As I was saying on Monday, today is Canada Day. As a way to celebrate, I will post a few reviews of Canadian short stories during the week and attempt to finish my tour of Canada through short stories (you can find links to all the stories I have reviewed here).
Choosing Thomas King (1943-) to illustrate Alberta is quite arbitrary as he was born in California and currently resides in Ontario. However, when he initially moved to Canada, in 1980, it was to teach in Alberta. King is of Cherokee and Greek origins and is considered as a spoke-man for indigenous populations. “One Good Story, That One” reflects these concerns.
The story is told in the voice of an Indian who sets to narrate a story to three white anthropologists. At first, he begins to tell them anecdotes about his friends, but his friend, Napiao, insists that he recount a good old story, a story of origins, “how the world was put together”. And so the narrator begins in a typically white-man fashion: “Once upon a time…”
The story he tells is no other than his own version of the Genesis. He has God creating the world, including a television and a grocery story, and a “not so smart” Ah-damn and a clever Evening, “she be Indian woman”. In his version, Ah-damn and Evening are also expelled from the garden of “Evening” – “just like Indian today” – by an angered God because they ate the “mee-so” and Ah-damn lied about the number he ate. He nearly forgets the snake in the story, but remembers to add it at the end, hissing because Evening has stuck an apple in its mouth. His version also includes coyote, the trickster, to whom the white men are compared at the end of the story. However, in this story, it is them who have been made fun of. They wanted a traditional indian story, but all they got was a subversion of their own myth of origin.
This parody of the biblical myth is hilarious and the story as a whole is funny and clever. King denounces the way white men appropriate Indian tales and properties in a humourous manner. The first thing that struck me was the rhythm, probably reminiscent of the way native storyteller would narrate a story. The English is broken and interspersed by numerous Indian words, but this only adds to the pleasure this story gives.