Saturday, July 26, 2008

What is Steven Wingate reading?

The latest featured contributor to Writers Read: Steven Wingate, author of Wifeshopping (Houghton Mifflin, 2008) which won the 2007 Bakeless Prize in fiction from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.

One book he tagged:
Allah Is Not Obliged by Ahmadou Kourouma (Random House, 2006). For those who found the hullaballoo surrounding Ishmael Beah’s memoir A Long Way Gone excessive, Allah Is Not Obliged is a brilliant fictional answer. In this novel we follow Birahima, a ten-year-old boy soldier, as he travels with an inept sorcerer named Yacouba through a variety of African civil wars. Traded from one side to another, threatened regularly with death, and routinely pumped full of drugs, Birahima somehow manages to retain some sense of his own humanity despite the madness that swirls about him. A phantasmogoric picaresque, this novel reads like a modern day version of Denis Diderot’s 18th century classic Jacques the Fatalist and His Master (which in itself is a perverted take on Don Quixote) or a very, very sordid Candide. Kourouma died before his work was translated from its original French into English, but mark my words: two decades from now, when we look back at the millennial literature of Africa, Allah Is Not Obliged and its author will stand tall. P.S.: This is a great airport novel, and only people who are serious about literature will strike up a conversation with you if they see it in your hands. [read on]
About Wingate's Wifeshopping, from the publisher:
An honest, absorbing debut fiction collection, Wifeshopping centers on the ultimate human quest: the search for companionship, love, and understanding. These captivating stories feature American men, love-starved and striving, who try and often fail to connect with the women they imagine could be their wives. Some of the women are fiancées, some are new girlfriends, some are strangers who cross the men’s paths for only a few hours or moments.

In “Beaching It,” an artist traveling on the summer circuit begins an affair with a rich, married local. In “Me and Paul,” a lonely traveler adopts an alter ego to help him impress a single mother. In “Bill,” a trip to a flea market highlights the essential differences between a man and his fiancée. Throughout this thoroughly entertaining read, Wingate’s sympathetic characterizations reveal both the hopefulness and the heartache behind our earnest but sometimes misguided attempts at intimacy.
Read more about Steven Wingate and his work at his website, his blog, his Facebook page, and his MySpace page.

Writers Read: Steven Wingate.

--Marshal Zeringue