The Absolutely Angry Blog of a Full-Time Reader

Posted: February 7, 2013 in On Novels
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“Sherman Alexie, the National Book Award-winning author of ‘The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,’ said he refused to allow his novels to be made available in digital form. He called the expensive reading devices ‘elitist’ and declared that when he saw a woman sitting on the plane with a Kindle on his flight to New York, ‘I wanted to hit her.’ ” –  The New York Times

Angry Blogging:

Boys and girls, ever since I read that sentence, I have not been able to quell my irritation towards Sherman Alexie. Now, before anyone cries “foul” and accuses me of taking his comments out of context, they were made 3 years ago, and shortly after they were made, Alexie tried to clarify (*cough cough* BACKPEDAL *cough*) his comments in an interview with a blogger (ironically enough). His concerns with e-readers  consist of their pricing (even though he admits to owning an iPod), and that they create social gaps. This makes sense. What Alexie is saying is that e-readers create gaps between people who can afford e-readers and the thousands of books available at the blink of an eye, and the people who barely even have a public library. He states that his concerns are that e-readers are putting book stores out of business, and I don’t disagree with him on this point.

But me deserving to be punched because I’m fortunate and come from middle class means that can afford the occasional luxury? Piss off. Alexie’s disdain for the e-book industry is not something that has gone away. Most of you followed him on Twitter (as did I), go look at his most recent tweets. As of right now, one of them is about authors suddenly having to be sales reps because of the e-book industry. As much as I enjoyed “The Absolutely True Diary” (woah, this blog is about a book?), this was something that was nagging at my brain the entire time I was reading. Here’s Alexie’s mindset applied to different situations: “Oh, people who drink bottled water are elitists because there are people who can’t drink clean water.”

The Actual Book:

Stupid bullshit and whining aside (“oh I can’t believe people are villifying me for what I said even though it was extremely offensive”), I found that once I picked up “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian”, I just could not put it down. It was really easy to get lost in the readability of the novel. and in the tremendously huge print size. The pacing of the novel was interesting to me – there were parts where it seemed Halloween and Thanksgiving were back-to-back, and others where the course of a few days seemed to take forever. The narration cracked me up, as did the drawings, but sometimes I felt like the whole teenage-dialogue thing was a bit forced. “Get off of me, you retarded fag!”. Don’t get me wrong, at no point have I ever not had the mouth of a sailor, but that line just felt.. stiff. Another part I didn’t like about the book was the RANDOM SPURTS WHERE THE NARRATION WAS IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS LIKE THIS. It was effective a few times, but for the most part they JUST SEEMED TO GET IN THE frickin’ way. That’s another thing – the dude would say shit, damn, fag, retard, and all kinds of other things.. but “the f word” was apparently a no-go. I know absolutely zero 14 year olds who would hesitate to say fuck at the drop of a hat.

The Literature Part:

Man, Young Adult literature is just all about having a shitty life. Junior even makes a point to mention how many people have died around him / funerals he has gone to. What a bummer, man. Even when this kid is standing tall and finally being appreciated, he feels incomplete. His constant problem of not being accepted anywhere is a huge theme in young adult literature and in life in general. Junior feels as though he has betrayed his kinsman because he set out to become something besides an alchoholic, and he feels out of place amongst the rich and the white people. He just can’t catch a break. Living around this area, we sadly see these stereotypes and lifestyles that Alexie writes of coming to life. This book is tackling problems that are not imaginary, and are more personal than a vampire and a werewolf fighting over a Jane Doe. In this class we’ve joked a lot about YA literature being dark and we’ve looked at some examples to the contrary, but really, being a teenager is probably the darkest time in someone’s life just short of any personal tragedies or a mid-life crisis. Being a teenager is when you discover who you are and who you’re not – it’s when you make your lifelong friends and establish what kind of person you’re going to grow into.

That is a lot of pressure.

The Verdict:

Despite my gripes with the author and nitpicking in some of the narration, I really enjoyed this book. Like I tweeted earlier, it’s been awhile since I found a book interesting enough to read it while walking and simultaneously risking my life. You know the whole “books can make you become anyone, go anywhere” kind of mentality? That’s what this book did for me. I am not a poor Indian son of alcoholic parents, so I don’t understand what that struggle is like. Oh, and one other thing I liked about this book, is unlike “Rules” by Cynthia Lord, I felt like it actually had an ending. It even had the zinger of the last line. I approve!



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