cover image Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories

Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories

Sherman Alexie. Grove, $27 (480p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2039-7

The National Book Award and PEN/Faulkner Award-winner’s latest work combines 15 classics (“The Toughest Indian in the World”; “Salt”; “Indian Education”) with 15 recent stories of varying length and tenor, and the result should attract new converts and invite back longtime fans. Heralded for his candid depictions of life on a reservation in the Pacific Northwest, versatile Alexie traverses familiar territory while also branching out. A son envisions his dead father’s “impossibly small corpse” peering out of his morning omelet in the page-long “Breakfast.” In “Gentrification,” a white narrator’s do-gooder intentions go predictably awry in his all-black neighborhood. “Night People” finds a sex-starved insomniac and a connection-hungry manicurist at a 24-hour New York City salon finding common ground in their loneliness and lack of sleep. In “Faith,” a married man and a married woman at an evangelical dinner party who have an instantly easy rapport deliver witty repartee at the expense of their sheepish spouses. As in previous volumes, Alexie hammers away at ever-simmering issues, like racism, addiction, and infidelity, using a no-holds-barred approach and seamlessly shattering the boundary between character and reader. But while these glimpses into a harried and conflicted humanity prod our consciousness, there’s plenty of bawdiness and Alexie’s signature wicked humor throughout to balance out the weight. Agent: Nancy Stauffer Associates. (Oct.)