I Got Somebody in Staunton: Stories

Overview

In twelve graceful, sensual stories, William Henry Lewis traces the line between the real and the imaginary, acknowledging the painful ghosts of the past in everyday encounters. Written in a style that has been acclaimed by our finest writers, from Edward P. Jones and Nikki Giovanni to Dave Eggers, I Got Somebody in Staunton is one of the most highly praised literary events to take on contemporary America.

In the title story, a young professor befriends an enigmatic white woman ...

See more details below
Paperback (Reprint)
$12.35
BN.com price
(Save 4%)$12.95 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (51) from $1.99   
  • New (13) from $3.96   
  • Used (38) from $1.99   
Sending request ...

Overview

In twelve graceful, sensual stories, William Henry Lewis traces the line between the real and the imaginary, acknowledging the painful ghosts of the past in everyday encounters. Written in a style that has been acclaimed by our finest writers, from Edward P. Jones and Nikki Giovanni to Dave Eggers, I Got Somebody in Staunton is one of the most highly praised literary events to take on contemporary America.

In the title story, a young professor befriends an enigmatic white woman in a bar along the back roads of Virginia, but has second thoughts about driving her to a neighboring town as his uncle's stories of lynchings resonate through his mind. Another tale portrays a Kansas City jazz troupe's travels to Denver, where they hope to strike it big. Meanwhile, a man in the midst of paradise must decide whether he will languish or thrive.

