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How to Teach a True Spokane Story: Learning Sherman Alexie’s Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven Through Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried
AURCO Journal
  • Michael E. Kaufmann, Indiana University - Purdue University Fort Wayne
Document Type
Article
Publication Date
1-1-2012
Inclusive pages
83-98
Publisher
Association of University Regional Campuses of Ohio
Place of Publication
Kent State University
Peer Reviewed
Yes
Abstract

Essay covers how teachers can build on O’Brien’s Things to explain Alexie’s strategy in Lone Ranger and Tonto. Sherman Alexie asserts that even though he altered many of the details, names, and events in his various stories, they are still true. In fact, they are “truer” because “they’re in a book” (LRT xx) Despite the insistence on the truth of the stories, Alexie admits that the stories “are the vision of one individual looking at the lives of his family and his entire tribe, so these stories are necessarily biased, incomplete, exaggerated, deluded, and often just plain wrong. But in trying to make them true and real, I am writing what might be called reservation realism.” He continue, asking “What is the definition of reservation realism? Well, I’ll let you read the book and figure that out for yourself” (TLR xxi). Alexie’s statement presents a contradictory definition that is reminiscent of Tim O’Brien’s similarly contradictory attempt to define how to tell a true war story in the Things They Carried. O’Brien’s definition similarly asserts that “a thing may happen and be a total lie, another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth” (TTC 89). The difference, the narrator notes later, lies in the fact that “storytruth is sometimes truer than happening truth” (TTC 203). I contend that O’Brien’s “story-truth” helped Alexie define his concept of “reservation realism,” a realism built of his autobiographical experience but expanded and revised into a “higher” realism.

Keywords
  • Sherman Alexie,
  • Tonto and Lone Ranger;Tim O'Brien,
  • Things They Carried; trauma; American Fiction,
  • Twentieth Century; short story sequence
Citation Information
Michael E. Kaufmann. "How to Teach a True Spokane Story: Learning Sherman Alexie’s Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven Through Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried" AURCO Journal Vol. 17 (2012)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/michael_kaufmann/5/