Thanks to Mike Magnuson. He pretty much threatened to drive to Michigan and kick my ass if I didn't find a copy of Percival Everett's Erasure, telling me the man had written a plethora of kickass books (this was his fifteenth), most of them novels (this was his eleventh) and all funny as hell, but this one laugh out loud funny. It's the first Percival Everett title I bought and read and well, I've read 23 of them now. Nice job Mags.
In his eleventh novel, Percival Everett seemingly lets off some of the steam he has built up in dealing with the literary establishment over the course of his first fourteen books. He does so with a keen eye, wonderful language and a story both sad and funny at the same time.
Erasure is the
story of Thelonius "Monk" Ellison. While teaching at UCLA, he has published
several 'critically acclaimed' novels and had modest success, in terms of
sales, with one of them. His agent gives
him the news that nobody is biting on his latest work, sometimes declining harshly (one agent ends his reply with
"does anybody really want to read this shit?").
Ellison's personal life is not going any better. He's not in a romantic relationship, he rarely speaks to his siblings - one older brother and one older sister, both successful doctors, has very few people he can consider friends, and is still trying to reconcile his father's suicide from seven years earlier.
Early in the book, Ellison takes advantage of being able to
give a reading of a paper to the Nouveau Roman Society back in Washington D.C. This brings him
Everett does a great job of bringing a lot of information about each character into the novel while allowing the story to remain that of Thelonius. He does an excellent job of foreshadowing a specific fact about his brother via conversations Thelonius and Lisa have, and then of an event that will happen to Lisa later in the novel as well. It is the combination of all of these events that brings Thelonius to the decision to take a leave of absence and go home and take care of his mother.
It is also during this time that a young woman hits it big with her novel We's Lives in Da Ghetto, based on an experience she had visiting some relatives in Harlem for a couple of days. Besides being a best seller and getting her on the not so subtly fictionalized Oprah show, she also sells the movie rights for three million dollars.
This is where a little more of the fun comes in - Ellison
takes about a day and a half to crank out a parody of what he consider the crap
that he has found selling in the African American section at great chain
bookstores next to his scattered titles and titles it My Pafology. Everett includes this treat within
What follows is the hilariously incisive commentary by Everett on the literary community.
Everett has done a fantastic job of merging the literary satire, with the family storyline, while mixing in race and the issue of being 'black enough' to the African American community. If I tossed in every thing that caused me to laugh out loud, or made me think a little longer about something, or made me think to call and talk to a relative I hadn't heard from in too long, my review would be longer than the book itself. It should be read and passed along to family and friends. The only negative thing about it was that the satire was missed by those shelving it at Borders - you'll need to go to the African American section to find this one, which sadly will hide it away from the many unwilling to stray from the general fiction shelves. Do yourself a favor and stray.