With I Got Somebody in Staunton Lewis has lyrically and unflinchingly chronicled the lives of those most often neglected.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Peter Matthiessen on In the Arms of Elders
“Lewis is an exceptionally promising new writer…intelligent and skilled and very interesting, with a sharp and compassionate eye.”
—Dave Eggers
“Sentence by sentence, this deeply felt and lyrical collection proves that Lewis is a master of the short story.”
—Edward P. Jones
“Lewis’s new collection of stories is tender, ironic, disturbing, and always poetic. His work is a treasure.”
—Percival Everett
“These are quiet, deadly stories, beautifully rendered and exquisitely American.”
—Nikki Giovanni
“The art of the short story is seduction. And how lovely it is to visit with this amazing voice.”
—Lacey Galbraith
“Lewis’ language is tight and controlled, smooth even, weighted with rhythm and complexity.”
--Dave Eggers
“Sentence by sentence, this deeply felt and lyrical collection proves that Lewis is a master of the short story.”
--Edward P. Jones
“Lewis’s new collection of stories is tender, ironic, disturbing, and always poetic. His work is a treasure.”
--Percival Everett
“These are quiet, deadly stories, beautifully rendered and exquisitely American.”
--Nikki Giovanni
“The art of the short story is seduction. And how lovely it is to visit with this amazing voice.”
--Lacey Galbraith
“Lewis’ language is tight and controlled, smooth even, weighted with rhythm and complexity.”
Elle
“Haunting, nuanced...With effortless elegance...an important reminder that...the best things are still well worth waiting for.”
Elle
“Haunting, nuanced...With effortless elegance...an important reminder that...the best things are still well worth waiting for.”
O magazine
“Lyrical, risk-taking collection. Lewis renders beautifully the sadness of both those left behind and those who’ve done the leaving.”
Time Out New York
“Powerful...rhythmic lilt to these stories... making plain the uncertainties of blacks in America— a subject Lewis handles with skill.”
Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Magnificent description brings to life characters we all have encountered...That is the mark of an accomplished writer.”
Providence Journal
“Lewis, master storyteller, seems less concerned with poetic language as he writes simply and powerfully of inner and exterior landscapes.”
New York Times Book Review
“Lewis’s stories of love, loss and longing have a sensuous appeal... and earn their keep in the last lines.”
Los Angeles Times
“Resplendent. The stories are beautifully written and carefully crafted.”
Washington Post
“Lewis is both an artistic and a political writer. . . . [with] a notable gift for prose poetry.”
Pittsburgh Tribune
“Intriguing, thought-provoking collection.”
Boston Globe
“Moving but unsentimental, these are stories of hard-won wisdom, potent intelligence, and compassion for the cadence of everyday life.”
Entertainment Weekly
“Lewis beautifully renders the odd, quiet moments before and after life’s explosive events”
Richmond Times-Dispatch
"Magnificent description brings to life characters we all have encountered...That is the mark of an accomplished writer."
O magazine
“Lyrical, risk-taking collection. Lewis renders beautifully the sadness of both those left behind and those who’ve done the leaving.”
Los Angeles Times
"Resplendent. The stories are beautifully written and carefully crafted."
New York Times Book Review
"Lewis’s stories of love, loss and longing have a sensuous appeal... and earn their keep in the last lines."
Elle
"Haunting, nuanced...With effortless elegance...an important reminder that...the best things are still well worth waiting for."
Entertainment Weekly
"Lewis beautifully renders the odd, quiet moments before and after life’s explosive events"
Washington Post
"Lewis is both an artistic and a political writer. . . . [with] a notable gift for prose poetry."
Boston Globe
"Moving but unsentimental, these are stories of hard-won wisdom, potent intelligence, and compassion for the cadence of everyday life."
Pittsburgh Tribune
"Intriguing, thought-provoking collection."
Time Out New York
"Powerful...rhythmic lilt to these stories... making plain the uncertainties of blacks in America— a subject Lewis handles with skill."
Providence Journal
"Lewis, master storyteller, seems less concerned with poetic language as he writes simply and powerfully of inner and exterior landscapes."
O Magazine
"Lyrical, risk-taking collection. Lewis renders beautifully the sadness of both those left behind and those who’ve done the leaving."
Dave Eggers
"Sentence by sentence, this deeply felt and lyrical collection proves that Lewis is a master of the short story."
Edward P. Jones
"Lewis’s new collection of stories is tender, ironic, disturbing, and always poetic. His work is a treasure."
Percival Everett
"These are quiet, deadly stories, beautifully rendered and exquisitely American."
Nikki Giovanni
"The art of the short story is seduction. And how lovely it is to visit with this amazing voice."
Lacey Galbraith
"Lewis’ language is tight and controlled, smooth even, weighted with rhythm and complexity."
Lizzie Skurnick
Lewis's stories glide along in the present with methodical dips into the past; they're in no hurry to reach their conclusion. Rather than build, Lewis circles, and this ellipticism can be maddening. But there is a lot of heart and feeling here, and quite a few of Lewis's stories earn their keep in their last lines.
— The New York Times
Darryl Lorenzo Wellington
I Got Somebody in Staunton is significant because it dramatizes the oppression still faced by millions of people today, especially in the conservative small towns of America. Lewis is not a trendy hip-hop stylist or a viciously satirical postmodernist with a knack for making fun of America's racial obsession. He is a quieter sort of writer who reminds us that beneath the hype are ordinary people struggling with racist employers, lost fathers, lack of education and fears of stepping out of line and threatening the status quo. Some of those people live in Washington power circles and upscale Manhattan; some of them live in Staunton, Va.
— The Washington Post
Kirkus Reviews
Lewis's second collection (after In the Arms of Our Elders, 1995) ranges in setting from Bedford-Stuyvesant to Denver, showing him a storyteller with a superb sense of place. "Shades," about a boy who catches his first glimpse of his father at 14 on the streets of his Tennessee hometown, is remarkable equally for its portrait of the boy's mother as for his sketch of the man who left the morning the boy was conceived. "Kudzu," about a chilly encounter with a once earthy lover, and "In the Swamp," about a man who takes his fiancee back to his hometown for the funeral of a man who briefly filled the role of a father in his life, are also Tennessee-set, using the land as an effective backdrop to a young man's growth. "For the Brothers Who Ain't Here" is named for the libation someone always poured on the sidewalk when beers were opened on the stoop in Bed-Stuy-for those "shot over two six packs," "up at Attica for ten," or "left for college and never came back." The piece is about a deception that leads to an innocent man getting fiercely beaten, even though "Nothing was supposed to happen." The title story is a masterpiece of nuance, combining a sexually charged narrative with a meditation on historic lynchings. Clive, a history professor, picks up a flirtatious white woman at a bar in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and agrees to drive her to Staunton, where he's headed to visit his revered but ailing uncle Izelle. Observing the attention paid to his new "friend" by a group of white men at a gas station, Clive lingers at the Coke machine, "thinking of Bayard Rustin, snuck out of Montgomery in the trunk of a car." As the trip continues, he thinks back to tales he's heard from Izelle over theyears, including what happened to the Scottsboro boys when "a White girl was in the mix."Evocative stories with a potent kick. Agent: Nina Graybill/Graybill & English
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060536664
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/4/2006
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 7.98 (w) x 5.24 (h) x 0.58 (d)

Meet the Author

William Henry Lewis is the prizewinning author of a previous story collection, In the Arms of Our Elders. His fiction has appeared in America's top literary journals and several anthologies. He has been honored with many awards, including a prize for short fiction from the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation, he was a finalist for the 2005 PEN Faulkner Prize for Fiction, and he is the 2006 recipient of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association Fiction Honor Award.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

I Got Somebody in Staunton

Stories
By William Henry Lewis

Amistad

ISBN: 0-06-053665-9


Chapter One

I was fourteen that summer. August brought heat I had never known, and during the dreamlike drought of those days I saw my father for the first time in my life. The tulip poplars faded to yellow before September came. There had been no rain for weeks, and the people's faces along Eleventh Street wore a longing for something cool and wet, something distant, like the promise of a balmy October. Talk of weather was of the heat and the dry taste in their mouths. And they were frustrated, having to notice something other than the weather in their daily pleasantries. Sometimes, in the haven of afternoon porch shade or in the still and cooler places of late night, they drank and laughed, content because they had managed to make it through the day.

