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Fever

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By turns subtle and intense, disturbing and elusive, the stories in this collection are ultimately connected by themes of memory and loss, reality and fabrication, and by a richless of language that rests lightly on its carefully foundation.

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By turns subtle and intense, disturbing and elusive, the stories in this collection are ultimately connected by themes of memory and loss, reality and fabrication, and by a richless of language that rests lightly on its carefully foundation.

30 review for Fever

  1. 4 out of 5

    Matt Hlinak

    The most distinctive feature of the title story is its structure. The story is broken up into a number of passages. A few are as short as one sentence long while the longest is six pages long. The passages vary considerably in their tone and point of view. The first few pages establish this variability through short passages of one- or two-paragraphs in length. The first passage is told from the third-person-limited perspective of a man staring out the window of a ship, comparing the November tre The most distinctive feature of the title story is its structure. The story is broken up into a number of passages. A few are as short as one sentence long while the longest is six pages long. The passages vary considerably in their tone and point of view. The first few pages establish this variability through short passages of one- or two-paragraphs in length. The first passage is told from the third-person-limited perspective of a man staring out the window of a ship, comparing the November trees to “barren women starved for love and they’d stripped off all of their clothes.” This man’s identity is not made clear, but he seems primarily to function as an observer of the natural world to highlight that the story takes place in autumn, the season in which trees die. This sets the tone for the season of death caused by the yellow fever epidemic. The next passage shifts to a first-person-plural narrator who addresses the reader directly. The transition from one perspective to another is made immediately clear by the use of italics in all but the first word of the passage. In contrast to the first passage with its focus on visual impression from out a window, this passage takes a broader look at the impact of the disease by summarizing the symptoms. This perspective appears again in the fourth passage (which similarly uses italics, but not necessarily the “we”), which discusses how the disease progresses differently in different people. In the third passage, the story is told from a third-person-omniscient perspective. This narrator knows where and when the outbreak began, when and why it stopped, where different classes of people went to avoid it, and “the terrible progress of the disease.” Unlike the previous passages that glimpse into the minds of those close to these events, this passage is told in the all-knowing voice of the historian looking back. In a similar vein, the fifth and seventh passages are told as dictionary entries, complete with etymology. Devoid of emotion or even characters, these passages present a clinical description of the horrors presented more colorfully in other parts of the story. As with the italics in the second and fourth passages, the dictionary format jumps off the page and signals a changing perspective. The entries for “Yellow fever” and “Dengue” in passage five are presented in separate paragraphs, which makes this the first passage to exceed one paragraph in length. The sixth passage returns to the third-person-limited perspective of the first passage, but uses present tense instead of past, and grants access to the thoughts of a different character here. This passage belongs to Esu, a slave in the hold of the ship. In contract to the clinical language of the fifth passage, we get opinion and description in this passage, when Esu thinks of “this last pitiful refuge where he skids in foul puddles of waste.” This shift in perspective is signaled by the words “he wonders” in the first sentence. Wideman’s frequent shifts in tone and perspective work together to create a rich understanding of the world of his story. Yet there is also a danger that these shifts could confuse the reader. Wideman effectively avoids this danger by signaling clearly when a shift is taking place. Without even concentrating on the words, I could see the shifts on the page because the passages look different from one another. This prepared me for the different viewpoints which made the story so unique.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Anne Sanow

    Worth it for the title story alone, which is a masterpiece.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    Exceptional talent. Learned much from these stories. Surprising since they're so old (30+ years?)--but they really hold up. This a good collection to read if you're looking to study stories that are deftly oblique and dole out clues without being too obvious.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    Wideman's talent for description and breadth of reference is on display here, but in a dozen stories over 160 pages there's little chance for character to development, and next to no dialogue. The peripatetic result is only intermittently engaging.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Robert Beveridge

    Wideman may be the finest American writer no one's ever heard of. Much of his early work has been allowed to run out of print and fade into obscurity; he remains a critical darling, popping up in _The Best American Short Stories_ and editing black-literature anthologies, yet he's never found a popular audience. Which is too bad, because Wideman's got a lot to say. Wideman covers much the same ground as Graham Swift-- the relationships between two human beings, whoever those two human beings may b Wideman may be the finest American writer no one's ever heard of. Much of his early work has been allowed to run out of print and fade into obscurity; he remains a critical darling, popping up in _The Best American Short Stories_ and editing black-literature anthologies, yet he's never found a popular audience. Which is too bad, because Wideman's got a lot to say. Wideman covers much the same ground as Graham Swift-- the relationships between two human beings, whoever those two human beings may be. Wideman tends a little more towards the family side of things than does Swift, leading to a bit more variation on the theme, but the theme usually stays the same, how relationships end. They do not all end badly, by any means, as they do in Swift and so many other authors. They do not all end within the scope of the stories presented. But hanging over Wideman's work is always the feeling that relationships between people _will_ end, somewhere along the line. As in Swift, though, the similarity of tone and mood to be found in the various stories in this collection don't make it monotonous. Wideman gives us an interesting array of characters to examine, puts them into everyday situations, then throws something into the mix to jazz it up a little-- a blind man who never misses a shot from the free-throw line, a pianist who won't stop describing a dream long enough for his brother to tell him of the death of their mother (because, we can tell, he is already aware), etc. Wideman has a keen ear for the natural flow of language, and it both heightens his dialogue and keeps the descriptive parts of the stories flowing. The one place Wideman does falter is in letting the message override the storytelling in places. The title story in this collection works when Wideman is painting a scene, just as all his other stories work, but every once in a while the agenda gets in the way and the story flattens into polemic. Wideman never, though, allows the polemic to take over completely, and he's always able to successfully pull himself back from the brink. (In his defense, the ending of "Fever" is fantastic, a truly strong piece of writing, that more than makes up for the story's faults.) As with most of the books Wideman published before 1991, this is out of print at present. However, it's worth hunting down. A wonderful introduction to a wonderful author. *** 1/2

