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James Alan McPherson was born in Savannah Georgia on
September 16, 1943. He was the first African-American to win the Pulitzer
for Fiction, in 1978, for his short story collection Elbow Room.
Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Fawcett (October 12, 1986)
Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 4.2 x 0.8 inches
"McPherson's second collection of short stories
won the Pulitzer Prize, an
honor it richly deserved for his fine writing and unique perspective. The
range here is astounding: "The Story of a Dead Man," is reminiscent of
"bad-man" folk songs like "Railroad Bill" or "Stagolee"; "The Faithful"
shows the clash of generations in the story of a stubborn barber; while the
title story depicts McPherson's uncompromising, yet optimistic, vision for
an integrated America." -Amazon.com Review
A beautiful collection of short stories that explores blacks and whites today, Elbow Room is alive with warmth and humor. Bold and very real, these twelve stories examine a world we all know but find difficult to define.
Whether a story dashes the bravado of young street toughs or pierces through the self-deception of a failed preacher, challenges the audacity of a killer or explodes the jealousy of two lovers, James Alan McPherson has created an array of haunting images and memorable characters in an unsurpassed collection of honest, masterful fiction.
Hue and Cry: Stories
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Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial (November 27, 2001)
Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
The story “Gold Coast,” included here in McPeherson's his first published volume of short fiction (originally published in 1968), won a contest in the Atlantic Monthly.
Hue and Cry is the remarkably mature and agile debut story collection from
James Alan McPherson, one of America's most venerated, most original
writers. McPherson's characters -- gritty, jazzy, authentic, and pristinely
rendered -- give voice to unheard struggles along the dividing lines of race
and poverty in subtle, fluid prose that bears no trace of sentimentality,
agenda, or apology.
First published in 1968, this collection includes the Atlantic Prize-winning story "Gold Coast" (selected by John Updike for the collection Best American Short Stories of the Century) and introduced America to McPherson's unforgettable, enduring vision and distinctive artistry.
Crabcakes: A Memoir
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Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Free Press (January 27, 1999)
Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.4 inches
"Crabcakes, James Alan McPherson's first book since his Pulitzer
Prize-winning short-story collection Elbow Room, is a meditation on many
topics. While McPherson figures prominently, the text is laced with
recollections of other people, places, and times. Thus the story at the
heart of the book--McPherson's decision to sell a Baltimore house he has
owned for nearly 20 years, evicting his elderly tenant--is interwoven with
reminiscences of a waiter on the Great Northern Railway, Baltimore street
scenes, and a bittersweet set of instructions about what to do when stopped
by police. Although it's almost impossible to characterize, Crabcakes is
richly rewarding." -Amazon.com Review
With the same grace and lyrical precision that distinguish his vibrant short stories, James McPherson surveys the emotional upheaval of his last twenty-one years. From Baltimore, Maryland, to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Iowa and Japan, Crabcakes witnesses McPherson's confrontation with the past, and his struggle to make sense of it and to bind it, peacefully, to the present. His elliptical search for meaning -- and his ultimate understanding of what makes us human -- finds in Crabcakes a powerful and enduring voice.
A Region Not Home: Reflections From Exile
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Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Free Press (February 6, 2001)
Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.4 x 0.8 inches
In this deft collection of essays, Pulitzer Prize-winning author James
McPherson offers poignant and lively interpretations of life that illuminate
the ebb and flow of its sorrows and delights, and reveals his search for
connections between everyday drudgery and a greater sense of purpose. He
writes of the longing of the human soul by unifying thoughts of his deep
affection for his daughter and the meaning of Disneyland; transcendental
meanings in life and the tedium of long waits in airports, coming to
self-knowledge and the cruel rituals of fraternity pledge week. A beautiful
meditation on what it means to be human -- an enlightening and soulful work
reaching to the core of suffering and joy.
James Alan McPherson's essays are purposive in the largest sense of the word: These narratives are headed somewhere, specifically, toward an America that he is in the process of imagining, a place of equity and deliberate thoughtfulness. Born poor and black in the American South, McPherson has had a great intellectual adventure leading him a merry, brainy chase all over the States, into all levels of society. This Pulitzer Prize winner spends half his book, it seems, listing the towns where he has lived, centers of American thoughtfulness: Cambridge, Berkeley, Iowa City. And his writing, while never losing sight of his greater intent, reflects this sprawling journey. Certainly, in terms of topic: A Region Not Home finds him holding forth on Disneyland, homelessness, a suicidal student, Ralph Ellison. And also in form: He's fond of expansion, inclusion, never-quite-explicit connectives between disparate events. His far-reaching "Ukiyo" recalls the best essay of the last decade--Jo Ann Beard's "The Fourth State of Matter"--in its juggling prowess: All the balls stay in the air, all the time. In "Ukiyo," 20 short pages encompass McPherson's bout with meningitis, the legacy of the '60s, Clinton's impeachment, family reunions, and the golden rule. He also weaves in a singsong recitation of all the names of all the people who helped him during his illness ("Ted Wheeler, a track coach, cooked a meal and brought it to me for a special lunch"), offering a homey counterpoint to his philosophizing. Along the way, McPherson mentions a lesson from his education:
Paul Freund, who taught me constitutional law at Harvard, used to say that his students knew all the answers without knowing any of the basic questions. I think now that I was trying to learn the basic questions through reading so that, when combined with my own experiences, I could develop a national mind--a sense of how the entire culture, regional, ethnic, class, institutional, functioned together, as a whole.
McPherson's peculiar derring-do is that he attempts, every time, to think with a "national mind." Sometimes he succeeds, but even his failures are gallant, edifying, and spectacular to watch. --Claire Dederer