Wednesday, December 08, 2004

alexie super sexie


alexie
Originally uploaded by Residual Tern.
this is super sexie alexie at one of his captivating readings. Do you like what you see? I bet you do. Me and Milan got so wasted after that. We just got totally blitzed on schlivovitz and diet coke cocktails.

life in Brno

This photo is great, init? It's of a street scene in Milan Kundera's home town, Brno. I think it evokes some very meaningful feelings. I'm just not sure what. Like, perhaps something quaint and old world, yet new and hectic.

bison


bison
Originally uploaded by Residual Tern.
This is the fabled buffalo. A beautiful beast if I've ever seen one. Source of life and existence for my indian brothers — even if I am an indian from the Pacific Northwest, I know that the tatonka is special to indian life. And, you know, we've all become so mixed up, I love the bison almost as much as the salmon.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

How all this started

I’m doing a bad thing here, you understand. I’m not suppoused to tell you what my stories mean. Nor am I suppoused to critique another writer’s stories. It’s just some unspone rule about being a writer. Actually, it’s always spoken about — it’s just unwritten. We writers don’t write about how anxious we are that the thin patina of lies and images we build upon a creaky plot structure will come crumbling down like Sitting Bull in a hail of cavalry fire. That’s why whenever you see us in readings, or read interviews in the Times with us, we never explain out stories: because what we think they are about is totally different from what you think they’re about, and once we fuck up that illusion you have, you might not like it enough.
But anyway, I promised one of my readers I’d help him out.
He’s this yound man in Hawaii — Hawaii of all places! Don’t you think that’s a bit ironic? Him liking my little indegenous stories and poems when at the same time he’s taking part in the destruction of another indegenous culture?
So I got an email from him. Usually, I ignore fan e-mail (actually, my editors just have it sent to some fake address and I never see it), but this one struck me. He told me about how much he wants to be a writer and how he isn’t a very good writer and how he thinks the fascio-liberal media and academia only favour what he called “ethnic or faggie” writers. He said he’s trying to write, but that his school work gets in the way. He said, and I quote: “I don’t know what a good author should write, so I want to learn. But the shit I learn is just not what I should be learning if I want to write origional shit. You know?
“So can you help me with this assignment I have to do for my English class? Can you tell me what your stories are about so I don’t have to do it. I’ll read them — I think they’re really the shit, Sherman. I just don’t like doing the work, cause, you know, it’s so hard.”
Right then, I was about to tell him to screw off. Tell him to stop winging and write. But then he told me that he’s of the Potawatamie tribe. And then I thought, hell, he’s indian, I’ll help him out. Because, you know, you always have to help out an indian if you see them in trouble. It’s like my great and noble story I wrote. It’s called “The Toughest Indian in the World,” and just to help this guy out I’ll tell you about it. I’ll pull over and pick him up.
Then he told me that he needs me to read some other author’s shit and tell him what those mean, too. Well, I didn’t mind. I’m a published author and a rich-ass indian. What have I got to do besides do my darndest to stay off the fire water and get laid by book groupies? It’s the life, enit? He said he didn’t care who it was, and that I should just pick an author.
So I picked this guy Milan Kundera I met once at this huge party I was at a few years back.
This was at some publisher’s party, and the biggest names in culturally aware fiction were there eating the baby corn, the chilean sea bass (this was before it became a faux paux), and drinking the Zima.
“That means ‘cold’,” I heard this slavic sounding guy say to me as I swigged down some of the fruity beverage. I felt slightly fruity sipping this stuff, but hey, gender isn’t what it used to be. It’s a very maleable thing, and alot of my male characters are learning to redefine what it is to be a man.