  6. 4 out of 5

    Gretchen

    Fever by John Edgar Wideman is a collection of twelve short stories written in an extremely experimental style. The plots of the stories tend to be about a moment of depression or struggle in the life of the main character. Wideman focuses on themes of human depravity and desperation, and the collection ends with the story “Fever” which focuses on the outbreak of Yellow Fever in 1779. Other stories focus on the holocaust or rape or the ending of a marriage. The collection’s themes are pretty dep Fever by John Edgar Wideman is a collection of twelve short stories written in an extremely experimental style. The plots of the stories tend to be about a moment of depression or struggle in the life of the main character. Wideman focuses on themes of human depravity and desperation, and the collection ends with the story “Fever” which focuses on the outbreak of Yellow Fever in 1779. Other stories focus on the holocaust or rape or the ending of a marriage. The collection’s themes are pretty depressing. This book was really hard to read. Without analyzing this book in class, I would have had a hard time understanding many of the stories. It was very interesting to look closely at these stories. It takes a lot of brain power to examine these stories, and it’s definitely worth it. Wideman’s writing is complex and interwoven and it is necessary to look closely at the text. After a while, we discovered Wideman’s emphasis on storytelling. Each plot involves an aspect of storytelling. It’s important to think about the narrator and their point of view, and many characters in the stories are storytellers themselves. With this collection, Wideman is asking if stories can change a person. Wideman uses complex themes and plots to make the reader think about how the story itself is affecting theme. The collection is extremely interesting to talk about, and I would recommend it to any literature enthusiast.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Luke

    This was a book I picked up at one of those public library book sales, mainly just because I'd heard that Wideman teaches at Brown. It turned out to be not a bad read, though a little headier and more experimental than what I was in the mood for (especially when reading in 10 minute spurts on the MRT and during lunch breaks). The comparisons to Faulkner and Woolf on the book jacket should have clued me in. My favorite stories (like the opening piece, "Doc's Story") were just stories, plain and s This was a book I picked up at one of those public library book sales, mainly just because I'd heard that Wideman teaches at Brown. It turned out to be not a bad read, though a little headier and more experimental than what I was in the mood for (especially when reading in 10 minute spurts on the MRT and during lunch breaks). The comparisons to Faulkner and Woolf on the book jacket should have clued me in. My favorite stories (like the opening piece, "Doc's Story") were just stories, plain and simple, with an impeccable sense of place and voice.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Golick

    I just love Wideman's writing. This early collection of stories features some authorial showing off, but ranges widely in mood and character. There's an emotional payoff to just about each story here, and none outstay their welcome. That all said, a better place to start with Wideman is probably one of the Homewood novels, e.g., SENT FOR YOU YESTERDAY.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sara Cutaia

    I know Wideman is quite the big-name in the literary world, but I could not get into these 12 stories. The style is too experimentalist for my liking - I'm all for trying storytelling in a new way, but not in such a way that I have no idea who is talking or what is happening or where or when or how. Prose was really lovely, though, when I followed it. Intense and lyrical and rich.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Melanie Jennings

    This collection is so very, very good that I have left the final story unread because I don't want to have finished this book!

  11. 5 out of 5

    robert

    lots of nice stuff, and as an early book, lots of playing/experimenting, which is worth it to see on its own. The title story is fantastic, as is the story Valaida.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Brandt

  13. 5 out of 5

    B Cole

  14. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  15. 4 out of 5

    Marianne

  16. 4 out of 5

    Zain Syed

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jess Tapley

  18. 4 out of 5

    Robert Pearson

  19. 4 out of 5

    Darcy Bell

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Freedman

  21. 4 out of 5

    Holly

  22. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jacara Brown

  24. 5 out of 5

    Steve Owen

  25. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Conlin

  26. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Merlino

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette

  29. 5 out of 5

    Eugene Haston

  30. 4 out of 5

    Teresa

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