Get local news delivered straight to your phone

wednesday

Support City Paper!

$
$
$

Your contribution is appreciated.

When, earlier this year, the New York Times Book Review embarked on a Pazz & Jop–style poll of literary critics to determine the finest American fiction of the past 25 years, the results included such household names as Morrison, DeLillo, Roth, and Updike. But also on the list was a name that sounded as though it belonged on a book of investing tips: Edward P. Jones. The Known World, the 2003 novel that won the D.C. native the Times’ acclaim, told of a black slave owner in antebellum Virginia. Yet Jones’ talents aren’t as a sweeping historical chronicler but as a quiet, nuanced, precise analyst of human beings. Those talents are put to their best use in his unabashedly Joycean short-story collections: 1992’s Lost in the City and the recently released All Aunt Hagar’s Children. The 55-year-old Jones has spent his life in Washington, and his stories follow the lives of Washingtonians, just about all of them black and middle-class. Whereas D.C.’s other contemporary bard, George Pelecanos, bombards his readers with geographic and temporal detail, never allowing his readers to forget that his are D.C. characters living through D.C. history, Jones turns inward, drawing universal themes out of a few keenly resonant details—and saying more about Washington than even the most talented crime novelist ever could. Ironic, considering that in an interview several years ago, Jones said that growing up in the District “didn’t have any effect….It just so happens that I grew up in D.C. and I chose to write stories about D.C.” Thank Jones for doing so when he discusses and signs copies of his work at 7 p.m. at Olsson’s Books & Records, 418 7th St. NW. Free. (202) 638-7610. (Mike DeBonis)