“I was a child and believed that if I stood alone, quiet enough, long enough beside my grandfather’s coffin, he would speak to me.”
A stunning collection of all new stories from the twice winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award – essential reading for understanding the state of America today
A WALL STREET JOURNAL BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
Forty years after John Edgar Wideman’s first book of stories, comes this stunning collection that is vital reading for anyone interested in the state of America today. Its subjects range from Michael Jordan to Emmett Till, from distrust of authority to everyday grief, from childhood memories to the final day in a prison cell.
A boy stands alone in his grandmother’s house, unable to enter the room in which his grandfather’s coffin lies, afraid the dead man may speak, afraid he won’t speak. Freddie Jackson’s song ‘You Are My Lady’ plays on the car radio as a son is brought to a prison cell in Arizona. A narrator contemplates the Atlanta child murders from 1979.
Never satisfied to simply tell a story, Wideman continues to push form, with stories within stories, sentences that rise like a jazz solo with every connecting clause, voices that reflect who he is and where he’s from, and an exploration of time that entangles past and present. Whether historical or contemporary, intimate or expansive, the stories here represent a pioneering American writer whose innovation and imagination know no bounds.
“This is truly inimitable storytelling. No one writes an American horror story like John Edgar Wideman”
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“Master of language … Wideman has always been less interested in what a story tells than how it gets told, how the telling shapes our perception of our world. In works that erode the boundaries between fiction, memoir and essay, Wideman explores the impulses that drive storytelling itself, returning to some enduring themes and formal devices”
new York Times Book Review
“Wideman is one of the great tragedians of American literature … This collection, Wideman’s artistic consummation, is also the site of his unravelling, and there are moments of unbearable vulnerability when the author puts aside his great gifts to lie down in the rag and bone shop of the heart”
wall Street Journal
“Philosophical, ruminative and alive with wordplay … In each story, Wideman illustrates just how intricately the past is interwoven with the present, and there is plenty here to satisfy fans of captivating literary storytelling”
booklist (starred Review)
“A book that demands and deserves attention”
John Edgar Wideman’s books include, among others, American Histories, Writing to Save a Life, Philadelphia Fire and Brothers and Keepers. He won the PEN/Faulkner Award twice, won the Prix Femina Étranger, and has twice been a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Award. He is a MacArthur Fellow and a recipient of the Lannan Literary Award for Lifetime Achievement and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story. He divides his time between New York and France.