Look for me and I'll be gone Stories

John Edgar Wideman

Book - 2021

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&...#039;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.

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Short stories
New York : Scribner 2021.
First Scribner hardcover edition
Physical Description
ix, 318 pages ; 22 cm
Main Author
John Edgar Wideman (author)
  • Art of story
  • Colored angel Levine
  • Last day
  • Separation
  • Till
  • Arizona
  • Whose teeth/whose story
  • Sheppard
  • Penn Station
  • Death row
  • Rwanda
  • Ipso facto
  • BTM
  • George Floyd story
  • Accused . . .
  • Atlanta murders
  • Someone to watch over me
  • Jordan
  • Lost and found
  • Lost love letters
  • a Locke
  • Another story.
Review by Booklist Review

Short-story virtuoso Wideman follows the substantial You Made Me Love You: Selected Stories, 1981--2018 (2021) with a collection of new stories, another compelling contribution to his expansive oeuvre. The book opens with an observational tale, "Art of Story," during which the narrator passes a young couple while walking down the street and is suddenly plunged into a deep reflection on the purpose and art of storytelling. Philosophical, ruminative, and alive with wordplay, this brief introduction sets the tone for the dynamic works that follow. Wideman touches on a wealth of timely and timeless topics, including identity, family relationships, culture, history, and social issues throughout these provocative stories. He creates an experimental, time-transcending journey into family histories ("Separation"), a tale richly layered with heartbreaking insights born of a loved one's incarceration ("Penn Station"), and an epic retelling of the story of one of the first African American missionaries ("Whose Teeth / Whose Story"). 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.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

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.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

One story here is presented as a letter to singer Freddie Jackson, whose "You Are My Lady" plays on the radio as a man drives his son to prison, while another contemplates James Baldwin's Evidence of Things Not Seen, addressing the Atlanta murders from 1979 to 1981 and opening with a "why-did-the chicken-cross-the-road" riff that turns bleak. In fact, all the pieces in MacArthur Fellow Wideman's sixth collection push the boundaries of format as they explore family, loss, and America's ongoing racial divide. With a 60,000-copy first printing.

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