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Poetry. Fiction. Published in 1992, well before Sherman Alexie became well-known as the screenwriter for the film SMOKE SIGNALS, THE BUSINESS OF FANCYDANCING has now been turned into a film with none other than Alexie himself in his directorial debut. The screenplay for the movie, which recently won the Audience Award at the San Francisco Film Festival, is loosly adapted f Poetry. Fiction. Published in 1992, well before Sherman Alexie became well-known as the screenwriter for the film SMOKE SIGNALS, THE BUSINESS OF FANCYDANCING has now been turned into a film with none other than Alexie himself in his directorial debut. The screenplay for the movie, which recently won the Audience Award at the San Francisco Film Festival, is loosly adapted from this book. Many film-goers will want to visit or revisit the elegaic poems and stories that set the tone for the film itself. "In an age when many 'Native American' writers publish books that prove their ignorance of the real Indian world, Sherman Alexie paints painfully honest visions of our beautiful and brutal lives" Adrian C. Louis."


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Poetry. Fiction. Published in 1992, well before Sherman Alexie became well-known as the screenwriter for the film SMOKE SIGNALS, THE BUSINESS OF FANCYDANCING has now been turned into a film with none other than Alexie himself in his directorial debut. The screenplay for the movie, which recently won the Audience Award at the San Francisco Film Festival, is loosly adapted f Poetry. Fiction. Published in 1992, well before Sherman Alexie became well-known as the screenwriter for the film SMOKE SIGNALS, THE BUSINESS OF FANCYDANCING has now been turned into a film with none other than Alexie himself in his directorial debut. The screenplay for the movie, which recently won the Audience Award at the San Francisco Film Festival, is loosly adapted from this book. Many film-goers will want to visit or revisit the elegaic poems and stories that set the tone for the film itself. "In an age when many 'Native American' writers publish books that prove their ignorance of the real Indian world, Sherman Alexie paints painfully honest visions of our beautiful and brutal lives" Adrian C. Louis."

30 review for The Business of Fancydancing

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    Slice of life poetry and flash fiction; this early work by Alexie is a strong beginning for his career. While the poetry was moving and well-done, he truly shines in the short narratives.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    After reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian last summer, I decided to work my way through Alexie's oeuvre since I had already also read and enjoyed Reservation Blues. Two short story collections and one novel later, I was done. Not in that my task was completed but in that I couldn't take anymore. Then The Business of Fancydancing came into my possession after waiting about six months for it. Unwilling to let the book go after waiting so long for it, I decided to see what the f After reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian last summer, I decided to work my way through Alexie's oeuvre since I had already also read and enjoyed Reservation Blues. Two short story collections and one novel later, I was done. Not in that my task was completed but in that I couldn't take anymore. Then The Business of Fancydancing came into my possession after waiting about six months for it. Unwilling to let the book go after waiting so long for it, I decided to see what the first page was like. Ten hours later I had finished it. The Business of Fancydancing: Stories and Poems is Alexie's first published work (from 1991). As the subtitle suggests, the book is considered a collection of stories and poems. However, since most of the stories are less than five pages I think a fair argument could be made that the five stories are actually prose poems instead of stories. That might just be me though. Like any of Alexie's other writing, this collection includes instances of beauty as well as sadness. In the opening story "Travels" a hungry youth is told to make a jam sandwich by taking two slices of bread and jamming them together (unless a wish sandwich is more to his liking). This image recurs often in the collection. After reading The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven and The Toughest Indian in the World, I must admit I had my doubts about Alexie's short stories--they never seemed as engaging as his novels. That isn't a problem here even though all of the stories are much shorter than anything found in his later collections. Very like the poems, Alexie's stories here are bare bones. Instead of full stories (in the sense of having a conventional plot) most are vignettes painting brief, eloquent pictures of what life can mean for a Spokane Indian on and off the reservation. The bulk of The Business of Fancydancing is comprised of poems. The English major in my wants to make some kind of comparison to illustrate what these poems are like, but no quick comparisons come to mind. Suffice it say, the lines are long and the poems deeply grounded in the concrete. One of my favorites in the collection is "Distances" which is literally a series of vignettes along with aphorisms like "Remember this: 'Electricity is lightning pretending to be permanent.'" Familiar characters who turn up in one of Alexie's later story collections as well as Reservation Blues also make their first appearances here. Thomas Builds-The-Fire, a personal favorite, even has a story all to himself. I don't know how illustrative this book is of Alexie's current style since his latest work has been novels, but that detail aside The Business of Fancydancing is a superb collection of poetry and serves as a good introduction to Sherman Alexie and his unique style/themes without the visceral, harsh details so often found in his newer writing. You can find this review and more on my blog Miss Print