“Eh?” I said in my most indian sing-song. I was told by my publisher’s people to “play the part” of an indian. So I was talking how I thought an indian would talk. I was also at certian points during the night forcing myself to say meaningful things about the very unmeaningful topics up for discussion. Like, when this olympic Drissage rider said that his horse was like his best friend, I told him that the earth was my mother, and that I sucked at her tit like fat resevation kids on a bottle of Mountain Dew. He didn’t get it, but said it was profound. It works better when I get my editors in on the deal.
But anyway, the guy says: “Yes, in my language, ‘zima’ means cold.”
“Does it,” I say with this steelie look on my face. I’m like that guy Chief Broom in that movie. “And what language would that be?”
“Czech,” he says. “I am Czech. From the Czech Republic.”
“That’s like Czecho-Slovakia, enit? Russia, and all that?” I ask him. “One of those countries filled with white people?” I felt bad about this, but that’s the part I have to play. The resentful indian. I really don’t like to group people like that. Group think is a very hurtful practice.
“Actually, we broke up a few years ago.”
“What’s that?”
“The two of us. The Czech people and the Slovak people — we split apart. We were never really all that much of a ... how do you say... cohesive political entity to begin with.”
“You weren’t?”
“No. We were just lumped togehter like that after World War I. Then the Russians just kept us like that for ease.”
“Russians? So you’re not Russian? You sound Russian.”
“No, I’m more a citizen of the world more than anything,” he said to me as he tossed a salmon puff in his mouth. I thought there was something important about that, but then nothing came up. Salmon must be important to some indians, I thought. But then I just got one, too and thought they over cooked it. I washed it down with the Zima. This wasn’t really alcohol, so I wasn’t off the wagon yet.
“Yes,” he said. “My country didn’t like what I was writting when I first started out, so I left.”
“You left?”
“Yes,” he said. “Well, they kind of made me leave. Communists. So I went to France and wrote in French.”
“French,” I echoed, thinking about the French in my own country. They were nicer than the Americans I hear, but then again, who wasn’t? “So you speak French?”
“Oui,” he said. That much French I understood. “I am good enough.”
“Hey,” I said. “I’ve always wondered something. I’m indian.”
“I know,” he said. “I like the hair.”
“Yes, well, I’m part of the Coeur d’Alene tribe, and I’ve never gotten around to finding out what it means. Can you tell me?”
He stood there and examined another of the salmon puffs we were eating. He looked really intense there, with his really serious white man’s face. It was a very defined hard face, with a very bad haircut, as if some white slavic grandmoter in a baggy smock had come along in the cold and hacked it away with the scythe on the Soviet flag. He stood there for about half a minute, and then I said: “What’s wrong? Salmon puff that bad?”
“Um... No, that’s an archaic form of French. Kind of old, I think. I was just trying to understand it more fully.”
“Well, what does it mean then?”
He looked at me like he was going to say something like: you don’t know? You live there and you don’t know what it means? But then he said: “Literally, it means ‘heart of an the awl,’ but I don’t know what that means.”
So that’s how Milan Kundera and I became good friends. Well, not really good friends. We chatted for a bit longer about the usual stuff we liberal writer-types talk about. I talked about salmon, and he talked about carp. He said that in the Czech Republic people keep carp in little kiddie pools — the kinds little white children fill up with water and put in their front yard — and sell them on the street. Usually, Milan said, they wrap them in paper and take them home. But some times when they buy them on the street, the people will have the merchant chop off the head right there. Blood on the four hundred year-old cobble stones, dripping into gutters that once ran full with Turkish blood.
I talked about the way the white man had come into this land and destroyed what a beautiful culture and way of life we had — but then I talked about how nice it was now sometimes. He talked about the “fucking communists” and how wretched they made life. He didn’t see anything good about communists or their antics.

