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Critical Context

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Like N. Scott Momaday and James Welch, two highly successful contemporary Native American writers, Silko writes within the Native American oral tradition— appropriately so, since her main agenda is the reaffirmation of tribal ways and tribal reality. She has been hailed as one of the most important writers of her time, and Almanac of the Dead is, to say the least, a massive undertaking. The novel, nearly eight hundred pages in length, is nothing short of Silko’s personally constructed view of the apocalypse. As in her previous work, especially her novel Ceremony (1977), she maintains the imperative need for a return to spirituality and to traditional beliefs. Almanac of the Dead, however, is rampant with graphic violence and can be a disturbing, even agonizing, reading experience; Silko, no doubt, purposefully intensifies the witchery in her novel with this vivid manner of depiction in order to indelibly print the harsh realities into the minds of her readers. The novel, despite its weaknesses, is amazingly successful, inescapably haunting.