Throughout his career, John Edgar Wideman has emerged as a prominent voice of the African-American consciousness. Yet, he does not narrow his field only to African-American issues. His work, demonstrating an understanding of the greater themes that affect people of all races, speaks a universal language.
Wideman has also shown a drive for literary exploration, constantly searching for new ways to tell his stories. These characteristics combine in the title story of his 1989 short story collection, Fever. The author calls the challenging and complex ‘‘Fever’’ a ‘‘meditation on history.’’ Through its examination of Philadelphia’s 1793 yellow fever epidemic, it explores the racial ambiguities that exist in society. Wideman draws on real-life events and people to give his story a more credible and human feel. As his narrators explore the problems brought on by the fever, they present a concrete picture of the devastation the epidemic leaves behind, both in physical and emotional terms. Readers and critics alike admire ‘‘Fever’’ for its literary risks as well the significance of Wideman’s message. Critics have consistently noted that it is one of his most ambitious pieces of short fiction.