The Toughest Indian in the World by Sherman Alexie

(Book 158) Susan hosted a large group of us tonight and because it was raining, she didn’t get to use the lovely back deck area. We were still missing Geri, Karen and Rosalie, but we had a guest, my new neighbor Lennis. Shortly after the Little Free Library went up in front of my home, a couple talked to me about their plans to rehab and move into the building next door to us. The young woman told me her mother would be moving into the second floor when it was ready and that happened at the end of May. I spoke about my book club and though we are at 11 members when everyone attends, I joked that 12 would mean that no one would have to host twice in a year! When I told the girls, some were worried that they wouldn’t be able to accommodate a new member, but who knows, maybe she won’t want to join us as we are all raging liberals and swear like sailors. So, I brought Lennis and when she saw the dining table, she said it was the fanciest book club she’d ever attended, that she is used to wine and appetizers. And I heard her say “Where will I fit everybody?” Her new apartment is about one-seventh the size of her previous home (if I remember the numbers correctly.)

I’ve read three books by Sherman Alexie previously and I was a little shocked that this one had so many stories about sexual encounters. After I gave Lennis the book, I read the first two stories and sent her a text saying “Please don’t think that we are a group of lascivious old ladies!” After Chris told me she only took issue with the old part, and I should speak for myself, she enlightened the group about Alexie’s reputation with sexual harassment. I’d already ordered ten copies of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian because I wanted to regain credibility for having selected one of his books, and now, no one will want to read anything by him. Except Mary, she said she would still take a copy. We talked about the age-old Do you have to like the person to appreciate his art? — but sexual assault is not a minor transgression. Sigh.

We tried to talk about his writing apart from his reputation and discussed our favorite stories. Chris’ favorite was the title story The Toughest Indian in the World. She also appreciated South by Southwest and likened his absurd adventures and abrupt endings to Flannery O’Connor, though no one loses a limb. Mary and Lennis liked Saint Junior. Though his wife completely supported his career, as soon as she said, let’s go home, they did. And she was able through all of it to hang on to her own career. Linda, Susan and Sharon chose Dear John Wayne as their favorite. We all enjoyed that the kids were named John and Marion! Melissa wasn’t able to pick a favorite, and I guess I didn’t hear Marcia’s either. No one appreciated The Sin Eaters — the sex made no sense. I do have to say, however, that The Sin Eaters made me take notice of the fact that 30 of our 45 presidents have had blue eyes. (I looked it up after: “a man with blue eyes dropped two symmetrical slices of the sun on Japan.” I assumed Alexie meant the president responsible and not the pilots or bombardiers aboard the aircraft.) After that, I just kept reading ‘blue eyes’ sprinkled here and there throughout his stories and finally thought about blue eyes as a sign of the enemy instead of the dreamy hunk they implied as I was growing up. I also loved the following from The Sin Eaters: “Jonah, she said using my name as she might have used aspirin or penicillin, it was a dream.”

I enjoyed most of the stories because Alexie can create these wonderful tender moment while also having a sense of humor:
“Regarding love and marriage, and sex, both Shakespeare and Sitting Bull knew the only truth: treaties get broken.” Assimilation
“Mary Lynn had never before felt such lust — in Montana, of all places, …” Assimilation
“Why not practice a carnal form of affirmative action?” Assimilation
“Seymour looked around the Tucson McDonald’s. There were white people and Navajos; there were people who preferred their Quarter Pounder with cheese and those who didn’t care for cheese at all; and there were those who desperately wished that McDonald’s would introduce onion rings to its menu. Oh, Seymour thought, there are so many possibilities.” South by Southwest
“He was a white man, and therefore he could dream.” South by Southwest

Other books: Chris told us to watch for David James Duncan’s novel Sun House coming out in August and Susan highly recommended The Hail Mary Project by Andy Weir. I offered my copy of Abraham Verghese’s The Covenant of Water but at 715 pages, no one took me up on it,

Now, the FOOD!

Susan managed to sprain her ankle and had it elevated and covered by a bag of frozen peas when Chris, the psychic, texted to offer her help. Susan made so many dishes, it’s hard to know where to begin. The appetizers included 1) a salmon mousse because there was salmon throughout the book and likewise throughout the meal; 2) toasted bread slices topped with ricotta and a butternut squash spread; 3) toasted bread slices topped with mozzarella and tomato salsa; cheese, lots of cracker choices, grapes and probably some other delicious things.

The main course was oven baked salmon with blueberry salsa, wild rice with pecans and golden raisins, two green salads, one with arugula, avocado, grape tomatoes and corn and the other with cucumber, tomato and feta cheese and finally, asparagus. It was all amazingly tasty. The dessert was and Ina Garten recipe — Blueberry Crisp with ice cream. I tried so hard to be good but ended up saying A1c be damned! Not only was it all delicious, she did it all while hobbling but not complaining!

Our next meeting will take place Thursday, July 27 at Melissa’s to discuss World’s Fair by E. L. Doctorow.