Philadelphia Fire Hardcover – Aug 1990
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When African-American writer Cudjoe returns to his hometown of Philadelphia to write a book about the 1985 police firebombing of a black cult, his homecoming spurs within him a myriad of memories and impressions. While recalling the abandonment of his white wife and two children, his failed novel and a dead mentor, he provides rich observation about the about the crumbling state of a once-beloved city. As his research unfolds, he examines issues of sex, race and the life of the city, ultimately uncovering information that sets the entire city into motion. Philadelphia Fire won the PEN/Faulkner Award for 1991. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Wideman's extraordinary new novel is really two books, each an exhilarating, dependent rival of the other. The early passages present expatriate black writer Cudjoe, who returns to his native Philadelphia hoping to write a book about the 1985 police firebombing of the headquarters of a black cult. Cudjoe's homecoming spurs a confluence of vivid memories and impressions within the character's meticulously delineated consciousness. He recalls the abandonment of his white wife and two children; his failed novel; a dead mentor. Through his sensibility we also receive a rich evocation of the urban environment and of the city's new status as a deteriorating, black-governed metropolis. In incantatory, lyrical, naturalistic and inventive prose, Wideman writes of sex and race and life in the city, with all the beauty, profane humor and literary complexity of Joyce writing about Dublin. The final section of the work--with its quickly shifting voices, personas, historical and metaphorical inferences--has as its core a redemptive black vernacular interpretation of Shakespeare's The Tempest , in which the horrific firebombing of the title is raised to the symbolic level of Prospero's storm. Wideman's fiery tempest sets his characters--black and white, male and female, adult and child--into motion, hurtling toward one another with the possibility of self-knowledge and salvation. 75,000 first printing; major ad/promo; author tour.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
Yet for me, the book did not fulfill its promise. The stream of consciousness writing was complex, and distracted me greatly from the story. I was also disappointed that the bombing incident itself, its political underpinnings, and the story of the elusive child were never truly told.
Rather, the book focuses on Cudjoe's experiences upon returning to Philadelphia; his failures and successes as a father, teacher, writer, and husband; and his investigations into the incident. Cudjoe's realizations redeem the book, as his insight into the life of an African-American man are profound. While I was disappointed that the subject in which I was interested was never covered in depth, the descriptions and feelings evoked by the title character made the book certainly worth reading.
Most recent customer reviews
In Philadelphia Fire Wideman takes on the task of engaging with issues important to the African American community while at the same time presenting them from a modernist... Read morePublished on Jan. 27 2001
I read 'Philadelphia Fire' as a part of my MA course at The University of Sheffield, England, and, on the whole, enjoyed it. Read morePublished on Oct. 14 1999