Hotline Healers

Gerald Robert Vizenor, Author Wesleyan University Press $22.95 (182p) ISBN 978-0-8195-5304-1
Almost Browne is perfectly ordinary ""in the native sense of natural reason."" In other words, Almost (so named because he was born in the back of a car ""almost"" on his tribe's reservation) is a trickster. In Native American writer Vizenor's (Dead Voices) satiric new novel, Almost takes a job at the UC-Berkeley (Vizenor's own institution), lecturing in the Transethic Situations Department, where his fiercely bawdy commencement address sends both students and faculty into turmoil. In a loosely connected chapter, a wicked parody of the New Age and psychic phone services, he establishes a phone network that offers to put seekers directly in touch with Native healers. As deft as he is funny, the author also slices through ""the primal kitsch and great native insights of Jamake Highwater, Lynn Andrews, and the notable Carlos Castaneda."" In a flashback (though linear narrative rarely interests Vizenor), Almost is offered the vice presidency by President Nixon if he will orchestrate an Indian invasion to liberate Cuba. This last adventure accounts for the still unexplained 18-minute gap in the Watergate tapes. With wonderful fluency, and with as much passion as humor, Vizenor skewers a nation's mixture of attraction to and repulsion for its indigenous peoples and their willful ignorance about them. Further pop icons are tweaked as Ishmael Reed, Henry Louis Gates, Claude Levi-Strauss and Gloria Steinem, among others, float through the mayhem. Although readers would benefit from a reading of Vizenor's previous work, since intertextuality abounds, there is enough humor and insight here to win over a new and wider audience. This is a fine addition to his already estimable body of work. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/12/1997
Release date: 05/01/1997
Genre: Fiction
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