Edward P. Jones released a well-regarded but little-read collection of short stories in the early '90s, and then spent 10 years writing 2003's The Known World, an epic philosophical novel of the antebellum South that garnered near-universal praise and won the Pulitzer Prize. Jones followed that up last year with All Hagar's Children, a superb collection of stories set throughout the 20th century in Washington, D.C., the author's home. The stories are plaintive, funny, and complicated, often populated with a novel's worth of characters, and never interested in easy conclusions. Depending on his narrators, Jones's sentences can be exemplars of hard economy ("The pie was good, but it wasn't reward enough for having to put up with that child.") or cool syntactical oddities ("Sadie was married to One-Eye Jack, whose left eye had been shot out across the D.C.-Maryland line by a Prince George's County policeman as Mr. Jack innocently changed a flat tire when I was six months old."). Always his prose has the sort of mellow authority the rest of us pine for.
Wed., Oct. 17, 2 p.m., 2007