June 21, 2007

Sherman Alexie is back.... so go buy his new book

I remember the first time I saw the movie Smoke Signals, how I felt humbled by the humour, the beauty, the delicate respect. And it was only by fluke that I learned it was based on a series of short stories penned by Sherman Alexie, who happened to have been born and raised just outside of Spokane Washington, a few hours across the border from my home town. We used to drive to Spokane all the time as teenagers, stopping at the Indian Reservation to purchase fireworks. That had been the extent of my interaction with American Indians.

Alexie's short stories were published in a collection called The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight In Heaven and to this day I consider this book to be some of the finest works I've ever read. There is so much honesty in his writing, a willingness to both laugh and rage at the changes his culture has undergone over so many years. And there is a keen sense of spirit too, an almost metaphysical element woven between his words. I try to read it every year.
And now Mr. Alexie, a man I have never met, has a new book out called Flight This has me excited, of course. I assume I am similar to most of you out there when I say that there are certain writers whose books I buy without question or hesitation. Like film, where certain directors illicit the same response from me, once I've read an amazing book I am always looking forward to the next release by the author. Flight will be by next book purchase, to be sure.

So, if you are looking for a new author to check out, a new book to add to your afternoon reading material, or just to expand your reading base (it's so easy to get stuck in a rut when you read) I offer my humble suggestion of any of Sherman Alexie's works. Just use the Amazon link to the right. Or perhaps you want to rent Smoke Signals first, to get an idea of what his writing is about. I have yet to come across someone who has been disappointed by the experience. Here's a final link to CBC's interview with Alexie, regarding his latest novel:

June 6, 2007

Epistlary Humour is Good Writing Too...

As some of you know, I grew up in a conservative Christian family. As with any religious upbringing, there is a fair amount of baggage attached, usually fully recognized when you enter the real world as an adult. But the reek of shit rises just as high as the reek of piety... and wouldn't you know it, they seem to smell really similar. And I love when someone writes a letter or essay or article that reduces one of the many absurd aspects of fundamental theology (of any religion) to the absurdity it really is. Case in point: a letter was recently written to Dr. Laura Schlessinger (popular American radio host) regarding one of the comments she made on her show. Can you imagine if her and Rush Limbaugh hooked up? The world would probably implode with stupidity.

What follows is just a "cut and paste" by me. I take no credit for it and am just posting it for the sake of humour, and the tongue in cheek attack on literal theological interpretation. Normally, I wouldn't do so on this blog, but it struck a chord with me. In other words, I think it's good writing. Here goes...

Recently, she (Dr. Laura) said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22 and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The following is an open letter to Dr. Laura penned by an east coast resident, which was posted on the Internet. It's funny, as well as informative:

Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws and how to follow them:When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15:19- 24. The problem is, howdo I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated tokill him myself? A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is anabomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?

Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev.19:27. How should they die?

I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? -Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev.20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Your devoted fan,