A zany, over the top novel, and a delightful read.
Story blurb: Set against the harsh reality of an unforgiving landscape and culture, The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon provides a vision of the Old West unlike anything seen before. The narrator, Shed, is one of the most memorable characters in contemporary fiction: a half-Indian bisexual boy who lives and works at the Indian Head Hotel in the tiny town of Excellent, Idaho. It’s the turn of the century, and the hotel carries on a prosperous business as the town’s brothel. The eccentric characters working in the hotel provide Shed with a surrogate family, yet he finds in himself a growing need to learn the meaning of his Indian name, Duivichi-un-Dua, given to him by his mother, who was murdered when he was twelve. Setting off alone across the haunting plains, Shed goes in search of an identity among his true people, encountering a rich pageant of extraordinary characters along the way. Although he learns a great deal about the mysteries and traditions of his Indian heritage, it is not until Shed returns to Excellent and witnesses a series of brutal tragedies that he attains the wisdom that infuses this exceptional and captivating book.
Review by Gerry Burnie
Although published in 2000, I first read The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon by Tom Spanbauer [Grove Press; Reprint edition (January 6, 2000)] some five years ago – which attest to my theory that because a novel is dated, it doesn’t render it any less enjoyable.
Indeed, like a fine wine, many novels grow into currency as the society matures enough to appreciate them.
The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon is a zany novel, reminiscent of the 1960s “Hippy” culture when no subject was taboo, and “far out” meant exactly that.
It is told from the first-person perspective of Shed (short for ‘Out-in-The-Shed’), a half-blood, orphaned boy, whose birth under the front porch of a whorehouse in Excellent, Idaho, sets off a journey of self-discovery over time and across two nations – Indian and white.
The town’s characters make up a good part of the story, from Ida Richilieu – the presiding madam at the Indian Head Hotel; to the blacksmith who wore Vaseline filled gloves to keep his hands soft; to ‘something-or-other’ Dave, the town’s mentally-challenged character, who pissed himself every time he became excited.
Nonetheless, there is a compelling quest that keeps the story moving, both parenthetically and literally, when Shed goes looking for his mother’s Bannock-Indian heritage.
Not surprising, it is not what he expects to find – not ideally anyway – but the adventure answers at least part of it.
However, it is not until he returns to Excellent that the rest is revealed, and his quest is set to rest. Four bees.
A word about political correctness
A number of people have assessed this book on the basis of its non-politically-correct references to Indians and Mormons. In this regard, I found nothing that could be considered offensive to either.
In my opinion, political correctness is the antithesis of creative writing. Political correctness was an artificial construct dreamt up by a gaggle of cocktail-sipping matrons who wanted to offer ‘gentility’ to the oppressed classes. Thereby, they introduced a tyranny titles that far surpassed anything that had been in place before. Moreover, since then, it has lost any minimal relevance it may have had to become a source of division and discord.
This review does not practice political correctness, never has and never will, and will never assess creativity by any such narrow-minded constrict.
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