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Thomas Builds-The-Fire left me crying in a Starbucks.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rod Brown

    I've read several of Alexie's books over the years, but never his first, so I scooped it up when I came across it at the library recently. I was heartbroken last year to hear about his repeated sexual harassment of women, but I was still curious to see this relic of more innocent times. I'm not a poetry fan and the short stories are very, very short, so this was a quick read. Some of it was a little opaque for me, but there are some beautiful phrasing and imagery to be found here. It was also int I've read several of Alexie's books over the years, but never his first, so I scooped it up when I came across it at the library recently. I was heartbroken last year to hear about his repeated sexual harassment of women, but I was still curious to see this relic of more innocent times. I'm not a poetry fan and the short stories are very, very short, so this was a quick read. Some of it was a little opaque for me, but there are some beautiful phrasing and imagery to be found here. It was also interesting to see the first appearances of themes, settings and characters Alexie has revisited many times throughout his career. It's a shame he chose to behave in a way that will cast such a shadow over his literary contributions.

  5. 5 out of 5

    R.

    Basketball and laughter, fry bread and weeping.

  6. 5 out of 5

    David

    Though this is pretty early on for Alexie, this has some really good stuff in it. It may not hit the same heights as some of his later writing, but you can see in it where he is going to go later. And, as with some of his other collections, I like getting some of his poetry mixed in with some of his prose. I'm less likely to pick up a book of pure poetry and this way I still get to see some of Alexie's poetry. All in all, this is a good collection and I'm glad I read it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Steven

    His first book, the most raw, the least structurally organized, and in some ways the most powerful. It's almost like, lacking the formal tools, he writes with the only thing he knows—unfiltered emotion. Mostly poems in this book. Just five stories, most very short; you can see that he is just starting to move from poems to prose narratives.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

    I've been thinking about pain, how each of us constructs our past to justify what we feel now. How each successive pain distorts the preceding. Me, too. Except I was never able to put it in such a beautiful way. I loved all of this because I am in love with the way Alexie writes. It is (obviously) earlier work but is still solid goodness. 4 Stars

  9. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    Beautiful poetry and prose, heart-wrenching.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Thomas M.

    One of the pieces I liked a lot: Eugene Boyd Don't Drink Here Anymore The Stranger walks into the bar, orders a beer, and asks me where the hell Eugene Boyd is, and I tell him, he got shot last year in the parking lot of the Gold Coin, man, he's dead. The Stranger looks me in the eyes, looks the whole bar straight in the eyes, and drinks his beer in one drink. Who the hell did it, the Stranger asks me, and I tell him that everyone knows but the police ain't going to do anything about it because when o One of the pieces I liked a lot: Eugene Boyd Don't Drink Here Anymore The Stranger walks into the bar, orders a beer, and asks me where the hell Eugene Boyd is, and I tell him, he got shot last year in the parking lot of the Gold Coin, man, he's dead. The Stranger looks me in the eyes, looks the whole bar straight in the eyes, and drinks his beer in one drink. Who the hell did it, the Stranger asks me, and I tell him that everyone knows but the police ain't going to do anything about it because when one Indian kills another Indian, that's considered natural selection. He holds that empty glass tight and looks in the mirror behind the bar where all our faces are reflected. All us stoic Indians rehearsing for parts as extras in some eternal black and white western. Shit, used to be only whites ex- pected Skins to have monosyllabic faces, but now, we even expect it of each other. But the Stranger looks in the mirror and he starts crying. Crying for the dead, not looking forward to the gifts he'll get from the deceased, not looking forward to the wake, he's crying for the dead. I used to figure strength was all a matter of being waterproof, like our houses could never be. So the Stranger throws his glass at the mirror, shattering us all into pieces, and in the silence after that the Professor, at the end of the bar, tips his beer and says, "that was some serious fucking dualism."

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Dunk

    I wonder if it's my inexperience with verse or my understanding and appreciation for Alexie's later work that have the stronger effect on my perception of this collection. Overall, I felt like the poems were overwrought and even perhaps a bit trite. Alexie usually does a great job of balancing the serious themes of his work with moments of humor. This has the effect, at least to me, of making his more serious moments that much more powerful, and giving a more realistic portrayal of contemporary I wonder if it's my inexperience with verse or my understanding and appreciation for Alexie's later work that have the stronger effect on my perception of this collection. Overall, I felt like the poems were overwrought and even perhaps a bit trite. Alexie usually does a great job of balancing the serious themes of his work with moments of humor. This has the effect, at least to me, of making his more serious moments that much more powerful, and giving a more realistic portrayal of contemporary Indian life, that of humor covering moments of sadness. This collection felt much more loose, for lack of a better term, but I think it suffered because of that. I would recommend The Toughest Indian in the World or basically any of Alexie's novels or short story collections (as I have read all but one) over this. Edit: If I may speak perfectly honestly, I think the majority of positive reviews are from white people who have this sort of reverential view of native americans, which this book certainly is in line with, if not endorses. Bettys and Veronicas, if you've read Reservation Blues. This work feels more pitiful than honest in many places.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mary Helene

