Conversations with John Edgar Wideman

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University Press of Mississippi, 1998 - Biography & Autobiography - 224 pages
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Orally or on the page, John Edgar Wideman never seems to stray far from firsthand experience. "Writing for me is a way of opening up," he states in one of the interviews in this collection, "a way of sharing, a way of making sense of the world, and writing's very appeal is that it gives me a kind of hands-on way of coping with the very difficult business of living a life."

Wideman shares the joy and pain of his life experience. The easy laughter accompanying many of these interviews shows that conversations with him can be intense and fun.

This book spans thirty-five years. Wideman discusses a wide variety of topics--from postmodernism to genocide, from fatherhood to women's basketball. One of the pleasures of encountering these conversations is the glimpse they give into the workshop of the writer's mind. He is shown in the interviews to be very open about his artistic aims, techniques, and sources, whether talking about his Aunt May's storytelling or about African spirituality.

The earliest piece collected here is an interview-based profile, "The Astonishing John Wideman." It appeared in Look magazine in 1963 and featured him as a ghetto-raised basketball star who had turned Rhodes scholar. Wideman's fulfillment of his early promise is now an established fact: He is an award-winning novelist, a university professor, a social and cultural critic, a political activist, and a MacArthur "Genius" Fellow. To date, he is the author of thirteen critically acclaimed books, including The Homewood Trilogy, Brothers and Keepers, Philadelphia Fire, Fever, Fatheralong, and The Cattle Killing.

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About the author (1998)

Writer John Edgar Wideman was born in Washington, D. C., on June 14, 1941. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, studied at Oxford University, and was the second African American to become a Rhodes Scholar. He taught at the University of Pennsylvania and eventually founded and chaired the African American studies department. He also taught at the University of Wyoming and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Wideman is the author of more than a dozen books. Sent for You Yesterday won a PEN/Faulkner Award in 1984, and Philadelphia Fire received one a decade later. Fatheralong was a finalist for the National Book Award (1994) and Brothers and Keepers was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award (1995).

Bonnie TuSmith is an associate professor of English at Northeastern University.

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