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Synopses & Reviews
Percival Everett?s most recent novel, the academic satire Glyph, was hailed by the New York Times as "both a treatise and a romp." His new novel combines a touching story of a man coming to terms with his family heritage and a satiric indictment of race and publishing in America.
Avant-garde novelist and college professor, woodworker, and fly fisherman Thelonious (Monk) Ellison has never allowed race to define his identity. But as both a writer and an African-American, he is offended and angered by the success of We?s Lives in Da Ghetto, the exploitative debut novel of a young, middle-class black woman who once visited "some relatives in Harlem for a couple of days." Hailed as an authentic representation of the African-American experience, the book is a national bestseller and its author feted on the Kenya Dunston television show. Her book?s success rankles all the more as Monk?s own most recent novel has just notched its seventh rejection.
Even as his career as a writer appears to have stalled, Monk finds himself coping with changes in his personal life. Forced to assume responsibility for a mother rapidly succumbing to Alzheimer?s, Monk leaves his home in Los Angeles to return to the Washington, DC, house in which he grew up. There he must come to terms with his ailing mother, his siblings, his own childhood and youth, and the legacy of his physician father, a suicide some seven years before. In need of distraction from old memories, new responsibilities, and his professional stagnation, Monk composes, in a heat of inspiration and energy, a fierce parody of the sort of exploitative, ghetto wanna-be lit represented by We?s Lives in Da Ghetto.
But when his agent sends this literary indictment (included here in its entirety) out to publishers, it is greeted as an authentic new voice of black America. Monk or his pseudonymous alter ego, Stagg R. Leigh is offered money, fame, success beyond anything Monk has known. And as demand begins to build for meetings with and appearances by Leigh, Monk is faced with a whole new set of problems.
"An over-the-top masterpiece....Percival's talent is multifaceted, sparked by a satiric brilliance that could place him alongside Wright and Ellison as he skewers the conventions of racial and political correctness." Publishers Weekly
"A scathingly funny look at racism and the book business: editors, publishers, readers, and writers alike." Vanessa Bush, Booklist
"Erasure deserves the attention of anyone black or white interested in sophisticated fiction that subtly questions the phrase 'black and white.'" Tom LeClair, Book Magazine
"More genuine and tender than much of Everett's previous work, but no less impressive intellectually: a high point in an already substantial literary career." Kirkus Reviews
"Everett makes good use of his literary antecedents, most notably Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison, reworking their themes in intriguing ways. This is an important novel from a well-established American author; recommended for all collections." Library Journal
"Erasure demonstrates the folly of racial assumptions in America. It also shows how our culture alters its past how we repudiate our own histories. We?re too quick to assume and we?re too quick to forget. Everett is a novelist we should definitely keep an eye on." Playboy Magazine
"Oases in what too often feels a dreary desert of literary mediocrity, Everett?s books and there are many of them, almost one a year for the last 18 years are unfailingly intelligent and funny, formally bold and intellectually ambitious....[The novel-within-the-novel] is a truly vile and very, very funny piece of writing, mocking the cliches of ghetto genre-writing with all possible viciousness." L.A. Weekly
"Short, tight, and nasty, [the novel-within-the-novel is] as fast and funny as a modern-day Candide." San Francisco Chronicle
"The sharp satire on American publishers and American readers that Everett puts forward is delicious, though it won?t win him many friends among the sentimental educated class who want to read something serious about black inner-city life without disturbing any of their stereotypes." Chicago Tribune
"The anger and brilliance of Percival Everett?s Erasure puts you in mind of Invisible Man, but the satirical wit is all Everett?s own. Half the time I wanted to laugh until I cried and the other half I wanted to fly into a righteous rage and go and start...never mind." Madison Smartt Bell, author of All Souls Rising
"Why do I love Percival Everett?s new novel, Erasure? Because, like all of his fiction, it is audacious. Its audaciousness consists not only of a wildly engaging story, but of describing the most indispensable worst and best of people. In plot, dialogue, sheer inventiveness, Everett is stupendously one of our least compromised writers. The construction of this novel is genius; Erasure refracts the American experience, then powerfully re-shapes it. Thelonius Ellison a writer is one of the edgiest, most savvy, indelible characters I?ve encountered in decades! I wanted to know and hear everything he thinks about everything. Reading Erasure makes you want to have a photographic memory." Howard Norman, author of The Bird Artist
About the Author
Percival Everett is Professor of English at University of Southern California. A judge for the National Book Awards in 1998, he is the author of 13 previous books, including Glyph (1999), Frenzy (1997), Watershed (1996), and Suder (1983).
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