Saturday, October 3, 2020

"Winter Counts"

David Heska Wanbli Weiden, an enrolled member of the Sicangu Lakota nation, is author of the novel Winter Counts. Winter Counts is a New York Times Editors’ Choice, and has been selected as an Amazon Best Book of August, Best of the Month by Apple Books, a September main selection of the Book of the Month Club, and was an Indie Next Great Reads pick for September.

Weiden applied the Page 69 Test to Winter Counts and reported the following:
On page 69 of Winter Counts, my protagonist Virgil Wounded Horse and his ex-girlfriend Marie Short Bear are driving to Denver (to find a heroin dealer) but stop in Nebraska where they discover the Carhenge site, an actual roadside attraction in the town of Alliance. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. About twenty old cars were buried in the ground, front bumper down, standing straight up like monoliths. They were arranged in a large circle, and I realized that they were obviously some sort of bizarre homage to Stonehenge. Not only were the cars buried on their edges, the artist had placed some autos on top of the others as a kind of cap or connector, just like at the real Stonehenge monument. There were a few cars buried on their sides in the center of the circle, serving as the focus of the installation.”

So how well does the “page 69 test” work for Winter Counts? I would give it a mixed review. That page doesn’t really portray any of the book’s central themes: identity, the role of violence in American society, or the historic oppression of indigenous people. On the other hand, it does provide some of Virgil’s cynical commentary as well as introduce some Lakota words in the form of graffiti spray-painted on one of the cars. “Graffiti scarred some of the cars’ bodies. I saw ARCHY SUCKS, I LOVE MEHITABEL, DADDY LONGLEGZ, and in the corner, WANAGI TACAKU.” In addition, I built in some hidden commentary in the meaning of the graffiti, but, to my knowledge, no reviewer has yet picked up on that. I won’t spoil the fun by revealing my intentions for the graffiti’s cultural significance, but will leave that to readers and acknowledge that perhaps the “page 69 test” revealed something unexpected in this book.
Visit David Heska Wanbli Weiden's website.

--Marshal Zeringue