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Book Sent For You Yesterday


Sent For You Yesterday

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Sent For You Yesterday.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    John Edgar Wideman(Author)

    Book details

Tells the story of Brother Tate, a Black albino who, after the death of his son, refuses to speak for twenty years
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

ovel in which "Mr. Wideman returns to the ghetto where he was raised and transforms it into a magical location...and establishes a mythological and symbolic link between character and landscape." --New York Times Book Review --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

2.2 (10913)
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Book details

  • PDF | 208 pages
  • John Edgar Wideman(Author)
  • Avon Books; First Edition edition (1983)
  • English
  • 4
  • Literature & Fiction

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Review Text

  • By Rockefeller on July 12, 2005

    From [...]Sent for you yesterday, and here you come today.It only makes sense that one of the main themes of John Edgar Wideman's Pen/Faulkner Award winning novel, Sent For You Yesterday, should find expression in a song. Any novel written with the musical lyricism and jive, stream of consciousness language Wideman employs is attempting to bridge the gap between music and literature. Wideman takes the blues out of the jazz clubs and places it squarely on the page for the readers' benefit. Sent For You Yesterday is a marvel to read, not only for its eloquent exposition of urban African American culture, but also simply for the beauty of Wideman's words.If James Joyce had been born in inner city Pittsburgh instead of Dublin, his writing would most likely have sounded much like Wideman's. Wideman shifts flawlessly from one characters' thoughts to the next, detailing the exclusion felt by the albino Brother in an all black community, to the lunacy of Samantha, a mother of over 10 children who loses her mind when one of her children burns to death. World War II clouds over this novel in the same way World War I is the ever-present unmentioned in Woolf's To The Lighthouse. Wideman draws on the modernists, but in a completely original manner. The lives he shows us are real and hard, their importance obviously apparent but unbearably tragic. Through it all, Wideman's characters persevere, suffering through life, even as they acknowledge it will only get worse. In their brave embrace of life, there is a profound sublimity. One consolation is music - it is also their heritage for people otherwise without possessions.Any discussion of the characters in Sent For You Yesterday must begin by first acknowledging that the Pittsburgh area of Homewood is the main character. Though he is wanted by the police for sleeping with a white woman, Albert Wilkes' has to return to Homewood. The place draws him back. He has traveled for seven years but only in Homewood does he feel at home. His re-arrival in Homewood frames the novel's first section, while the rest of the book focuses on Lucy Tate, the narrator's Uncle Carl, and Lucy's surrogate brother called only Brother, and their relative inability to leave Homewood at all. The gravity of the town seems to possess the work's human characters. Homewood exerts a force originating out of its inescapable history; even as its houses crumble, its people drink and drug themselves to death, and poverty comes to dominate like a despot, Lucy, Carl, and Brother stay fixed, attached to each other, but more so to the place. The only of the self-termed "Three Musketeers" who figures out a way to leave Homewood is Brother and he does so through suicide, symbolically mauled by the town's lone link to the outside world, a freight train.Wideman presents his characters not as emblems pleading for our sympathy, but in a matter of fact manner that seems to say: take them as they are or don't take them at all, either way, your opinion isn't going to mean much to them. Even as he chronicles the socioeconomic decline from one generation to the next, his characters never turn to external factors to lay blame for their misfortunes. As Carl eloquently recalls about his temporary drug addiction, he enjoyed crack and shot up because of the pleasure. It was his choice, no one else's. There was no coercion, just as it was his decision to stop. While the oppressive presence of white people hangs over all, penetrating the character's psyches as if by osmosis, Wideman doesn't succumb to angry finger pointing. Wideman suggests that the horrendous level of disrespect with which white people treat African Americans has bored into the black mind to such a degree, that the residents of Homewood have internalized and eventually accepted the idea that they are somehow lesser than. It has become so second-hand, the idea isn't even perceptible anymore. It's just a part of life, like Carl's pot belly or the shared affinity for Iron City beer. And it is the subtlety of this presentation of the ramifications of segregation and racism that makes it so effective. How can characters ask for empathy when they can't even realize they would ever deserve it? The bluesy expression "been down so long don't even know what's up," floats between the lines of Sent For You Yesterday like the lingering echo of a melancholy piano chord.Wideman justly won the Pen/Faulkner Award for Sent For You Yesterday. His innovative utilization of "authentically black" language provides the dialect and characters with a respect they never afforded themselves. Wideman takes the tuneful acoustics of street slang and transforms the speech into high art. Not since Faulkner has a specific time and place been depicted so accurately and with such heartfelt compassion. Wideman has saved a culture and past from oblivion by rendering it as adeptly as he manages in this novel. In a present when Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent are the most ubiquitous signs of black culture, Wideman reminds all Americans that African Americans have existed and will continue to do so as an incredibly cohesive community and one that we should honor with more than Senate apologies. Wideman illustrates an unshakeable integrity pulsating in a dereliction few of us have or will ever be forced to witness. Whether Homewood's characters comprehend it or not, they are resilient, and far from pity, should receive only our admiration for not bowing to life's burdens. As for Wideman, he should continue to receive praise, as an achievement such as Sent For You Yesterday, like the world it defines, must never be forgotten.

