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American Desert [Paperback]

Percival Everett
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 April 2006

Theodore Street is driving towards the ocean where he plans to drown himself. But on the way he is hit by a van and he sails through the windscreen, his head sliced from his body. At this funeral days later, he sits up in his coffin, apparently resurrected. Theodore becomes an object of derision and morbid curiosity to the press, a prized specimen for scientists and Satan incarnate to an obscure religious cult deep in the desert.

Fascinating, surreal and wildly satirical, Percival Everett sends up the press, religion, UFOs and the military, and offers a meditation on what it is to be alive.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (6 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571226620
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571226627
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.6 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 607,028 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


"'One of America's most intelligent and imaginative satirists... Not only funny but consistently compelling, fiercely written and ultimately moving.' Patrick Ness, Daily Telegraph 'A life - affirming tale, snappily told and unexpectedly tender.' Daily Mail"

About the Author

Percival Everett is the author of fourteen novels, including Glyph, Watershed and Frenzy. Erasure won the inaugural Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for fiction. Everett teaches at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant 9 Oct 2005
By A Customer
This is a marvellous book. One one level it seems a bizarre story line, but it is really a brilliantly written, compassionate and humorous satire. It has a compelling story line, and is both easy and intelligent reading. There is a rare talent at work here and this book deserves a wide audience.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars To Die, or Not To Die? 12 May 2009
Bringing the dead back to life in a piece of fiction normally requires a relatively healthy dose of suspended disbelief on the part of the audience (cf. Frankenstein, Dracula, anything with Boris Karloff), so to write a book where reanimation seems perfectly reasonable and in tune with the normal world is quite an achievement, and one that Percival Everett should be proud of.

On his way to commit suicide, Ted Street's car is hit by an oncoming lorry, sending him through the windscreen and cutting his head clean off, thus scuppering his plans to kill himself. At his funeral three days later, Ted sits up in his coffin. The event makes headlines across the world, and Ted and his family are suddenly thrust into the spotlight. He becomes yet another victim of the insatiable media, his daughter finds him a source of acute embarrassment, and to all the nuts out there he is the messiah, the antichrist, and the perfect experiment for the development of invincible soldiers.
Ted undergoes a personal Odyssey, his travels bringing him into contact with religious cults determined to destroy the demon, to the heart of Area 51 where he gets caught up in a bizarre experiment to clone Jesus, while all the time he is simply trying to get back to his family.

While it is one of the most staple of all fiction plots, Ted's travels are used by Everett in a refreshingly new way, as he forces the reader to question what it is to be alive (or indeed dead), and exposes a culture that is perhaps too ready to call on religion whenever it can't explain something.

He manages to keep a serious tone throughout the book, while at the same time keeping the reader thoroughly engaged through some savagely funny and biting passages (the funeral scene is particularly memorable).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Aboslutely Bizarre! 15 Sep 2005
Thats one way of describing this incredible book! When I first picked the book up and read the fly I put it straight back down again thinking 'what on earth is all that about'! But within a few moments of reflection I picked it straight back up again out of sheer curiosity and from that point on I was hooked very quickly needing some answers!
The story centres upon a guy called Ted Street, a family man and not so hot college lecturer who ends up having an affair with one of his students. This situation leads him into dispair and he decides that he wants to end it all by walking into the sea and not returning. As it happens, on his way to the coast, driving along he suffers a fatal traffic accident involving a head on collision with a truck which swerves to miss a dog (its that kind of book!). The accident results in the complete decapitation of Teds head from his body.
The undertakers do a fantastic job with their needle and threads sewing Teds head back into place using 'blue thirty weight fishing line'.
At his funeral, shockingly and causing mass pandemonium Ted sits bolt upright in his open coffin and appears to have returned from the dead.
This fantastic story then follows on from the fear of of Teds loved ones and just about anyone who comes into contact with him. Dead or alive?? Not so dead Ted!!
Ted appears to have super senses including the capability of reading minds and super hearing. One bit I really enjoyed was when Ted brings down to earth one of these flashy TV news journalist by publicly revealing her worst secrets live on air in revenge for some nastiness that she had inflicted! We get to meet weird religious fanatics which provides some humour and some scarey bits and even get to learn what really goes on in Roswell!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A life after death 17 Oct 2012
By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Ted Street's head has been severed from his body in a car accident. The morticians have sewn it roughly back on before the funeral; but in the church he gets up out of his coffin and resumes his existence. He has no heart-beat or pulse, can feel no physical pain or discomfort, though his senses are super-receptive, and he can read past events in other people's lives. Of course he is a sensation. He himself is puzzled and worried, but he is calmer and more laid back than he was in his previous somewhat inadequate self as an academic and a husband.

The media are their usual vile intrusive self, and I whooped with joy when Theodore, on air, reveals the intimate private past of the interviewer (something I wish could be dished out to some media folk in real life!)

But the outside world will not leave him alone. A religious cult, led by a maniac, is sure that he is the Devil and that they have to destroy him. Another, equally crazy, religious group thinks he is the Messiah in his second coming. (A nice touch: the two groups sing the same hymn). The military are interested in him because it would be wonderful if through him they could discover what would make a soldier indestructible.

Ted may have no heart beat, but he has a caring heart, and in the end he does turn out to be a kind of Saviour, recalling Luke 18:16. And the final paragraph is, I suppose, the only possible ending, unexpected as it is.

The novel moves rapidly back and forth from one scene to another, from present to past, from waking to several dreams, from one character to another. There is a kind of subplot about what happens to Ted's wife and two children, which strikes me as a slight padding out. Prose and dialogue are terse, simple, clean and effective.
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