cover image The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

Sherman Alexie. Atlantic Monthly Press, $21 (223pp) ISBN 978-0-87113-548-3

Known primarily as a poet, Alexie ( Old Shirts and New Skins ), a Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian, here offers 22 extremely fine short stories, all set on or around the Spokane reservation in Washington state. Characters flow from one tale to the next; many involve Victor, who grows from a small child watching relatives fight during a New Year's Eve party (``Every Little Hurricane'') to a dissolute man sitting on his broken-down porch with a friend, watching life pass him by (``The Only Traffic Signal on the Reservation Doesn't Flash Red Anymore''). The author depicts with fierce determination all the elements of modern Native American life, from basketball and alcoholism to powwows and the unexplained deaths of insignificant people. Humor and tragedy exist side by side, and stories often jump back and forth in time and space, recounting two narratives that ultimately prove to be skeins of the same tale. Alexie writes with simplicity and forthrightness, allowing the power in his stories to creep up slowly on the reader. He captures the reservation's strong sense of community and attitude of hope tinged with realism as its inhabitants determine to persevere despite the odds. In ``Imagining the Reservation'' (a title that evokes John Lennon's song ``Imagine'') he writes, ``Survival = Anger Imagination. Imagination is the only weapon on the reservation''--a weapon this author wields with potent authority. First serial to Esquire. (Sept.)