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Lost in the City (1992)

de Edward P. Jones

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565930,620 (3.98)31
Lost in the City features 15 poignant short stories, each set in Washington, D.C. Far removed from marble monuments and the offices of rich politicians, the nation's capital that Jones captures is inhabited by self-willed African-Americans struggling to live their lives as best they can.

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This book caught me a bit by surprise. First, it gets promoted as a collection of stories about black Washington, DC. It is that, but, especially in the early stories, it is very subtle about making that an obvious part of the setting. This is no Manchild in the Promised Land, oozing with black urban milieu. A Beltway resident may catch some of the street references, but the rest of us will not see any typical DC tourist locations. These are regular folks living "regular" black urban lives. Secondly, the author is quite restrained in his narratives. There are no linguistic gymnastics embellishing what is happening. He describes people and situations very clearly, letting "behavior speak louder than words." Finally, and it took me a while, but I found the stories quite female-centric, coming from a male author, as they do. All but a small number of the stories center on female characters, and even the ones that concentrate on a male character, have extremely important connections with key female roles. The author is obviously very in tune with the central role that women play in the urban black community. He doesn't criticize. He doesn't praise. His women -- and in some cases, young girls -- are nuanced personalities holding the community together in the only ways they know. Sadly, if this collection was about white soccer moms in the suburbs, it would be an easy best seller, but it's not. It's about people lost in the city and lost in American society. ( )
  larryerick | Apr 26, 2018 |
7. Lost in the City : Stories by Edward P. Jones
published: 1992
format: 268 page paperback
acquired: from Borders in 2005
read: Jan 28 - Feb 5
rating: 4½

"...he was left with the ever-increasing vastness of the small apartment..."

Struggling just to get myself sitting and reading and actually blocking out the world a bit, and I picked this up to see if it would help. The collection of stories was the right kind of halfway step. Those ten, twenty, thirty minutes of focus were well rewarded, even if they came here in there, in a spotty way, between long draws on fb and the news and dwelling about where our world is headed—still obsessed.

Jones is special, and one-off personality with a wonderfully one-off take on his stories and their perspectives. You almost don't notice it. Each of these stories take place in Washington, D.C., that other Washington, D.C. Every character is black, each has roots in the south, either by birth or one generation removed, and each has been in D.C. for the majority or the entirety of their lives. The general poverty, limited opportunity, the divide from the white world are all taken for granted, accepted. It's an odd thing how few of these characters rebel, they live and breath this world as if there is no other.

I'm hard pressed to place what it is that makes these stories work. I mean, of course they're interesting and have an odd assortment of characters, orphans, drug dealers, shop owners, suspect parents, convoluted relationship, escape artists of all sorts—getting lost in the city being a goal more than a problem. But, there is something else here that makes these stories work beyond their often terrific opening paragraphs, and despite their anticlimactic and unsatisfying endings. Published in 1992, written, apparently, throughout the 80's, and about characters often from the 1960's, there are a mixture of eras captured in tone, and atmosphere, and none of them our right now. But I enjoyed pretty much every one of these.

"About four that afternoon the thunder and lightning began again. The four women seated about Carmona Boone's efficiency apartment grew still and spoke in whispers, when they spoke at all: They were each of them no longer young, and they had all been raised to believe that weather was—aside from answered prayers—the closest thing to the voice of God. And so each in her way listened."

Recommended.

2017
https://www.librarything.com/topic/244568#5925787 ( )
  dchaikin | Feb 7, 2017 |
Very good collection. I can't wait to have some time to finish reading it. Strong voices, strong characterization, a variety of thoughts and feelings. I'm glad Jones is not just another flavor of the minute. I'll happily read more of his work. ( )
  evanroskos | Mar 30, 2013 |
Lost in the City by Edward P. Jones is just an excellent collection of short stories set in Washington DC during the 50's to 70's. The characters are black, many elderly. Jones captures a mood and situation brilliantly. The stories reverberate with humanity struggling with the effort of making sense of life. ( )
  snash | Feb 29, 2012 |
I'm a huge, huge Edward P. Jones fan. ( )
  candacekvance | Apr 17, 2009 |
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Lost in the City features 15 poignant short stories, each set in Washington, D.C. Far removed from marble monuments and the offices of rich politicians, the nation's capital that Jones captures is inhabited by self-willed African-Americans struggling to live their lives as best they can.

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