September 24, 2008

Reservation Blues (1995)

Although this is yet another rock novel written by one of my favorite writers, this book is strikingly different. Sherman Alexie's book follows a group of American Indians who form a garage band after acquiring Robert Johnson's cursed guitar, which makes whoever plays it sound amazing. What sets this book apart is how Alexie reframes and plays with the mythology surrounding sex, drugs, and rock n' roll, integrating in American Indian mysticism, fatalism, and alcoholism. In doing so, he focuses on the pain that is released and the stories that must be told through the music. Like his other novels, the characters are both humorous and tragic. As they deal with their history, politics, and life on the reservation, he makes a convincing argument that American Indians know what it means to have the blues. They feel the blues: it surrounds, weighs down, and sometimes destroys them. By bashing it out on beat up electric guitars and cheap keyboards they share their experience. The cliché of the tortured and haunted artist has never seemed so fresh.


Mona said...

"Garage rock?" Do Native Americans even have garages on reservations? And who gave who the "sex, drugs & rock n' roll" on the first thanksgiving... the pilgrims or the native americans?

Pardon the ignorance, just in a silly mood.