Sherman Alexie’s Literary Heroes? Literary Works.

Question: Whom would you most like to meet?

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Sherman Alexie: It’s funny, this popped into my head, so I’ll\r\n go with it, Shoeless Joe Jackson, who was banned from baseball in 1919 \r\nfor allegedly fixing the World Series. Country boy, ended up being a \r\ngreat baseball player, one of the greatest of all time, I’d like to talk\r\n to him about that World Series, about the mysteries of human nature. \r\nBecause, you know, you’re looking at the stats, I’m pretty sure he \r\ndidn’t participate in the fix, but he knew about it, so I’d like to have\r\n a discussion of morality with Shoeless Joe Jackson.

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Question: Who are your literary heroes?

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Sherman Alexie: Well, there are just certain poems and novels\r\n and stories that resonate forever and ever. You know, poems I always \r\nreturn to, Emily Dickinson: “Because I could not stop for Death, that \r\nkindly stopped for me.” You know, Theodore Roethke: “I know a woman,” \r\nyou know, “I knew a woman, lovely in her bones, when small birds sighed,\r\n she would sigh back at them.” James Wright: “Suddenly I realized that \r\nif I stepped outside my body, I would break into blossom.” And then, \r\nyou know, the end of “Grapes of Wrath,” when Rose of Sharon breastfeeds,\r\n you know, her child has died, but she breastfeeds the starving man, \r\nthat moment? So it’s always individual works. Even in life, I don’t \r\nhave heroes. I believe in heroic ideas, because the creators of all \r\nthose ideas are very human. And if you make heroes out of people, you \r\nwill invariably be disappointed.

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Question: Was there a particular work that moved you as a \r\nchild?

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Sherman Alexie: Oh, Ezra Jack Keats, “A Snowy Day,” the book. \r\n You know, the idea of multicultural literature is very new and so as a \r\nlittle Indian boy growing up on the reservation, there was nobody like \r\nme in the books, so you always had to extrapolate. But when I picked up\r\n A Snowy Day with that inner-city black kid, that child, walking through\r\n the, you know, snow covered, pretty quiet and lonely city, oh, I mean, \r\nwhen he was making snow angels and, you know, when he was getting in \r\nsnowball fights and when he got home to his mother and it was cold and \r\nshe put him in a hot bathtub and put him to sleep, the loneliness and \r\nthe love in that book, oh, just gorgeous. So that picture resonates \r\nwith me still.

Recorded Oct 27, 2009

The writer explains why he idolizes ideas, not people.

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