Alcoholism, drug abuse, poverty, aimlessness, and death—always death—weigh heavily on the characters in Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories (Grove/Atlantic, October 2), the latest from Sherman Alexie. Shuffled in with the classics—“The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven,” “The Toughest Indian in the World”—are 16 new tales. Together they reveal the Seattle writer’s mastery of powerful sentences and penchant for infusing his yarns with autobiography: infantile hydrocephalus features in “War Dances,” high-school basketball stardom in “Whatever Happened to Frank Snake Church,” and the existential quandary of an Indian removed from the reservation in almost every story. But because this is Sherman Alexie, all that misery is tempered with sardonic—if fatalistic—humor. “Why should we organize a reservation high school reunion?” one character asks. “My graduating class has a reunion every weekend at the Powwow Tavern.”

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