The Stories of John Edgar Wideman

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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)
Library Journal
This work reprints PEN/Faulkner award winner Wideman's collections Damballah (Avon, 1981; Random, 1988. reprint) and Fever ( LJ 11/1/89), along with a new collection, All Stories Are True. Most of the stories are set in Homewood, the black section of Pittsburgh where Wideman grew up and which he has since turned into his own version of Yoknapatawpha County. Damballah consists of 12 interrelated stories that trace successive generations of a fugitive slave's family--the author's own ancestors. Wideman presents the book as a series of letters to his brother Robby, a convicted murderer serving a life sentence in prison. The two concluding sections further explore the Homewood theme, with retellings of old family tales and street-corner legends and with frequent meditations on the contrast between Robby's fate and Wideman's own success in the white world. The entire volume displays a novelistic unity unusual in short story collections. Recommended for most collections. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/92.-- Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679407195
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/29/1992
  • Pages: 448

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