Friday, May 29, 2009

Alexie's Literary Tunneling

Sherman Alexie's Flight presents the journey of an orphaned teenager, Zits, as he inhabits the mind of various individuals throughout history. When I say inhabit, he literally enters the consciousness of various people, each representing an element in Zits's complex history. The narrative tunnels into the thoughts of various people over time, individual stories that history has overlooked. It gives voice to people and highlights the ethical dilemmas that defined them, while shedding light on the complexity of American history. The novel foregrounds the way stories can bring recognition and return voice, a self-awareness of the way literature functions in the world.

However, this self-awareness does not take the shape of historiographic metafiction like other postmodern texts. The narrator does not reflect upon the construct of the text, nor does he present an awareness of the act of writing. Flight enacts the process of reading through the narrator, Zits, who supernaturally experiences the actions and is privy to the thoughts of other individuals, while remaining conscious of his own thoughts as well. As Zits puts it, "I can fall so far inside a person, inside his memories, that I can play them like a movie." Or, as I am arguing, read them like a book.

5 comments:

Monica said...

What do you mean by "read them like a book," and how is that different from Zits' comment about being able to "play them like a movie"?

Ira said...

I just now found your blog via Monica's, David, and was delighted to see Alexie front and center. Is the novel built out or interwoven with /The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven/? (I'm thinking of the horse called Flight in Thomas-Builds-the-Fire in "A Drug Called Tradition.") Also, do you remember why we didn't read Alexie in Cheyfitz's seminar? I'd just finished /Reservation Blues/ at the time, and I recall disappointment at not being going to talk about it with others--I haven't felt opened by any other author in quite the same way--but I can't recollect Eric's explanation for the omission. Do you?

Drc said...

Hey Ira. Nice to hear from you. I don't remember exactly why we didn't read Alexie. The conversation I had with Eric about Alexie had to do with him as a comic writer and possibly even assimilationist rather than sticking to traditional kinship modes of thought, which was our focus. However, I find Alexie's Flight to be doing something more in line with the kinship system. I have not read Reservation Blues, but I highly recommend the stories in Ten Little Indians.

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