John Edgar Wideman's short stories read like transcripts of slam poetry, each powerful, run-on sentence gathering steam so it seems to end in an exclamation point rather than a period. He shifts his tone depending on his protagonist a distraught son mourning the death of his mother, a tender lover writing about Thelonious Monk but the themes of death and race are present in each tale. As one character writes while watching a basketball player hit the floor, ''All of us understand it's just a matter of time. Sooner or later, in one way or another, everyone goes down.'' Wideman is unlikely to lift the spirits of his readers with God's Gym, but he will definitely move them.