Edward P. Jones

By: Adam McGovern
October 5, 2012

EDWARD P. JONES (born 1950) notices like God, reminds us like a prophet, and talks to us like the person we know best. The most four-dimensional and quintessentially American author since Melville, Jones can in a single sentence tell the story inside the character with a view from that person’s distant past, immediate predicament and far (or shortened) future. His Pulitzer master canvas The Known World, a sad bible of our country’s racial and sexual sins set in the era of slavery, was named for its players’ limited vision but extends to an awareness intimate and divine. Jones so knows the world that he wants to give it the fullest truth he sees, and his portraits of damaged conquerors and stifled benign souls, and the lines they all drift across, was the composite of the shared self we all recognize and can at last concede to understand. The true God remains obscured and unfathomed, and Jones doesn’t presume to know who made us but he can tell what makes us how we are. From the dawn of our national damnation to the light we stumble toward today. Brave bereaved city single parents and conflicted black plantation gentry and mad, sentimental slavemasters and indestructible immigrant Irishwomen and wary, socially courageous midcentury Jews voyage through his books and short stories’ world and he sees down each road they came from and suitcases this all in a paragraph, a sentence, each time we meet its teeming single souls. An act of witness that’s the essence of the will to care. Jones forgets nothing, but makes it feel as if he’d like us to forgive ourselves for it all.


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Flann O’Brien.

READ MORE about members of the Blank Generation (1944-53).


HiLo Heroes, Literature