Stories of John Edgar Wideman

John Edgar Wideman, Author Pantheon Books $25 (432p) ISBN 978-0-679-40719-5
Once again Wideman ( Philadelphia Fire ) chronicles the black experience in urban America with great intensity and lyricism. Drastic shifts from fierce to tender are common in this collection of 35 stories, as are fragments of conversations and wistful childhood memories negated by adult experiences. Many tales focus on a family living in Pittsburgh's Homewood area. The book's first section, ``All Stories Are True,'' has specific inspiration from Wideman's own life; it features 10 new stories told in the voices of parents whose son is incarcerated, the adult siblings of the jailed man, and the criminal himself, who resigns himself to the consequences of his misdeeds. Other standouts here include a journalist's jarring recollection of fear and violence in South Africa and the disarming story of a black graduate student's struggle to cope with bigotry. The two remaining groups of tales were previously collected. ``Fever'' (1989) offers wide-ranging narratives in which bright miracles give protagonists hope in a harsh urban environment, while ``Damballah'' (1981) returns to the extended family in Homewood. Wideman's characters struggle to balance contrasting currents of gentleness and rage; his furious prose borders on poetry and reveals a masterful feel for the spoken word. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/01/1992
Release date: 06/01/1992
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 978-0-517-17185-1
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