Friday, June 20, 2008

the greatest literary figure of our century

i have a new favorite author.

he recently won the national book award for the absolutely true diary of a part-time indian, but i didn't read it. he has had several novels honored as new york times notable books, including
indian killer and the business of fancydancing, but i haven't read them. he received the PEN/hemingway award for best first book of fiction for the lone ranger and tonto fistfight in heaven, but i didn't read it. my newest favorite literary figure has even appeared on a new yorker's best writers list.

so who is this fellow that wins my praise without hardly a glance at his novels?

he is
sherman joseph alexie, jr., S-H-E-R-M-A-N, last name A-L-E-X-I-E, the great champion of sonics basketball and the gabbiest witness ever known to seattle law.

as an aspiring literary editor, i sometimes feel constrained by the categories of good literature, as if my life should be a series of witty remarks, fine wines, and twisting metaphors, as if everything must add up to transcendence and truth, as if anything less than poetic is second rate.

but that's all wrong.

and today, as mr. sherman alexie, one of washington state's great writers, testified about the value of professional sports, especially the sonics, i was reminded again that the value of everything in this life is to some degree a function of artifice, emotion, and quality. and inasmuch as sonics basketball typifies these characteristics, it is valuable.

later this year, if the city's lawsuit is unsuccesful, the seattle courts may attempt to put a price tag on that value--is sonics basketbal worth $10 million to the city? is it worth $50 million? $100 million?--but really it is invaluable.

OK, so why is alexie so great? well, besides knocking me on the head and reminding me that i need not make excuses for liking the sonics, or cheeseburgers, or gas-powered motorboats, alexie also gives a crazy diverse testimony. he takes the courtroom and transforms it into a canvas where he paints NBA basketball as a unifying force for families and cultures and, you got to see this to believe it, a playground for our century's hercules and athena.

i love this.

Q: Say they plan to leave at the end of the lease term, why renew for those final two years?
A: . . . I want two more years of the Greek gods. (search for alexie)


Beth said...

I clicked on that link, and must have spent an hour reading through the trial proceedings. It's actually kind of interesting, like watching a John Grisham book-turned-into-movie.