A PEN/Faulkner Award-winning novelist pauses in midcareer to explore new voices and new styles in this stunning collection of short stories.
Of the 12 stories in Wideman's wide-ranging new collection, six have never been previously published, and most are standouts. Wideman excels in a variety of prose styles, adopting the points of view of both black and white characters, telling some stories entirely in dialogue, others in unrelieved exposition. He is expert in pinpointing the precise details that conjure up a character or a place; just as economically, he can turn in a twinkling into fantasy, with a wild surmise that jolts the reader's imagination. In the disquieting ``The Statue of Liberty,'' a woman jogger's stream of consciousness segues into a sexually provocative dream sequence. ``Valaida'' is a graceful blending of voices, in which an elderly concentration-camp survivor tries to communicate with his longtime cleaning lady, telling her of the legendary black jazz musician who saved his life. The title story, a harrowing account of the epidemic of yellow fever in Philadelphia in 1893, is the most imaginative of all, hypnotically drawing the reader into the mind of a black assistant to the noted Dr. Rush. In all the stories, Wideman's richly evocative, disciplined prose compels attention. (Nov.)