In God's Gym, the celebrated author John Edgar Wideman offers stories that pulse with emotional electricity. The ten pieces here explore strength, both physical and spiritual. The collection opens with a man paying tribute to the quiet fortitude of his mother, a woman who "should wear a T-shirt: God's Gym." In the stories that follow, Wideman delivers powerful riffs on family and fate, basketball and belief. His mesmerizing prose features guest appearances by cultural luminaries as diverse as the Harlem Globetrotters, Frantz Fanon, Thelonious Monk, and Marilyn Monroe. As always, Wideman astounds with writing that moves from the intimate to the political, from shock to transcendence.
There is a very obvious reason why John Edgar Wideman is one of America's most celebrated authors: He is very good. With God's Gym, the author's first short-story collection in more than 10 years, we are reminded of this again and again. It is a slim volume, but Wideman's prose -- difficult and dense, but also beautiful and wounding -- is best consumed in such small portions.