I believe the best way to describe this partly autobiographical story is as an illness travelogue. Alexie prepares his reader for a strange journey by making the first stop his discovery of a dead cockroach in his suitcase. This allusion to The Metamorphosis works wonderfully well for the Kafkaesque remainder of the journey.  His bodily journey moves from loss of hearing to possible meningioma to his doctor's proclamation that his "brain is beautiful." His existential/psychological/cultural journey, triggered by his bodily suffering, moves in multiple directions: to time spent with his dying father, his own experience with hydrocephalus, his grandfather's death in WWII, and his loving relationships with his children, wife and brother-in-law.


This story fits quite nicely within Arthur Frank's conception of the "Chaos Narrative" (see annotation of The Wounded Storyteller). It's also very funny, wonderfully irreverent, and heart-warming to boot.


The book, War Dances, won the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

Primary Source

New Yorker, August 10, 2009

Page Count