Report by Engram Wilkinson:
“When reading Alexie’s work, you’re jolted by contradiction,” said Zachary Lazar, Tulane’s new Professor of Creative Writing, in his introductory remarks for the evening. Professor Lazar continued: “You approach Alexie’s work with what Hemingway called a Bullshit Detector, and, well, Alexie’s fiction has a sense of what really matters. He writes in a Bullshit-Free Zone.”
Upon taking his place on the stage in the Kendall-Cram Ballroom, Alexie responded to the introduction with, “Zach is such a sweetheart. I could never imagine him telling anyone, ‘Hey, I’m gonna kick your ass!’”
Alexie told the packed house of audience members he’d left his manuscript on the airplane, and would therefore be reading poems from his iPad. Before any poems were read, however, Alexie reflected on an incident he’d seen while driving from the New Orleans airport—catching what he called the “interracial eroticism” of “black, Drew Brees-jerseyed” women grinding on older, similarly jerseyed white males. “Is Drew Brees some sort of sex symbol for interracial eroticism?” he asked an audience already bent over in laughter. “Everyone is so sexual in New Orleans,” he continued. “This morning in the hotel I woke up to the housekeeper grinding on me in my bed.”
Like Alexie’s hilarious remarks on race, Drew Brees and Saints fans, his poetry rides the beautiful line that bridges comedy and serious concerns for contemporary social issues. From his crowd-pleasing and laughter-inducing poem “The Facebook Sonnet,” Alexie read:
Welcome to the endless high-school
Reunion. Welcome to past friends
And lovers, however kind or cruel.
Shortly after reading “The Facebook Sonnet,” Alexie took questions from the audience. When asked about the hilarity of both his poetry and his performance that night in the LBC, Alexie said: “Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.” The magic of Alexie’s work, and his reading on October 24th, cannot be more succinctly described.
Sherman Alexie is Tulane’s visiting Writer’s Writer for the Fall 2011 semester. He is the author of Reservation Blues, Indian Killer; The Toughest Indian in the World, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, winner of the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. His 2009 collection War Dances won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.