delightful." to which he replied, "thank you."

Me and Sherman Alexie
(if you don't believe how nervous I was, check out my pits)

I staggered away with my picture. When Nikolina and I looked at it on the camera screen just outside of the building my hands were shaking terribly. I almost still am!

As we walked back to the car she mused what she might say if she ever met her favorite author and laughed when she realized she'd probably say nothing. I stared ahead. "...I think he
is my favorite author and I didn't say anything." I cursed my dull wits but consoled myself with the promise that one day I would be in the same literary circle as Mr. Alexie and that we just might get the chance to meet again and actually talk.

Until that day... thank you for the memories, Mr. Alexie! You shall always inspire me.

Melissa - So sorry I forgot to reply to your last comment! So you're Irish and Jewish - why is that a contradiction? Is your Irish family Catholic or the like? Hope you're well, sweetie!

1 comment:

Melissa said...

See now I'm jelous! The only people we get that are cool for readings are Canadain authors who you pretty much know!

All the Irish in me is very hard core Roman Catholic. Annnnnnnd I'm Jewish. :D

I am officiallyyy done school for the semester! One class in May for a week and then done for the summer. I personally love that one of our proffs is coming back from sabatical, he's offering Cult TV, Television Studies (both higher and lower division) which means Melissa gets to sit in class and watch Stargate, Farscape, Star Trek and quite possibly Xena.