THE STORIES OF JOHN EDGAR WIDEMAN by John Edgar Wideman

THE STORIES OF JOHN EDGAR WIDEMAN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This hefty collection reprints Wideman's previous volumes of stories, Fever (1989) and Damballah (1981)--which are also being reprinted this year by the University of Pittsburgh Press as part of a single hardback edition of Wideman's "Homewood Books"--and also includes ten new pieces. Subtitled "All Stories Are True," Wideman's new work blends a number of unconventional narrative voices with some frank autobiographical material, and the result is gripping, urgent, and incendiary. The title piece and "Casa Grande" address the personal tragedies of Wideman's brother and son, both serving time for different murders. The same "Wideman" narrates "Backseat," a reminiscence of his grandmother, and of early sexual escapades. Reality forces him to go behind the veil of fiction--in "Newborn Thrown in Trash and Dies," he gives voice, and an imagined future, to a baby as it falls down a garbage chute; in "A Voice Foretold," he visits the scene of a crime where an innocent black man was murdered by police; and in "What He Saw," he bears witness to the horrors of Soweto, and ponders the ambiguities of his presence there. Wideman continues to test the limits of fiction in a stylistic sense as well. "Loon Man" embodies the mental confusion of its man-boy narrator; "Everybody Knew Bubba Riff' is one long sentence rifling on a murdered homeboy; and "Signs" delves into the psychological complexities of racism. Just when you might suspect the rage and despair to overwhelm him comes "Welcome," a wise and hard-earned meditation on loss that ends with the hope of family, place, and of "keep on keeping on." Despite a few predictable rhetorical bursts, Wideman here proves a remarkable artist, a descendent of Richard Wright, by way of Samuel Beckett. Read chronologically, these stories chart Wideman's growth as a storyteller He's willing to take risks, and most often succeeds triumphantly.
Pub Date: June 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-679-40719-7
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1992




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