Results of the PEN/Faulkner Award in the year 1984.
Reimagining the black neighborhood of his youth—Homewood, Pittsburgh—Wideman creates a dazzling and evocative milieu. From the wild and uninhibited 1920s to the narcotized 1970s, “he establishes aamythological and symbolic link between character and landscape, language and plot, that in the hands of a less visionary writer might be little more than stale sociology” (New York Times Book Review).
Hansen re-creates the real West with his imaginative telling of the life of the most famous outlaw of them all, Jesse James, and of his death at the hands of the upstart Robert Ford. James, a charismatic, superstitious, and moody man, holds sway over a ragged gang who fear his temper and quick shooting. Robert Ford, a young gang member torn between worshipping Jesse and taking his place, guns him down in cold blood and lives out his days tormented by the killing.
Reading Jamaica Kincaid is to plunge, gently, into another way of seeing both the physical world and its elusive inhabitants. Her voice is, by turns, naively whimsical and biblical in its assurance, and it speaks of what is partially remembered partly divined. The memories often concern a childhood in the Caribbean—family, manners, and landscape—as distilled and transformed by Kincaid’s special style and vision.
Kincaid leads her readers to consider, as if for the first time, the powerful ties between mother and child; the beauty and destructiveness of nature; the gulf between the masculine and the feminine; the significance of familiar things—a house, a cup, a pen. Transfiguring our human form and our surroundings—shedding skin, darkening an afternoon, painting a perfect place—these stories tell us something we didn’t know, in a way we hadn’t expected.
Francis Phelan, ex-ballplayer, part-time gravedigger, full-time drunk, has hit bottom. Years ago he left Albany in a hurry after killing a scab during a trolley workers’ strike. He ran away again after accidentally—and fatally—dropping his infant son.
Now, in 1938, Francis is back in town, roaming the old familiar streets with his hobo pal, Helen, trying to make peace with the ghosts of the past and the present.