What I noticed was the way the skin of my neighbors glistened as they toiled in their backyards, trying to save their gardens or working a few more miles into their cars. My own skin surprised me each morning in the mirror, becoming darker and darker, my hair lightening, dispelling my assumption that it had always been a curly black - the whole of me a new and stranger blend of browns from day after day of basketball on asphalt courts or racing the other boys down the street after the Icee truck each afternoon.

I came to believe that it was the heat that made things happen. It was a summer of empty sidewalks, people I knew drifting through the alleyways where trees gave more shade, the dirt there cooler to walk on than any paved surface. Strangers would walk through the neighborhood seemingly lost, the dust and sun's glare making the place look like somewhere else they were trying to go. Sitting on our porch, I watched people I'd never seen before walk by and melt into those rippling pools of heat glistening above the asphalt as if something must be happening just beyond where that warmth quivered down the street. At night I'd look out from the porch of our house, a few blocks off Eleventh, and scan the neighborhood, wanting some change, something besides the nearby rumble of freight trains and the monotony of heat, something refreshing and new. In heat like that, everyone sat on their porches looking out into the night and hoping for something better to come up with the sun.

It was during such a summer, my mother told me, that my father got home from the third shift at the bottling plant, waked her with his naked body already on top of her, entered her before she was able to say no, sweated on her through moments of whiskey breath and indolent thrusting, came without saying a word, and walked back out of our house forever. He never uttered a word, she said, for it was not his way to speak much when it was hot. My mother was a wise woman and spoke almost as beautifully as she sang. She told me he left with the rumble of the trains. She told me this with a smooth, distant voice as if it were the story of someone else, and it was strange to me that she might have wanted to cry at something like that but didn't, as if there were no need anymore.

She said she lay still after he left, certain only of his sweat and the workshirt he left behind. She lay still for at least an hour, aware of two things: feeling the semen her body wouldn't hold slowly dripping onto the sheets, and knowing that some part of what her body did hold would fight and form itself into what became me, nine months later.

I was ten years old when she told me this. After she sat me down and said this is how you came to me, I knew that I would never feel like I was ten for the rest of that year. She told me what it was to love someone, what it was to make love to someone, and what it took to make someone. Sometimes, she told me, all three don't happen at once. I didn't quite know what that meant, but I felt her need to tell me. She seemed determined not to hold it from me. It seemed as if somehow she was pushing me ahead of my growing. And I felt uncomfortable with it, the way secondhand shoes are at first comfortless. I grew to know the discomfort as a way of living.

After that she filled my home life with lessons, stories, and observations that had a tone of insistence in them, each one told in a way that dared me to let it drift from my mind. By the time I turned eleven, I learned of her sister Alva, who cut off two of her husband's fingers, one for each of his mistresses. At twelve, I had no misunderstanding of why, someday soon, for nothing more than a few dollars, I might be stabbed by one of the same boys I played basketball with at the rec center. At thirteen, I came to know that my cousin Dexter hadn't become sick and been hospitalized in St. Louis, but had got a young White girl pregnant and was rumored to be someone's yardman in Hyde Park. And when I was fourteen, through the tree-withering heat of August, during the Watertown Blues Festival, in throngs of sweaty, wide-smiling people, my mother pointed out to me my father.

For the annual festival they closed off Eleventh Street from the downtown square all the way up to where the freight railway cuts through the city, where our neighborhood ends and the land rises up to the surrounding hills, dotted with houses the wealthy built to avoid flooding and neighbors with low incomes ...

(Continues...)



Excerpted from I Got Somebody in Staunton by William Henry Lewis Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Shades 1
Kudzu 11
In the swamp 23
I got somebody in Staunton 47
Urban renewal 73
For the brothers who ain't here 89
Why we jump 105
Crusade 135
Potcake 155
Rossonian days 179
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2005

    Masterful Storytelling!

    William Henry Lewis covers a lot of ground in I Got Somebody In Staunton, and he does it exceptionally well. The opening story, Shades, where a 14-year-old boy meets his father for the first time, there is a brutal honesty and an ache for youth and innocence. In Kudzu, a vine parallels a couple's private life spectacularly. The title story captures the heart of the collection in a masterful way, weaving the present with memories of the times past. Overall, I got Somebody In Staunton is an impressive short story collection to be put on your shelf, read, and revisited time and time again.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)