  • By Avid Reader on November 26, 2017

    Here's the best way I can describe "Sent for You Yesterday." While most books try to draw you in to a world by telling you about events, people, places, etc., this one keeps you at a distance. In this book, you never feel as if you could join the community or even find out what really happened, because you didn't live there during the time when the events occurred. You are forever an outsider.Interestingly, to the extent that the book has a narrator -- and it doesn't, really -- it's "Doot." Doot is the nickname for a 30-year-old African American man who grew up in a Black neighborhood of Pittsburgh called Homewood. He's come back in the 1980s (I think) and is visiting with older relatives and their friends, and they tell him stories of the old days. Those stories are the heart of the book. But this conventional-sounding formula makes the book seem much more accessible than it is. Doot is a totally minor character who's briefly noted in the beginning because another person named "Brother" is mentioned as the person who gave Doot his name; and then Doot is in the last one-fifth of the book in the role of the pitcher into which these stories are poured by the older generation in a mixed-up flow of reminisce, rumor, and drunken daydreams and nightmares.People are saying this boy reminds them of James Joyce. It reminds me of Faulkner. First, it's a hermetically sealed area -- in this case the African-American neighborhood of Homewood, on the edge of Pittsburgh, which is an entire universe in a maybe 10 square blocks. You've got people telling the same stories over and over for decades, but from slightly different perspectives until the full story emerges. You have people who are outcasts even within their little society, such as the Albino brother. You have a ton of repetition, a ton of slang, a healthy dose of the Bible but also of sinning. It's Faulkneresque, but in a Black community in the North.Now, it is it good? Well, it's impressive, but it's not pleasurable to read. It's funny, angry, imaginative, full of riffs on life and with creative descriptions that beautifully reflect what must have been the things that people in that world saw and did. For example, two young skinny boys with pot-bellies in the way boys have them are described as having "watermelon" stomachs, with ribs as fingers reaching down to hold the watermelons in place. Or games of chicken at the railroad tracks are described with such intensity that they bring back my own much-less daredevil kid days, and the feeling of power when you conquered a fear.But it's really hard to work through the language of the book. The language flows like a stream of consciousness, or often actually the subconscious mind in which ideas meld together, some real and some imagined. Much of it is choppy phrases stuck together into impressions, rather than complete thoughts. It's hard to know what's real and what's imagined. Many times, people are talking but quotes aren't used, so you have to read it a few times to realize it's banter in a bar or on a porch. You're told something happened, usually something tragic, but you're not sure it really happened, and you don't find out until later how it happened.And while the language is impressive in a jazzy, impressionistic way, I find that its difficulties actually pull me away from the characters at times. You want to feel for the people in this story, the generations from about 1920 through the 1970s living in Homewood. Life was hard and was limited by prejudice. They deserved better than they got, and you are reminded of their essential goodness to each other, their humanity as shown by their humor and occasional visions of beauty in a sunset, their need to keep their community alive by telling and retelling stories.Homewood was about as middle class as African-Americans could get at the time, and they were relegated to manual labor at rates about half of the rates for whites. John French, for example, was acknowledged as a great hanger of wallpaper, but he couldn't get steady work from whites, just scrap jobs when they needed an extra hand. He mostly spent his time drinking cheap wine and looking for stuff to steal from white homes. John was married and had several children, including Carl, a rambunctious kid who played on the train tracks, sneaked peaks at naked girls and had no ambitions (because society wouldn't let him have them). Carl's best friend is an albino boy named Brother, who mostly sings, whistles, and shucks-and jives. Brother is even less disciplined than Carl because he's got no parents and lives with an elderly couple, the Tates, who can't track him very much. Brother and Carl are lifelong friends who mostly spend their time drunk or on drugs, when the latter came to Homewood in the 1970s. They form a trio with Lucy Tate, also not the Tate's child but also taken in by them, and she and Carl have a romance that starts with sex at age 13 and remains for their entire lives, though they never marry nor have any kids. Also moving through the story is Albert, a gifted jazz and blues piano player, who is killed for sleeping with white women, a killing that Lucy witnesses and never forgets, and which serves to remind Carl and Brother that they will never get equal treatment.So, on the one hand, you're sympathetic to the injustices of job discrimination, corrupt police, inadequate housing and resources, bad schools, and so on. Even when someone does something that makes no sense, there's sense in the person's head about it. Samantha has a kid per year for a dozen years and with an endless array of men. On the surface, she's a sex-crazed slut, basically. But then you get inside her head and learn that she has visions about an apocalyptic battle of the races, so she's trying to make as many African-Americans as possible for the crisis. It's not how I'd run my life, but it's certainly one way to see the world.But on the other hand, everyone in the book sits around drinking most of the time. There's no sense of building for tomorrow, for coming up with a plan, for working collectively on anything except the day-to-day. A few people are obliquely referred to as successful, but this is because they got out of Homewood and moved elsewhere, sending back a Christmas card or (in the case of one woman) coming to visit her daughter a couple of times a year in her glamorous clothing. Carl goes into service in WWII and does well, and then he comes home and starts taking art classes using the GI Bill. But he quits when one teacher tells him that, though he's talented, there's no place in art or in graphics work for a Black man. Rather than trying to find out if that man is right, Carl quits the next day.There's no such thing as success within Homewood, and that's why you have so much trouble feeling like you can be a part of this book. You'd never want to live there, and if you did it would be very hard to feel the affection for it that the characters do, unless, like them, you lived their your entire life.