What My Stories Mean

Assimilation

The Toughest Indian in the World

My story “The Toughest Indian in the World” is a pure work of transcendent art. Like most of my work, it follows the arc of a new age indian — one who struggles to acclimate himself to the new world and yet hold on to his traditions and the vital part of himself that is indian. Much like the lawyer in “Assimilation” this indian features writer is at odds with his inborn indian-ness and what the white world he lives in expects him to be, and what he has already become. He tries to regain the lost Indianans by doing what he thinks an indian would do, and what he has been taught an indian will do.
What can be said about all my stories is that my indians are reclaiming what it means to be indian and reconstructing the idea of the Native American.
So Justin wants me to explain how my works explore one or more of the following themes:
pre/post/neo colonial; modern/post-modern; gender issues; political issues; socio/economic issues.
I guess he just cut and pasted that into the email he sent me. Well, for this story “The Toughest Indian in the World,” I’ll focus on gender issues. That’s always a nice one.
In this story I talk about an indian who only picks up indian hitchhikers. It’s thinly veiled metaphor for the way we humans practice racism in all aspects of our lives. Well, by and by, this features writer picks up a fellow indian on his way to write a feature about something banal and inane. He picks up a boxer, who is scared across his hands and face and has just gotten done with a fight. He is the toughest indian our features writer has ever seen, and he tries to impress him with indian actions.
Turns out the tough indian has just thrown a fight by being supersensitive and letting a Flat Head indian boy who just wouldn’t go down win.
As they drive through the lands that were once theirs, they talk about fighting and toughness and all that.
But strangely, by and by, this features writing indian does something that he has never been taught to do, and that the Hollywood image of the indian never did: he has anal sex with a Lumi indian in a hotel room.
This wonderful story explores what it is to be a man. Indian men were always hunters and warriors. We are angry most times because we were disposed. of our land. This story examines what it really means to be tough. Are we just
We see that being a tough indian isn’t all about beating and killing, nor is it about standing up to an unstoppable force. Sometimes it’s about taking it and loving one another as our formerly insensitive Camry driving features writer did.


Class

In “Class” I examine the role class plays in our lives. Obviously. But that is just the tip of this iceberg.
In this story, two people, a man an a wife, an indian and a white woman, are going through yet another one of those bits of depression and boredom. Susan and Edgar Eagle Runner. They meet at a party and their relationship crystalizes there. “She was the tenth most attractive white woman in the room,” Edgar says. “I always approached white woman at any gathering.”
From then, their entire marriage is influenced by Edgar’s low self-esteem, his inability to live his own life fully. He is timid, not being himself. He finds out about his wife's seven month long affair, and instead of screwing around with her friends or someone else visible, he patronizes prostitutes while on business trips.
All along, Edgar is an indian, and yet not really. He leaves one night and tries to find himself in an indian bar, only to uncover the fact that he’s too rich to be indian to the poor indians.
This story is an exploration of what it means when class is more powerful than ethnicity. Edgar wants to go to an indian bar so he can be indian, so he can live the braids he has worn to “impress jurors and annoy judges,” but when he goes back to his indian roots he finds they aren’t his. The “real indians” are poor and resent him for being rich.
His foray into the slums ends in the realization that he is just himself, and that he must love his wife and kids.
This story reminds us that ethnicity isn’t nearly as important as who we are.



Assimilation

“Assimilation” is about an indian woman and her white husband. They are in love, yet she is conflicted, as is the case in all my fiction. She loves him, yet she is bored. She feels she is somehow less indian lately, or maybe she is just using her fading indian-ness as an excuse for feeling bored with life in general. It is hard, sometimes, for my characters to understand the difference between indian life and normal life. In fact, there is no difference.
But, to many of my characters, gender issues play a central role in their lives. In this story, the indian woman named Mary Lynn is a woman who is bored in her gender role. “What is the point of porno without graphic penetration?” Mary Lynn thinks at one point in the story of how she and her husband deal with their increasingly banal white collar life. At another point, her husband recalls how they used to kiss with “pornographic élan.” But in recent years they have become dull, eating in posh restaurants and smoking empty cigarettes of dried herbs. The traditional gender roles of an indian woman and a white man are nonexistent in this story. They are forgotten, or at least my characters and the way I narrate don’t make blatant mention of them. But they hover there: Mary Lynn has an affair, her husband is more an object than a person in some instances, and until a crucial point near the end of the story, Mary Lynn is bored. Just bored, and expresses her boredom through sexuality.
But then Jeremiah, her husband, does something tremendously brave, or at least alive: when they come across a woman trying to jump suicidally from a bridge he goes out to try and save her. “He continually moved from the passive to the active,” Mary Lynn thinks of her husband. He fails, but in the ensuing madness, Mary Lynn comes close to losing her husband, and in so doing, she gains to insight into the value of her man.