    Painful - but insightful. I've read his later books (most recently The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, which is marvelously accessible to all kinds of readers,) and his humor and hope sustain one through the pain. This is his first book, and the pain is more raw, but the humor is still there. I am wondering if I might have the courage to look at despair as he does. p.s. I write my review before reading other reviews - and then I go on to avidly read what others think. If you do that Painful - but insightful. I've read his later books (most recently The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, which is marvelously accessible to all kinds of readers,) and his humor and hope sustain one through the pain. This is his first book, and the pain is more raw, but the humor is still there. I am wondering if I might have the courage to look at despair as he does. p.s. I write my review before reading other reviews - and then I go on to avidly read what others think. If you do that, too, note all the times "raw" and "hope" are used. Not so many noted the humor; didn't others think it was hysterically funny?

  13. 4 out of 5

    Renee

    3.5 stars! The Business of Fancydancing" is another collection of some great short stories and mostly poetry by a brilliant writer.Sherman Alexie is one of my favorite authors but this book did not move me the way all of his other works did. Typically, I find myself re-reading pages of his novels because his descriptions remind me of a sucker punch-hard hitting and void of warning; not this time.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

    I spent some time rereading pieces and thinking them through as I read this collection. The Business of Fancydancing is Sherman Alexie's first book after having his poems published in other places. He relates on the back cover that he did not go through a writing program or school. I read it with that lens. A lot of the poetry I've been exposed to is spoken word, which similarly doesn't require a degree or expensive workshops. I appreciate the accessibility of ideas, different perspectives, plai I spent some time rereading pieces and thinking them through as I read this collection. The Business of Fancydancing is Sherman Alexie's first book after having his poems published in other places. He relates on the back cover that he did not go through a writing program or school. I read it with that lens. A lot of the poetry I've been exposed to is spoken word, which similarly doesn't require a degree or expensive workshops. I appreciate the accessibility of ideas, different perspectives, plain language, and reliance on storytelling/building a scene. The poems in this book definitely sound like poems to me, containing structure, lines that bite or provide a gut punch, callbacks to previously shared ideas. That's all present. It just feels more accessible than some other poetry I've read that pushes form so much that I'm not sure what's being said or purposely left unsaid. I felt that way at times while reading I Wore My Blackest Hair by Carolina Duan. Both collections have their merit and I don't mean to pit them against each other, just to illustrate a key difference in the style of someone educated to write poems and and someone who writes poems because if they didn't the stories would die within them. I appreciated the mix between poems and short stories. Nothing was more than 10 pages, if I can remember. That, for me, was an opportunity to absorb what was said, savor the word choices, and gobble up each line. I really loved the poem Distances in the first part of the book. It played with form, featuring a thought (no more than 3 sentences) separated by a line break and asterisks into the next fact or figure to present a stark picture of life on the reservation in Washington state. There was also a short story in the beginning of the book called "Translated from the American" where the speaker's grandmother renames her grandson in Salish, her native tongue. The speaker, the child's father objects because he and the mother had come up with a name for the child already but also because he doesn't speak any Salish at all. That disconnect from culture is so real in our colonized world and I don't read enough work that acknowledges it. It really got me. Overall, the Business of Fancydancing is definitely worth a read. It's very short, under 100 pages. There are powerhouse poems like "Father Coming Home" which are physically gorgeous on the page but also deeply striking and emotional. The focus is the reality of reservation life in the modern day, written in the '90s. There's mention of poverty, broken treaties, colonialism, and what it means to be Native.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Janée Baugher

    It's unusual to see a multigenre book (poetry and fiction), so kudos to Hanging Loose Press (NY) for this innovative collection. Conversational diction and highly accessible narratives that concern the American/Native Indian culture. From the piece, "Grandmother," the line "when she died / they gave me her clock," really resonated with me, as the same thing happened to me. It was like, "your time has not stopped, so here's a time piece to mark your continued presence while hers has stopped." Thr It's unusual to see a multigenre book (poetry and fiction), so kudos to Hanging Loose Press (NY) for this innovative collection. Conversational diction and highly accessible narratives that concern the American/Native Indian culture. From the piece, "Grandmother," the line "when she died / they gave me her clock," really resonated with me, as the same thing happened to me. It was like, "your time has not stopped, so here's a time piece to mark your continued presence while hers has stopped." Three poems in particular was so genius that I transcribed them by hand and have used them in my creative writing classes: "Penance," "At Navajo Monument Valley Tribal School," and "Indian Boy Love Song (#3)." Because I love ekphrasis, I was particularly delighted to see an ekphrastic poem that was influenced by a photograph by Skeet McAuley.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Andres Eguiguren

