Sherman Alexie

Since Sherman Alexie burst onto the literary scene in the early '90s, he's been so productive as a poet, short-story writer, novelist, and even film director that you still picture him as the laughing, long-haired young man on the book jacket. It's a bit of a shock to realize that our city's preeminent fiction writer is now at mid-career, a man in his mid 40s, with wife and kids. He still plays basketball, but maybe a step slower—like the rest of us graying jocks. Alexie's new anthology, Blasphemy (Grove Press, $27), spans some 20 years, adding 15 new stories to favorites like "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven." In the new "Basic Training," he describes the carnival attraction/sport of donkey basketball (new to me, at least), in which players ride donkeys around the court. As father and son ply the family trade, the story is initially comic and full of funny asides. (On the Blackfeet reservation, a woman explains how "Mormons are the superstars of trying to save Indians." One of the donkey wranglers frets how his herd sport has "suddenly become a nearly exclusive Republican tradition.") But then the tone shifts: The son wants to leave the business, there's a wreck, and the donkeys assume a tragic grandeur (There's your artistry for you: From humble materials and plain language, Alexie builds to poignant effect.) Why do the reading so late (it concludes at midnight)? Blasphemy's official publication date is tomorrow, Tuesday, so the typically energetic Alexie wants to get an early start on things. Maybe he hasn't slowed down at all. (Also: Oct. 23 at Third Place Books.) BRIAN MILLER

Mon., Oct. 8, 7 p.m.; Tue., Oct. 23, 7 p.m., 2012

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