Fiction. African American Studies. Originally published in 1966, THE WIG is the story of Lester Jefferson, a young man of great good will, whose repeated attempts to become a part of "The Great Society" are doomed in advance. Aided, thwarted, and confused by numerous, curious companions, Lester conducts his inevitable search for happiness in a series of absurdist misadventures that begin with the transformation of the hair on his head into burnished silken curls. "Charles Wright's Negro world explodes with the crazy laughter of a man past caring.His style, as mean and vicious a weapon as a rusty hacksaw, is the perfect vehicle for his zany pessimism.THE WIG is a brutal, exciting, and necessary book"-Conrad Knickerbocker for The New York Times.
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When Charles Wright's THE WIG was published in 1966, Conrad Knickerbocker declared it "A brutal, exciting, and necessary book" (The New York Times). And yet — in contrast to the raging success of Wright’s debut, THE MESSENGER — The Wig was largely overlooked by the media.
When asked to participate in the NEA Heritage & Preservation Series, Ishmael Reed immediately proposed THE WIG. Reed considers this work "one of the most underrated novels written by a black person in this century," and credits the book with influencing his own prose technique. Later criticism mirrors Reed’s assessment, naming THE WIG Wright’s most significant accomplishment and identifying this novel as misunderstood, misinterpreted, and definitely ahead of its time.
By reviving THE WIG, with the support of the National Endowment for the Arts and with Ishmael Reed’s ringing endorsement, Mercury House aims to elevate Charles Wright’s electric novel to its proper position within the literary hierarchy.From the Inside Flap:
"Charles Wright’s THE WIG marked a change in African-American fiction. All of us who wanted to 'experiment,' as we were seeing our painter and musician friends experiment, used it as a model. Though some would call me the literary son of Ralph Ellison, in the 1960s I was the younger brother of Charles Wright."
—from the introduction by ISHMAEL REED
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