The Fencepost Chronicles

by W. P. Kinsella
190 pages,
ISBN: 0395446465

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by Lenore Keeshig Tobias

This is W.P. Kinsella's fifth collection of "Indian stories" featuring the zany Cree trickster Frank Fencepost and master storyteller/writer Silas Ermineskin. From the local stomping ground of the home rez we trail these two coyotes as they crisscross the continent, sometimes venturing beyond. Bedelia Coyote, Indian feminist, reserve watchdog, and activist, is along to keep these two anti-heroes on track - more or less - as is heavyweight medicine woman, Mad Etta, whom they tote about in a tree-trunk chair . . . and there's more of these Hobbema types.
During the constitutional lobbying campaign in London, England, Frank and Silas wind up in Buckingham Palace for a midnight pow wow - and a cigarette - with the Queen. Next thing you know, these guys will be wandering about in the USSR. From there it is back to Hobberna in time to cash in on another benevolent program, a cross-Native cultural experience, sponsored by the Government of course. There is the poignant and ambivalent wait in the Fort Simpson fog, where in anticipation of the Pope's visit everything -rocks included - has been whitewashed and the brown grass of a northern autumn has been covered with imported rolls of fake grass. Yes, it is just one adventure or misadventure after another, but thank goodness murder and death are no longer part of the scenario in this collection of short stories.
Unlike Kinsella's earlier books, The Fencepost Chronicles has a more comic-like edge; it pushes too hard for laughs, as if it were competing with "Tumbleweed," the Indian cartoon strip. Our young story-teller takes himself too seriously now, and his sense of humour at times becomes beer parlour vulgarity. Since Moccasin Telegraph (1983) and his growing success as an Indian writer, Silas Ermineskin seems to have grown a mite cynical. Is success going to his head? Is he heading for disillusionment? Maybe now it is time for him to melt back into the prairie brush.

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