Book Review: John Edgar Wideman's 'Briefs'
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Novelist John Edgar Wideman's newest book is a collection of short pieces, some of them as short as a page, even a sentence. The book is called "Briefs: Stories for the Palm of the Mind," and Alan Cheuse has this review.
ALAN CHEUSE: Stories? Not really. The 90-some easy pieces stand closer to sketches or notes or responses or notions for stories. An old black man in a wheelchair imagines himself the white woman who's pushing him along. Wideman himself imagines the last night of the novelist Ralph Ellison. Wideman attacks book reviewers. He creates little rhapsodies about walking on a New Jersey beach or walking through the French countryside. He laments with great force about family miseries. He recounts an anecdote about jogging. He engages here and there in automatic writing, eulogizes his mother's bones, lost friends, lost opportunities.
In other words, he plays the hot beam of his focus on life and art, on love, race, politics, family, on the holy and the everyday, from street life to the bedroom. And much of it taking not much more time than it's taking me to tell you about what he's done.
So this is a slight book from one of our country's most interesting writers. And one has to notice and what a sign of the times this is that it comes to us from a small, print-for-hire outfit that advertises online. All this makes it interesting enough for you to give it your attention, one brief, insightful page at a time.
NORRIS: The book is called "Briefs: Stories for the Palm of the Mind," by John Edgar Wideman. Our reviewer, Alan Cheuse, teaches writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.