cover image Look for Me and I’ll Be Gone

Look for Me and I’ll Be Gone

John Edgar Wideman. Scribner, $26 (336p) ISBN 978-1-982148-94-2

Two-time PEN/Faulkner winner Wideman’s bold latest (after You Made Me Love You) resonates with themes of racial identity, incarceration, poverty, and history. The stage is set with a quick one-two: the brief stream-of-consciousness opening story, “Art of Story,” and “Last Day,” in which the narrator ponders visiting his brother in prison, where his Blackness is felt in “hard, rigid, premeditated” overtones. A boy’s sadness is palpable in the gorgeous “Separation” as he stands by his beloved grandfather’s coffin while the narrator recounts the family’s heritage as a tender requiem. A letter written to R&B legend Freddie Jackson forms the soul of the epistolary “Arizona” as the narrator travels to prison with his son and his lawyers so his son can continue serving a life sentence for murder. A brother anxiously awaits a reunion, 44 years in the making, with his formerly incarcerated brother in “Penn Station.” Other gems feature Wideman’s piercing observations; in “BTM,” the narrator recounts seeing the three letters painted on the side of a building in New York City, then transformed to “BLM,” and reflects on the “hopelessness of railing against race.” Wideman’s memorable collection reinforces his reputation as a witty and provocative social observer and raconteur who challenges stereotypes and creatively reaffirms the realities of Black American life. Agent: Jin Auh, the Wylie Agency. (Nov.)