Lost in the City: Stories by Edward P. Jones
So first off, I read backwards (see yesterday’s post) … which seemed to have worked out okay, but I still wish I could time travel back to read in the ‘correct’ order: this, Lost in the City, first, THEN All Aunt Hagar’s Children. If you haven’t read either, take my advice, start here first. Also, if you choose to stick Lost in the ears, rest assured that a talented ensemble of multiple narrators take turns bringing Edward P. Jones’ tales of the capital city to life.
MacArthur “Genius” Jones began his lauded literary career with these 14 stories, all set in Washington, DC, in which he captures the every day, what might be called ordinary, lives of African American residents through the decades of the 20th century. Some are native DC-born, while others are transplants who have come north seeking, if not rebirth, then at least improved opportunities.
A young girl raises pigeons on her roof in the aptly named “The Girl Who Raised Pigeons,” a wayward young man gets and keeps a job at “The Store” run by an initially acerbic owner, a highly successful woman who has just received news of her mother’s death climbs into a cab hoping to get “Lost in the City,” and an aging woman agrees to record her life’s remembrances on a series of cassette tapes in “Marie.”
Certainly, Lost stands magnificently on its own. But – and what a ‘but’! – here’s the gawwww-inducing kicker: the 14 stories here line up with All Aunt Hagar‘s 14 stories, written 14 years apart. What do I mean by line-up? Here’s an example: story #2 here, “The First Day,” and story #2 in All, “Spanish in the Morning,” are both about a young girl’s first day of school. Be assured, these are not rewrites of each other, but expertly aligned companion pieces. If literature has but seven basic plots (others insist on less, still others more), then they’re represented multiple times throughout Jones’ stories in both collections, albeit with resonance and grace, each uniquely presented beyond fleeting moments of familiarity.
So here’s a partial key – how horrible would I be if I spoiled all your ‘aha’-moments?! If you’re like me and don’t want to know anything more, then stop right here … and go get both books already. If you need just a few hints, try this: #4s’ Caesar; #8s’ Georgia and the daughter “who would have earned more than all her ancestors put together”; #11s’ blind woman. Good start for you? Now go discover the rest … your own ‘gawwww’ will start soon enough!