Saint Junior

"Saint Junior" is a story of a fat basketball playing indian and his equally fat school teaching indian wife. They are the exemplars of the new Native American. They are both geniuses, scoring the highest on the SATs that anyone ever saw. This story picks up late in Roman Gabriel Fury’s life after he has retired from a mediocre career of semi-pro basketball and is now many pounds over weight. He drinks Diet Coke like its booze and he makes for his wife salmon oatmeal porridge. This oatmeal porridge is the legacy of his grandmother, and now he is the last person alive who knows how to make this uniquely indian food.
And yet despite all these great things, they will never procreate. They will not make more wonderfully smart, wonderfully sensitive, wonderfully human indians. They will not make more indians because the indian race is dying out and along with it shall go the salmon porridge.

The Meaning of Milan's Stories

Milan Kundera

The Hitchhiking Game

So this guy’s story is about some indulgent white people over in the center of all whiteness, the Czech Republic. Of course, these aren’t the white people who stole the land and destroyed the culture of us indians, but they’re still white. And as such, their affairs should be taken with a grain of salt.
They play games in this, the story of two bored white people on holiday. It is at its heart a story of the games we play with each other and is another exploration of the ties that bind each of us to another, especially in sexuality.
In this tale, a couple is bored and seeks to step outside their common daily lives, and they assume other roles, roles which they believe will add spice. But in the end, the roles they assume to enliven their trip turns out ruining their relationship and alienating each from the other.
Milan Kundera is using this story as a warning not to lie to each other nor to ourselves, and further, he is using it as a critique of the Socialist puppet government of the former Czechoslovakia, where lies and truths mingled and mixed fluidly and no one could be sure which was which. Was the factory on par, or was it below quota. Was you neighbor watching you in order to get a better apartment, or were you just being paranoid. In the old Czechoslovakia you could never tell, just like the girlfriend and boyfriend in “The Hitchhiking Game.”


No One Will Laugh

Milan Kundera lived in a time and place that was utterly hateful to the human spirit. The Soviet regime had spread across much of eastern and central Europe and imposed its will on the peoples of every country, ethnic group and religion they could find. To the Soviets, especially in the waning days of their power, life was not about living. It was about meeting quotas and filling in forms. The socialist nightmare of the Soviet Union took the ideal of the bureaucracy to the most extreme: they didn’t care who you were, how well you taught, or what kind of work you were really interested in. They cared what position you held, and whether those in positions above you agreed with what you were doing. More aptly, they care that those above you filled in the right form.
All this led to some truly abysmal things, as evidenced in “No One Will Laugh.” It is a story about inhumanity on all levels, from the face to face and most personal, to the institutionalized. Our narrator is so wrapped up in his own affairs, his own petty and selfish life, that he fails to see the humanity around him. He snubs a man in need — himself — and in the process brings down the senseless wrath of those above him.

