October 13th, 2009 5:33 pm | by India Nicholas News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP

Live from Wordstock: Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie

2 PM, Sunday, October 11 at the Oregon Convention Center

A Sherman Alexie reading is not like your typical Wordstock event. There were more moments that reminded me of last month's David Cross show than encounters with the other dozen authors I have seen read since the summer's start. His sharp wit and quick feet—I think his physical comedy almost made him fall off of the stage twice—left the room stifling giggles for over 90 minutes.

I say stifling because Alexie's jokes are never about comfortable subjects. And Portlanders, however open-minded they claim to be, cannot handle comedy about racism. (As Alexie himself pointed out, we are “even whiter than [his hometown of] Seattle.”) We can, on the other hand, seem to handle jokes about Alexie's other favorite topic: basketball. The crowd was near hyperventilation after his impression of Obama's lay-up, but was quickly lost again when he took a swing at the President's recent win of the Nobel Peace Prize. “So, are we just giving out the Nobel Prize for being a Cool Black Guy?” was met with a few muffled giggles. Apparently, we Portlanders are not ready to make fun of our beloved Barack just yet.

Alexie's stand up was cut short when he finally broke out his new book, War Dances. That said, his poems were comedic in themselves. The first, about his father, was written in the style of an exam, hard questions about alcoholism phrased with true-or-false simplicity. The second, Ode to MixTapes, was a love poem to his childhood hobby.

This is what continues to bring Alexie readers back. A range in topics but a consistency in comedic voice allows us to dive into the genre of poetry without fear of being swallowed by sentiment. So, keep writing, Sherman! And I'll keep blushing and coughing awkwardly.
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