    This was Alexie's first published work, and it contains some 40 poems and five short stories in one slim volume. I am currently reading his memoir "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" (published in 2017) and his publications in the intervening twenty-five years make it clear that his work is very much autobiographical and largely inspired by his circumstances growing up poor in an Indian reservation in Washington State. This collection has many humorous, funny moments mixed in with the sad and ne This was Alexie's first published work, and it contains some 40 poems and five short stories in one slim volume. I am currently reading his memoir "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" (published in 2017) and his publications in the intervening twenty-five years make it clear that his work is very much autobiographical and largely inspired by his circumstances growing up poor in an Indian reservation in Washington State. This collection has many humorous, funny moments mixed in with the sad and nearly tragic, so the overall effect is somewhat bittersweet. I particularly liked the story "Special Delivery," where the main character's magical realism is fueled by alcoholism.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ramona Mead

    I expected to fly through this short book, but that wasn't the case. Although the poems and stories are each brief, I found I couldn't read more than two pieces at a time without needing to stop, to process and contemplate what I'd read. Alexie is able to say a great deal about Indian culture without using many words. His writing, as always, is vivid and lyrical. Each book of his I read opens my eyes and mind, more and more to the history and lifestyle of reservation Indians. He does important w I expected to fly through this short book, but that wasn't the case. Although the poems and stories are each brief, I found I couldn't read more than two pieces at a time without needing to stop, to process and contemplate what I'd read. Alexie is able to say a great deal about Indian culture without using many words. His writing, as always, is vivid and lyrical. Each book of his I read opens my eyes and mind, more and more to the history and lifestyle of reservation Indians. He does important work through his writing.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    This is a fragmented collection of poems and short stories that reveal pieces of the author’s life. You get pieces of how important his father, basketball, and his friendships were during this time, and you get some implicit and explicit commentary on relations between white people and native Americans. The best part about a collection like this is that you can almost read it in any order and get something out of it. I’m not sure where Sherman Alexie is today, but I hope he’s doing well.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Will Dole

    I've dipped into a few of Alexie's books, this was the first one I've finished. Sherman Alexie has an ability to paint with his words a couple of realities which many authors fail to portray. First, that broken people are capable of beautiful acts of love and loyalty. Second, that seemingly "together" people are themselves very broken. There are no flat characters in his writing. I found the short stories to be stronger than the poetry, but I don't read a ton of poetry.

  20. 5 out of 5

    H Lee

    The entire time I was reading this thin little book, I was at the brink of crying. I almost want to give group-hug to random people. I read “Pawn Shop” and I was done. I felt raw. It might as well be my beating heart “… I leave, searching the streets, searching storefronts, until I walk into a pawn shop, find a single heart beating under glass, and I know who it used to belong to, I know all of them.”

  21. 5 out of 5

    Edmund Davis-Quinn

    Some good stuff. I preferred the short narratives to the poetry. l prefer his short stories and especially "Part-Time Indian" which I adored. This was much slower going for me. I sometimes (or often) read too many books at once.

  22. 4 out of 5

    A.

    This man, Sherman Alexie, sexually abuses women serially and I will never support his work. Read the comments section: http://www.slj.com/2018/01/industry-n... This man, Sherman Alexie, sexually abuses women serially and I will never support his work. Read the comments section: http://www.slj.com/2018/01/industry-n...

  23. 4 out of 5

    Shawn Aebi

    A combination of tight, raw poetry and very short stories, this first collection by Alexis shows the grit of his writing. The Native American lifestyle is viewed with the widest of angles. The poetry at times has a rap like quality, amazing for early 90s writing.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    I liked it, but I didn't love it. I can trace the line from this to "Part-Time Diary" though.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Candace

    “....scanning the ground for that missing part, the part that came out whole and bloodless, but fills you up with how much it stays gone.”

  26. 5 out of 5

    Carrie Smith

    Indian Life This will give you a great glimpse into an Indians (possible) life. It will make you rethink yours and be glad you are not an Indian.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sutherland

    Time to separate art from the artist I guess.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rosemary

    Just reread this. It is Sherman Alexie's first book, consisting of poems and short prose pieces. His youthfulness shows but so does the promise of things that will be developed in his later books.

  29. 4 out of 5

    William A Warner Jr

    I really enjoyed these poems. Great for anyone interested in Native American/Indian poetry. This would be a good intro for highschool students as well.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Becerra

    It was incredible!

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