Saturday, March 19, 2016

March 18: Terribly Bitter, Adventure, Sherman Alexie, "How to Write the Great American Indian Novel"

Monarchs have always been assumed to taste terribly bitter, because of the acrid milkweed on which the caterpillars feed...

Yes, Dillard is writing about eating monarch butterflies.  A little later, she talks about an entomologist who put the above statement to the test.  He ate several monarchs and concluded that they tasted like "dried toast."  Imagine that.  During the annual monarch migration, when they are flying in great swarms over Lake Superior, they are, basically, winged loaves of bread.  It kind of kills the beauty of the image.  Turns it into a sort of Alice in Wonderland scene.

I love the idea of seeing a scientist munching on butterfly wings smeared with orange marmalade or peanut butter.  I have a writer friend who wouldn't have a problem with this.  He's tried a lot of foods that I would never let close to my lips.  Grasshoppers, deep fried into popcorn.  Pig brains on some sort of homemade tortilla served by a shriveled Mexican peasant woman. 

I am not like my friend.  I'm not adventurous when it comes to food . . . or anything.  This weekend, about the only adventurous thing I may do is sleep in a little tomorrow morning.  I have too much crap to get done over the next two days.  Grading.  Cleaning.  Reading.  I don't have time for adventure.  Ever. 

The only adventure Saint Marty will have this weekend is waking his daughter up for church on Sunday morning.

How to Write the Great American Indian Novel

by:  Sherman Alexie

All of the Indians must have tragic features: tragic noses, eyes, and arms.
Their hands and fingers must be tragic when they reach for tragic food.

The hero must be a half-breed, half white and half Indian, preferably
from a horse culture. He should often weep alone. That is mandatory.

If the hero is an Indian woman, she is beautiful. She must be slender
and in love with a white man. But if she loves an Indian man

then he must be a half-breed, preferably from a horse culture.
If the Indian woman loves a white man, then he has to be so white

that we can see the blue veins running through his skin like rivers.
When the Indian woman steps out of her dress, the white man gasps

at the endless beauty of her brown skin. She should be compared to nature:
brown hills, mountains, fertile valleys, dewy grass, wind, and clear water.

If she is compared to murky water, however, then she must have a secret.
Indians always have secrets, which are carefully and slowly revealed.

Yet Indian secrets can be disclosed suddenly, like a storm.
Indian men, of course, are storms. They should destroy the lives

of any white women who choose to love them. All white women love
Indian men. That is always the case. White women feign disgust

at the savage in blue jeans and T-shirt, but secretly lust after him.
White women dream about half-breed Indian men from horse cultures.

Indian men are horses, smelling wild and gamey. When the Indian man
unbuttons his pants, the white woman should think of topsoil.

There must be one murder, one suicide, one attempted rape.
Alcohol should be consumed. Cars must be driven at high speeds.

Indians must see visions. White people can have the same visions
if they are in love with Indians. If a white person loves an Indian

then the white person is Indian by proximity. White people must carry
an Indian deep inside themselves. Those interior Indians are half-breed

and obviously from horse cultures. If the interior Indian is male
then he must be a warrior, especially if he is inside a white man.

If the interior Indian is female, then she must be a healer, especially if she is inside
a white woman. Sometimes there are complications.

An Indian man can be hidden inside a white woman. An Indian woman
can be hidden inside a white man. In these rare instances,

everybody is a half-breed struggling to learn more about his or her horse culture.
There must be redemption, of course, and sins must be forgiven.

For this, we need children. A white child and an Indian child, gender
not important, should express deep affection in a childlike way.

In the Great American Indian novel, when it is finally written,
all of the white people will be Indians and all of the Indians will be ghosts.

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