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Philadelphia Fire: A Novel Paperback – January 26, 2005

10 customer reviews

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4 Stars and Up Feature: Kitchens of the Great Midwest
"Foodies and those who love contemporary literature will devour this novel that is being compared to Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge. A standout." --Library Journal Learn more
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

JOHN EDGAR WIDEMAN is the author of more than twenty works of fiction and nonfiction, including the award-winning Brothers and Keepers, Philadelphia Fire, and most recently the story collection God's Gym. He is the recipient of two PEN/ Faulkner Awards and has been nominated for the National Book Award. He teaches at Brown University.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (January 26, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 061850964X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618509645
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #130,986 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

JOHN EDGAR WIDEMAN is the author of more than twenty works of fiction and nonfiction, including the award-winning Brothers and Keepers, Philadelphia Fire, and most recently the story collection God's Gym. He is the recipient of two PEN/ Faulkner Awards and has been nominated for the National Book Award. He teaches at Brown University.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
I read 'Philadelphia Fire' as a part of my MA course at The University of Sheffield, England, and, on the whole, enjoyed it. I did, however, find its stream of conciousness style confusing and difficult to read at times. It is rather 'heavy' and slow in certain points, and tends to jump from character to character (and to author/ narator) especially in the second and third parts of the novel. Its description and use of the City is excellent, and I am sure that many can relate to certain experiences encountered by Cudjoe, from reliving youth to revisiting ones old stomping ground etc.
On the whole, I found its style difficult, but do not let this discourage you, as the experience of reading this novel outweighs the sluggishness of certain points.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Steven Gould Axelrod on November 21, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is not really the story of Cudjoe but the story of story-telling itself.

The book explores the jagged edges between fictional protagonists (Cudjoe, then Caliban, and finally a homeless man named J.B.) and an ostensibly non-fictional speaker (a version of Wideman himself, hinting at family dysfunctions such as the incarceration of his son for murder). It also explores the jagged edges separating his own text from, and linking it to, precursory texts by Shakespeare, Joyce, William Carlos Williams, Robert Lowell, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Eldridge Cleaver, Marcolm X, and others.

If you're looking for a cohesive, traditional story, this is not your book. It purposely does not give us pay-offs in scenes and plot developments that it arranges for us to expect. But if you're looking for continual surprise and dislocation, stylistic bravado and beauty, and an often profound meditation on African America, on masculine anguish and self-delusion, and on the American problem more generally, this book is for you.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 21, 1997
Format: Paperback
This novel with its shifting points of view and often stream of consciousness style plays like a Cecil Taylor jazz piece . . . everything seems discordant but the underlying theme pulls it all together beautifully. It's a great novel about modern America, our strengths and weaknesses, our loves/obsessions and hates, our insights and blindness. Widemnan uses the fire bombing of the MOVE house in Philadelphia to take a snap shot of contemporary urban America.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful By kinopku on May 24, 2009
Format: Paperback
i didnt finish this book, and therefore gave it an extra star beyond what i really felt about it - giving it the benefit of the doubt.

perhaps i just read this book at the wrong time in my life, but i am at a point now where i am far more impressed with authors who can take on a subject matter head on and let their descriptions of events be the force behind a narrative. this book is advertised as an account of the events surrounding move, and the bombing of their compound. however, this author chooses, instead, to dwell on the tired old narcissistic self. the self is so overrated and boring to others. before i put it down, what i got was about 1% description of events and 99% musings on the way things *seem* to this character, who seems to be a thinly veiled version of the author. it is a tiresome read that has little redemptive value except probably for the author who may have felt better having gotten some thoughts down on paper.
needless to say, i was disappointed by this book. nonetheless, the author does have a gift for rhythm and for capturing stream of consciousness thought. when i was 17 or 18 and convinced that my inner life was somehow intrinsically valuable, i would have liked this book. but at this point in my life, i seek out books and authors that aim to describe things outside of themselves (which may then be reflections of what is going on inside). so again, it might just be that i read this book in the wrong period of my life.
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful By "jeremy101" on January 27, 2001
Format: Paperback
In Philadelphia Fire Wideman takes on the task of engaging with issues important to the African American community while at the same time presenting them from a modernist viewpoint. Yet topics such as voyeurism, fidelity, and even the title fire are left behind in the main character's escapism. Perhaps Wideman wants to show the disorienting effects society plays on the male African American mind. However, the style becomes tiresome, despite glimpses of simply beautiful writing, and halfway through I found myself looking for an escape as well.
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