Having recently turned 50, novelist and essayist Wideman (Brothers and Keepers; Fatheralong) pushes his narrative limits in this collection of meditative, even brooding, essays of childhood, family rites of passage and the art and magic of basketball. The familiar "hoops" metaphor offers Wideman a chance to wax poetic about the physical and emotional demands of the game, its competitive fire, mandatory team play, artistry, style and life lessons. Basketball, which Wideman loved as a child, now unites the aging writer with his three children, including a daughter who plays for the top-ranked Stanford University women's team. At a time of personal loss, marital strife and diminished physical ability, he cherishes the feelings of power and control he first felt as a teen handling the ball in his fabled Homewood community in Pittsburgh. In this rambling but consistently challenging work, Wideman turns his wise, analytical eye on such topics as male privilege, interracial love, violence among young black men, the marketing of Michael Jordan and the basketball court as a classroom where men learn skills that will serve them in the larger white world. Some of the most affecting moments occur when Wideman vividly recalls the decline and death of his beloved grandparents and the temptation a comely young student briefly posed to him. Darkened by uncharacteristic spurts of melancholy and regret, this occasionally brilliant tribute to basketball, survival and families linked by blood, joy and tragedy is as exhilarating as a few fast and furious hours on the court. (Oct.)
Forecast:Backed by an extensive tour and publicity, Wideman's latest should find a responsive readership among his loyal readers as well as basketball fans still reeling from the most exciting NBA season since the departure of Michael Jordan.