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Sherman Alexie

Born in 1966 on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, WA, Sherman Alexie is a novelist, short story writer, poet, and winner of the 2007 National Book Award in Young[…]

The writer explains why he idolizes ideas, not people.

Question: Whom would you most like to meet?

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Sherman Alexie: It’s funny, this popped into my head, so I’llrn go with it, Shoeless Joe Jackson, who was banned from baseball in 1919 rnfor allegedly fixing the World Series. Country boy, ended up being a rngreat baseball player, one of the greatest of all time, I’d like to talkrn to him about that World Series, about the mysteries of human nature. rnBecause, you know, you’re looking at the stats, I’m pretty sure he rndidn’t participate in the fix, but he knew about it, so I’d like to havern 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 novelsrn and stories that resonate forever and ever. You know, poems I always rnreturn to, Emily Dickinson: “Because I could not stop for Death, that rnkindly stopped for me.” You know, Theodore Roethke: “I know a woman,” rnyou know, “I knew a woman, lovely in her bones, when small birds sighed,rn she would sigh back at them.” James Wright: “Suddenly I realized that rnif I stepped outside my body, I would break into blossom.” And then, rnyou know, the end of “Grapes of Wrath,” when Rose of Sharon breastfeeds,rn you know, her child has died, but she breastfeeds the starving man, rnthat moment? So it’s always individual works. Even in life, I don’t rnhave heroes. I believe in heroic ideas, because the creators of all rnthose ideas are very human. And if you make heroes out of people, you rnwill invariably be disappointed.

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Question: Was there a particular work that moved you as a rnchild?

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

Recorded Oct 27, 2009