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Guest Author: John Edgar Wideman

Briefly, since these remarks introduce a book titled Briefs, I’d like to share a few thoughts about why and how I’ve been working the past three years on a volume of very short stories. My first novel was published in 1967 and I’ve been in print since, so my writing career’s far from brief, but brief an accurate, merciful word to describe a parcel of time which has rushed past so swiftly, stealthily, brutally, it feels some days like I just got here and it’s nearly time to go already. The micro-fictions in my collection are about losing time, saving time, enduring time, fearing and escaping time.

About the ubiquitous, silent pulse of time and how people learn to dance to it or not, to stumble through or find themselves graced by time or ignored or get their asses kicked.Time, the immaterial medium nobody can see, hear, smell, taste, touch, a vast neutral sea containing all creatures living and dead, a mysterious presence allowing us to move and speak and suffer our collective being.

Time-out. For a brief fifty years, longer than I’ve written fiction, I played basketball. Loved hoop so much I anticipated the end of my playing days would be a kind of death. In a hoop game a player can call time-out and stop the action. Refresh. Recoup. Rethink. Briefs is meant to perform something like that. Its stories are designed to be read in brief swatches of time. They freeze, review, highlight the action. As if you can press a pause button and be released temporarily from the game’s intensity, from time. Each story an artifice allowing a player the luxury, for a minute or two, of being somebody else watching the game, observing the action from a great, quiet distance, through simultaneously enmeshed, implicated within it, just sitting still awhile, long enough to consider things impossible to see or reflect upon in the hurry of the action. Imagine inhabiting an imaginary parenthesis, an arc of safety without confining brackets that nevertheless holds back threatening vastness always surrounding you. Not extinguishing the game, but time-out. The play escaped for a secure instant or two, allowing you to measure the toll of participating in the game’s unrelenting pressure. Time out to check the score, your condition, the hour, think about everything that’s ever happened before and what might come next.

Next. When you holler next to fellow players on a playground court, it means you want part of the action, the play, the game. Next shouted because you have just arrived on the scene or because your squad got whipped by another squad and was forced to sit or you won till you got tired and needed a rest. Anyway you’re in line again and next expresses your determination to try your luck when your turn comes round. Next is challenge, plea, hope, offer, demand. In this sense, Briefs claims next. If Brief’s short shorts are successful, they should provide, one by one, or in sequence, respites outside the game, not exactly ruptures in the action, but moments disciplined, crystallized like intervals of silence in music that revive, pace and extenuate music. Small stories can offer quick exit and re-entry into the immensity surrounding them. Represent in miniature the complex negotiations, the meticulous elaborations of the best work on any scale. Holes, spaces, reminders, mirrors, the unheard pattern of silences that organizes a composition’s meaning and moves its audience.

The last project of Briefs I’m going to mention is its attempt to celebrate fiction’s enormous range. Prose fiction’s history and development remain open-ended, never stand still. Each time a writer essays the first tentative steps of a new work, he or she may discover possibilities for re-inventing the medium. I’ve learned that such possibilities, usually considered the fruit of whole books or whole careers, are recognizable also (if writers teach readers how to look) at the smaller level of single words, sentences, and minimalist forms. After all, writing is present and accessible only in the word by word flow, the stop time of small parts colliding, combining, evolving in novel, intriguing ways. Ways demanding and fun to watch whatever the scale.

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John Edgar Wideman

For Mr. Wideman, who has never used a computer, venturing into online publishing and the blogoshpere is an intimidating but exciting event! He’s eager to kick off a conversation with the Lulu community by sharing an introduction to his new work, and asks for your patience as he learns to respond and engage in a brand new forum.

6 thoughts on “Guest Author: John Edgar Wideman”

  1. Hi Denise, I’ve just emailed you the cover images. Please let me know if you have any difficulty receiving them.

  2. I wanted it and I wanted it immediately, so I download an e-book of Briefs so I could get started on the review I mentioned to yesterday at the Bearden event @ the AWC (3/26/10). So far, I’m enjoying it immensely. I’d like to strike while the iron is hot and do a sidebar review in conjunction with my Bearden story for the Courier. The missing cog, however, is an image of the book cover. I’ve tried to lo-jack it from Lulu w/ no success. Would you please assist me in securing a cover image ASAP? Your assistance would be immensely appreciated.
    C. Denise Johnson,
    Hill District, USA

  3. Dear Mr Wideman, I thought I recognised your name when I read about your new book, Briefs, in Lulu newsletter. I came across you last when I looked in Wolfram Alpha and found you were my astral twin. Born 14 June 1941. Hi! Glad of this chance to meet you! Very interesting that you came up on Lulu. I have a book of short stories too, Mrs Jackson Rides Out, it blends humour, witchcraft and sexual adventures in the North of England. Should you want to, you can see a description on my website under ‘publications’ or on my lulu page, Thanks for being here Mr Wideman, now I’ll go back to reading about you. Sincerely, Geraldine Murfin-Shaw

  4. This Octogenarian retired Psycho-therapist belives that dreams are the glue that pastes our reality together and that FICTION is a core part of that adhesive!

  5. Karen D. Paxton

    What is this I recently read about an African – American GROUP in the Lulu Community? I’ve written a very diverse historical fiction novel entitled, TRIALS by the Fourth Estate… It spans the very exciting years 1941-1971 (and is the most thrilling times in American and African American History. There are many Lulu African American authors that I’m in contact with on Facebook…why don’t we all connect?

  6. Just like a picture paints a thousand words, a word can paint a thousand pictures. All art attempts to stop time- at best we can learn from the humble cephalopad mollusc- the nautilus, that survived , unchanged 500 million years of major cataclysms. We all need a shell to protect our soft interiors where memories, brief snatches of time, build upon themselves in a logarithmic spiral- from words , to sentences to full-blown sagas, that are our lives.

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