  • By A customer on December 7, 1998

    I chose this book at random while looking for literature for my students.I found the book brilliant. The author's use of imagery is captivating and the story teaches you its style as you go along. In the beginning the lack of quotation marks is frustrating but then you fall into the rhythm of the voices and you cannot stop reading. By the last third, I was snarling at people who dared to try to interrupt me while I breathlessly pawed through page after page of lyrical poetry and metaphor disguised as a prose work.

  • By A customer on January 28, 1999

    What I love the most about Wideman is the way in which he evokes the sense of time and lost. His writing style reminds me of a cross between Jean Toomer and Fyodor Dostoeyevski, also two of my favorite writers. This novel takes place in the town of Homewood, PA. It is a predominately black working class neighborhood. Wideman makes Homewood feel so alive and yet slowly dying at the same time. If you've ever had a sense of lost time, lost experiences, lost something but you don't know what, than this is the book to read. No other writer has been able to evoke those feelings within me more than Wideman. (p.s.- As if Wideman wasn't good enough, be on the look out for his multi-talented daughter Jamila in the future!)Best Wishes,Rodney Mitchell

  • By multiconstruct on June 7, 2013

    The attempt is to capture the spirit of jazz. Disjointed, stream of consciousness, changing point of view and tense. It's not so much hard to follow as just a little annoying. Mostly I just didn't care for the characters for a long time. It's a little overwrought and strident in regard to race. I like the magical realism and I am OK with emphasizing since of place and not being plot drive but the author couldn't pull it off. Not terrible, but terribly uneven.

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