Legba's Crossing: Narratology in the African Atlantic

By Heather Russell | Go to book overview

5
Dis-ease, De-formity, and Diaspora
John Edgar Wideman’s The Cattle Killing

You can pick up in the playing if you listen hard, listen easy enough,
the chorus saying, We are doing this together…

—John Edgar Wideman, Hoop Roots

Mark my word, it is the contagion of freedom they fear…Do not
fall asleep in your enemy’s dream.

The Cattle Killing

In his introduction to The Best American Short Stories 1996, noted African American author John Edgar Wideman identifies the “special subversive, radically democratic role” that fiction can play not only in terms of transforming readers’ ways of seeing the world, but, even more powerfully, in tangibly altering readers’ ways of being in the world. In Wideman’s own radically democratic, subversive works, narrators, voices, stories, histories, myths, fantasies, imaginations, and readers are always woven together, ebbing, flowing, and spilling out onto each other’s textual bodies and into the body of texts. The rich discursive texture of Wideman’s narratological endeavors reflects African Atlantic traditions of storytelling.

Throughout Wideman’s oeuvre, storytelling always exists in Great Time, bridging past, present, and future and history, memory, and the imagination. “The past,” Wideman affirms, “presents itself fluidly, changeably, at least as much a work in progress as the present or future” (Hoop Roots 9).

-141-

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