Hehehehehehe. Okay, if you have no appreciation of dark humor stop reading right now and stay far away from Flight–far far away. Got it? I’m warning you. This is no sweet flight of fancy tome. Our hero is an angry fifteen year old male of Irish and Indian origin with some serious grief and father issues–among other things. Now sit back and sip your hot tea, latte or bloody mary and think about a young man who refers to himself as Zits. If you can’t relate then it’s probably in your best interests–and mine (yes, I do fear homicidal repercussions from unhappy readers)–to go nowhere near this particular Sherman Alexie book. That said, last night I stayed up very late reading Flight via flashlight outside on the front porch–much to the dismay of anyone who had their doors or windows open to receive my hooting laughter when I turned to page 146. Some folks do not find boiled birdies funny–and I do understand that such minds exist. On the other hand, there are minds, such as mine and apparently Alexie’s, which find self boiled birdies absolutely hilarious–especially in the context of a potentially violent encounter between a homeless Indian man and the usual well-heeled white dude. If by some means, like using your local public library, you garner a copy of Flight you too will be in serious need of comic relief by the time you turn to page 146. Though, hopefully, you’ll have found other darkly comic things to chuckle loudly about before page 146. But you’ll also have encountered several incidents of mayhem, murder and molestation along the way. The lives of foster children are not all filled with sugar mommies and daddies. Nor do many events in American history since 1492 recount pleasant Thanksgiving din dins between Europeans and Indigenous folks.
Ever wonder how to diffuse the building anger of teenager? Well, Sherman Alexie offers one way–history lessons of the “not me” and the “me?!” variety. Yep, direct confrontations of some dark sad truths of reality provide the fodder for the adolescent mind to chew heartily on and time travel, complete with out-of-body experiences, is the medium. From the Battle of the Little Bighorn to the grief ridden friendly skies of a private flight instructor Alexie takes us on a journey through history. Along the way he’ll shred your heart, sew it back together without anesthesia, and then shove it back into your chest. You’re going to need every last piece of humor to endure the operation. If you’re not laughing when Harry Potter takes a swan dive–then you might be dead and gone. Or you’ve abandoned Alexie’s exploration of time travelling adventures as an instruction manuel. Each episode serves as a short story with ethical issues galore. FBI agent Hank Storm may not get your heartstrings trembling–but Gus, Bow Boy and Small Saint could very well lay you flat on the floor demolishing an extra-large box of kleenex–or soaking an extra-large cotton hanky.
Zits experiences violence in many forms via his out-of-body time travelling–and this makes him seriously consider his pains of loss, abandonment and identity. Children NEED fathers–preferably decent men who care about their welfare. That lacking, one must find family where one can. Sometimes the concept of ‘family’ has not a damned thing to do with genetics and biology. It’s got to do with who gives a damn.
I’ve been a fan of Alexie’s work ever since reading his collection of poems and short stories The Business of Fancydancing. Yes, there’s a film by that title too– and it’s a great film. But–it was the text that had me wanting to scream and laugh from one page to the next. Ever felt bushwhacked by a writer? Well that’s how I felt while reading The Business of Fancydancing. It was great. Disturbing at times, but great nonetheless. I will never forget the story of the man, Eve and the post office. Hell, I’ve never entered a post office since and not thought of the story. The same holds true for Flight. It will not numb or bore you to tears. Not sure you can relate yet? Okay, who has had bad acne? Raise your hands now.
The Official Website of Sherman Alexie–be forewarned–it’s a tad off kilter: http://www.fallsapart.com/