From John Edgar Wideman, “a master [who] boldly subverts what a short story can be” (Publishers Weekly) comes a stunning story collection that spans a range of topics from Michael Jordan to Emmett Till, from childhood memories to the final day in a prison cell.
Forty years after John Edgar Wideman’s first collection of stories was published, he continues to produce new stories of the highest caliber and relevancy. Here, in his sixth story collection, he revisits themes that have infused his work for the duration of his career: family, loss, the penal system, Pittsburgh, physical and emotional life, art, and memory.
Stories include “Separation,” which begins with a boy standing alone beside his grandfather’s coffin, progressing to a scene with the narrator’s grandmother paying the funeral director weekly installments for the price of the casket. “Arizona,” which appeared in The New Yorker, is written in the form of a letter to singer Freddie Jackson, whose song “You Are My Lady,” enters the story through a car radio—a car that conveys the narrator’s son and his lawyers to a prison cell in Arizona. “Atlanta Murders” contemplates James Baldwin’s Evidence of Things Not Seen, written about the Atlanta child murders from 1979 to 1981, beginning with a riff on a “why-did-the chicken-cross-the-road” joke that takes a dark turn.
Never satisfied to simply tell a story—with writing that is “layered and interwoven…understanding that perspective is various, varied” (TheNew Statesman)—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 the most recent work of a treasured American writer whose innovation, imagination, and intellect “prove his continued vitality…with vigor and soul” (Entertainment Weekly).
About the Author
John Edgar Wideman’s books include, among others, American Histories, Writing to Save a Life, Brothers and Keepers, Philadelphia Fire, Fatheralong, Hoop Roots, and Sent for You Yesterday. He won the PEN/Faulkner Award twice and has twice been a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and National Book Award. He is a MacArthur Fellow and a recipient of the Lannan Literary Award for Lifetime Achievement, the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story. He divides his time between New York and France.
Named a most anticipated book by LitHub, The Millions, and Bustle
“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
"Mr. Wideman is one of the great tragedians of American literature... this collection, Mr. Wideman’s artistic consummation, is also the site of his unraveling, 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
“Look for Me and I’ll Be Gone, a short-story collection that draws fluidly from his personal life, is John Edgar Wideman’s extended farewell to outrage... The book’s style is so deceptively modest it stares you down and waits for you to realize it’s cut your heart out while you coasted along on the calm surface of the syntax into a seething indictment of every aspect of society.” —4Columns
"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)