ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
BOOK BUYER’S PICK
Thomas King’s search for himself led to success
By Dorman T. Shindler
For anyone who “I met this woman who was also a uni-knows Thomas versity professor, who had just come away
King, it comes from a divorce,” King recalls. “I wanted to
as no surprise impress her, so I asked her friends what she
that many of the char- liked. They said, ‘She likes writers.’”
acters in Green Grass, After writing several short stories that im-
love of reading with
Costco members is something I like to
do almost as much as reading itself. When
I write these “Pennie’s Picks” it’s my goal
to get across why I think the book I’ve
selected is worth your time. This month’s
pick, Green Grass, Running Water, by
Thomas King, is a good example.
Running Water are pressed his wife-to-be, Professor Helen Hoy,
either searching for King decided, “If I keep writing stories about
their place in life or these two characters [Will and Harlen Bigbear]
trying to make some I’ll have a novel!”
sense out of the chaos That first novel, Medicine River, pub-aroundthem. lished in 1990, won awards and critical
Creating a complex web of myth, folklore and modern times, King paints a story
of five Blackfoot Indians who are heading to
a Blackfoot reservation for the Sun Dance.
Each battles his or her own problems. On
the reservation they meet four Indian
elders—and their companion, the trickster
Coyote. Their lives will never be the same.
King’s father, a acclaim, and was eventually optioned by the
Cherokee Indian, abandoned King, his broth- Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for a TV
er and their Greek-German mother when King movie. But even before all of those acco-was only 2 years old. Although King grew up lades, King was hooked. “As soon as I fin-inamulticultural Californianeighborhoodthat ished that book, I knew that was what
accepted his ethnicity, once he moved into the I wanted to do. So I started another one.”
world at large it became a central issue for That next novel turned out to be 1993’s
him. “As you move outside those communi- Green Grass, Running Water, King’s most
ties,” says King, during a recent telephone popular novel yet. Detailing the ups and
interview from his home in Guelph, Ontario, downs of the lives of a group of Native
Released more than a decade ago, this
novel remains one of my favorite reads. It
was important to me to bring this back into
the warehouses to share with you. While
I can’t say that it’s a particularly easy read,
I can say that it is very funny and enjoyable.
Green Grass, Running Water is available in most warehouses and at costco.com.
—Pennie Clark Ianniciello,
Costco Book Buyer
FOR MORE OF PENNIE’S PICKS
TURN TO PAGE 17.
“people look at you and say, ‘You look a little Americans who live in Canada, the novel, ask the important question, “Who is an Indian
different. Who are you?’ The question says King, is a comical “cornucopia of puns and how do we get this idea of Indianness?”
becomes one of identity. Native people, at on Western literature and Western theology.” Althoughhischaractersmaystruggle with
some point in time, especially mixed bloods, Basically, King wanted to write a book that it, for King personal identity is no longer an
make a decision on who they’re going to be.” “dealt with a different way of looking at the issue. “After I moved out of that [childhood]
It took Thomas King more than the usual world—that re-created the world on the basis neighborhood, the notion of who I was became
amount of time to figure out who he wanted to of another culture, rather than this Judeo- really strong,” he says. And
be. His search for identity took him to New Christian culture that is fairly prevalen t even though he recently
Zealand and Australia, where he made a living in most novels.” began writing scripts and
as a photojournalist. Eventually, his travels He also wanted to emphasize acting for The Dead Dog
brought him back to North America, where he the fact that American Indians are Comedy Café Hour (a radio
became a professor of English and American more than just stereotypes, showing show he started because of
Indian literature. While teaching at the that they are as three-dimensional as his love for the tradition of
University of Lethbridge, in Alberta, King took Caucasians. The nature of identity is oral storytelling), he is
further control over his identity: He became a also an important theme in the novel. well aware of his identity
writer—and not just to satiate a creative urge. King says the book and its characters as a writer.
Truth and Bright
Water, King’s third
Book Giveaway novel, was published by
Grove/Atlantic to more
acclaim in 2000. And
he’s nearly finished with his fourth book.
“In some ways,” he says, “you craft your own
identities.… I’m a storyteller.” C
Costco has 10 autographed copies of No purchase is necessary. Entries must
Thomas King’s Green Grass, Running be received or postmarked by March 1, 2005.
Water to give away. To enter, print Void where prohibited. Employees of Costco
your name, membership number, address and and their families are not eligible. Winners will
daytime phone number on a postcard or letter be notified by mail. One entry per household.
and send to: Thomas King, The Costco Send your feedback on
Connection, P.O. Box 34088, Seattle, WA this month’s book to:
98124-1088, or fax it to (425) 313-6718.
Dorman T. Shindler, a freelance writer from
Missouri, contributes regularly to Amazing
Stories, Better Homes and Gardens, Kansas
City Magazine and Publishers Weekly.