Erasure Hardcover – 17 Mar 2003
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Erasure is a tableaux of many delicate interconnected parts. Ostensibly though, it's a book about books, a novel about writing. An overpopulated genre perhaps, but Percival Everett's jack-in-a-box of a novel offers something fresh and quite unique. His narrator and protagonist Thelonious "Monk" Ellison, a professor of English literature, is "a writer of fiction" whose obtuse books are regularly criticised for saying nothing about the "African American experience". He is so incensed by the runaway success of We's Lives In Da Ghetto--a novel that purports to represent contemporary black life but which Ellison describes as akin to finding "a display of watermelon-eating, banjo-playing darkie carvings" in an antiques mall--that he knocks off an expletive-riddled hood yarn of his own. Circulated to publishers under the pseudonym Stagg R Leigh, his pastiche, initially titled My Pafology later shortened to just Fuck, instantly draws a six-figure advance and Hollywood interest. The critics are equally fulsome in their praise: "Dazzling, raw and simply honest" emotes a New York Times reviewer. Monk, who has to meet agents and interviewers disguised as the monosyllabic Stagg, even finds his literary Frankenstein's monster nominated for a prize that he is judging.
Like Nabokov's Pale Fire, the novel Fuck appears in full; a slight hurdle (as with Shade's poem in Pale Fire, if we are honest) is having to endure over 70 pages of faux gangsta prose and being asked to believe that this "novel" would garner such acclaim. The story of Fuck is, however, intricately woven into events besetting Monk's family life; meaty subplots are provided by a quest for a half-sister and, in particular, the story of his mother's descent into senility. As Monk adopts a new identity as Stagg, his mother is increasingly unable to recognise her own son. With its rapier satire and flamboyant invention, Everett's savage, moving and amusing book recalls Philip Roth at his metafictional finest. -- Travis Elborough
'A brilliant satirical novel.' -- Time Out
'A clever satire.' -- Vogue
'An over-the-top masterpiece sparked by satiric brilliance.' -- Publishers Weekly
'It is set for a classic...when Erasure wins the prizes it so richly deserves, the ironies are going to start multiplying unstoppably.' -- Philip Hensher, The Times, March 19 2003
'The construction of this novel is genius; 'Erasure' refracts the American experience, then powerfully re-shapes it.' -- Howard Norman
'With equal measure of sympathy and satire, 'Erasure' craftily addresses the highly charged issue of being black enough in America . . . both a treatise and a romp.' -- New York Times
'one of the most original and forceful novels to have emerged from America in recent years.' -- Times Literary Supplement, March 21 2003
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The fact that Everett manages attempts to make Erasure all of these things, and then pulls them all off with dazzling aplomb, makes this well worth a read. You won't regret it, and you'll find yourself musing on it months from when you finish it.
This is full of literary in-jokes, but also has meaty sub-plots about Monk's family that add to the novel as a whole. Ultimately a satisfying read.
Overall that meant that 50% of this book was boring or appalling. I skipped through the trashy novel after being sickened by the first chapter, leaving a very meager book.
The 'Trashy' novel is supposed to be satire about what white people think of blacks. That does us all a disservice. It's ignorant, cliched and revolting. It insults anyone with a brain.
His point is that people don't expect blacks to be educated and articulate. I don't agree and I think his thoughts about whites are grossly prejudiced in their own way.