Entries in Percival Everett (1)

Wednesday
Feb202013

Erasure: A study in Black Angst

I’m sure I should have known about Percival Everett sooner. I read the summary to Erasure years ago but only recently took the time to buy it and read it. Worth it.




The simplest way to describe Erasure is Bamboozled in print. It is the feeling I had throughout the reading experience. However, it would not do the book justice to shout out Spike Lee and walk away. As in most cases, the book is better. It does something that the movie could not or would not do, it personalizes it’s angry protagonist.

Erasure is the story of Thelonious "Monk" Ellison, an author who is out of place in his personal and professional life. He is an author who writes books that no one he knows reads. He could easily be read as snobbish and unlikable but Everett makes him relatable.  He takes through awkward moments in his youth as well as his relationship with his siblings and parents. There is even time for a short mystery surrounding his father who committed suicide years before the start of the novel.  He also has to help care for his mother who is suffering from Alzheimer’s .  It is with this motivation and the anger of watching those with seemingly less talent than him advance, that a novel within a novel is born. Yes, it’s that kind of book.  The novel within the novel is his idea (which is validated through the media in the book) of what America wants from African Americans. It is filled with stereotypes, tropes and horrible grammar. He does not however envision the life that it will take on or how deeply it affects him.

I would definitely recommend reading this book.  There are parts that are hard to read (most of them can be found in the novel within the novel) but the pacing of the book doesn’t suffer from it. If the subject matter was lighter, I would say you could read it in one sitting. One who is not me might still be able to do so. It has encouraged me to find more Percival Everett.