Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Bad, Fake Indian Writing
David Treuer says that if you remove the "Indian," the bad writing usually reveals itself.
Tragedy is a shortcut that sells, and the particular tragedy of being an Indian has an amazing ability to make readers lose their capacities to discern good writing from bad, interesting ideas from vapid ones. In Little Tree, for instance, the most commonplace things are elevated to the level of poetry by virtue of their perceived degree of Indian-ness: "They gave themselves to nature," he writes, "not trying to subdue it, or pervert it, but to live with it. And so they loved the thought, and loving it grew to be it, so that they could not think as the white man." Nasdijj and Carter truck in homilies, Jones in homies—as in, "I hated that they had taken my big homie and even more that they had taken my sense of security"—but the result is the same: awful, impossible writing. Once you remove the author's Indian identity, the bad writing reveals itself.