Let The Old Dead Make Room for the New Dead

Under Soviet control, Czechoslovakia was a nation without a soul. Its mind had been removed and it was dedicated to production. It was but a satellite state, its culture subject to the whims of another.
Towards the end of the Soviet era, things looked bleak. Cars didn’t run, water was orange, people were but rags, and the dead were dug up to make room for new dead in the name of efficiency's sake. This actually happened. People didn’t care about the wonders of life or the joys and beauties of each day. They cared for getting things do.
In this story, a woman just wants to fade quietly away because she feels she has done her work. She is but a satellite to her son’s solar mass. This is sad, and despite all this, she goes along with it, as does the man hoping to renew what he had lost years before.
They are shown to be old, decrepit and dying — but only in their own eyes. They can also be seen as alive, beautiful and vigorous, just of a different sort. In the interest of progress and the edification of all that is good, the man and the woman ignore what is good about the moment. The woman wants for her memory to serve as a monument


The Golden Apple of Eternal Desire

Life is hollow without the juice. If it is all pursuit, all anticipation, all desire, nothing will be experienced. Unless, of course, you’re the sort of person who revels in pursuit, the kind of mythical creature in love with the hunt, who is singularly committed to it. This is the case in “The Golden Apple of Eternal Desire.” A man is truly satisfied with his wife, he holds her in the highest esteem. And he thirsts for the hunt, he mythologizes it. He invents rituals and fetishes for it.
This is, in a way, a metaphor for the Socialist state: always on the road to somewhere, never there. Always waiting for something, always striving for that utopia, but ignoring the bliss at hand.
When our narrator and his friend abandon one woman for another, they are leaving behind what could have been bliss. They are questing after what will never be. Such was the practice behind the idea of Socialism. Leaders and people were forever questing after something else, forever moving on and abandoning what they had in favor of a mythologized something better.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Red Skin and Ruskie

the cultural milleu of milan kundera

This is Milan Kundera. I met him at a party:

Example


Brno

Milan Kundera is from the Czech Republic. He lives in the city of Brno
http://www.brno.cz/index.php?lan=en
http://www.brno.cz/index.php?lan=en&nav01=1248&nav02=2220&nav03=2447&idosobnosti=47

This is his favorite drink:
www.beveragedaily.com/news/ news-ng.asp?id=11421-czechs-eu-nea

The Czech Republic used to be under part of the USSR, but then this happened:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velvet_Revolution

Now, the Czech Republic is a growing, thriving member of the world community:
http://europa.eu.int/abc/european_countries/eu_members/czech_republic/index_en.htm

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The Cultural Milleu of the Greatest Red Skin Author

So this is where the great Sherman Alexie came from:
http://www.spokanetribe.com/

This right here is the place that produced a drunk injun and soon to be great poet, stand up comedian, screen writer, short story writer and all around great guy:
http://www.wellpinit.wednet.edu/

But now, instead of booze, the great Sherman Alexie indulges in this:
www.ihop.com

But sadly, this could happen to me, as it happens to many indians:
http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/factsheets/aian.htm

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

a rich indian

I'm a rich Indian, damn it. I'm one of the best writers under 40 living in in the US (so saith the New York Times). I say that with artistic and smug irony, because I'm a conflicted Indian whose land was stolen and way of life undermined. I would treat you to some nice lyric images, but I save that for the books. This is just the blog. Plus, I'm too drunk and this here fire water is too tempting, enit?

Monday, November 08, 2004

we're all the same

I come to realize, after reading the blogs of my fellow bloggers, that we are all the same. Essentially, we are confused, foul mouthed and bad typers. That's grammatically correct, enit? I mean, my editor isn't here to tell me, and I'm so lazy that I can't be bothered to check it in Word... no, hold on. I'm not lazy. I am burdened by the sorrows of four hundred years of destruction. A coyote hangs above my keyboard, dripping blood. Seven million monarch butterflies roost under my heart, and die from BT. I weep, running backwards like salmon.
Shit, what was I saying? I was saying that we are all alike. The voices I hear echoing off the halls of these blogs are all the same. They're about 9th grade, middle class white people. White. I have trouble coming to grips with that. Who is white? I am white, I sometimes think. I am not dead, I drive a nice car, I type this on a PowerBook. Is that white? My words certainty are. That is, until my editing committee gets a hold of them. Then they're profound and indigenous like the grand canyon, drawing millions of fat white people to gaze into the depths of this red wonder.