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Erasure (2001)

by Percival Everett

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8093126,747 (4.07)68
Thelonius "Monk" Ellison is an erudite, accomplished but seldom-read author who insists on writing obscure literary papers rather than the so-called "ghetto prose" that would make him a commercial success. He finally succumbs to temptation after seeing the Oberlin-educated author of We's Lives in da Ghetto during her appearance on a talk show, firing back with a parody called My Pafology, which he submits to his startled agent under the gangsta pseudonym of Stagg R. Leigh. Ellison quickly finds himself with a six-figure advance from a major house, a multimillion-dollar offer for the movie rights and a monster bestseller on his hands. The money helps with a family crisis, allowing Ellison to care for his widowed mother as she drifts into the fog of Alzheimer's, but it doesn't ease the pain after his sister, a physician, is shot by right-wing fanatics for performing abortions. The dark side of wealth surfaces when both the movie mogul and talk-show host demand to meet the nonexistent Leigh, forcing Ellison to don a disguise and invent a sullen, enigmatic character to meet the demands of the market. The final indignity occurs when Ellison becomes a judge for a major book award and My Pafology (title changed to Fuck) gets nominated, forcing the author to come to terms with his perverse literary joke. 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. (Sept. 21)Forecast: Everett has been well-reviewed before, but his latest far surpasses his previous efforts. Passionate word of mouth (of which there should be plenty), rave reviews (ditto) and the startling cover (a young, smiling black boy holding a toy gun to his head) could help turn this into a genuine publishing event.… (more)
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» See also 68 mentions

English (29)  French (1)  All languages (30)
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
Witty, smart, humane, challenging. This wonderful novel -- the basis for the (very good) movie "American Fiction" -- is a must for anyone looking for intelligent yet entertaining reading. This is for you, if you care about books, the book industry, and how we as a society see one another -- all wrapped in an often very funny, touching and very well written story. I will definitely read more of Everett's books. ( )
  vunderbar | Feb 18, 2024 |
While attending the Austin Film Festival, I attended a very interesting workshop with screenwriter and filmmaker Cord Jefferson, nominated for the Academy Award for his film "American Fiction". This is the novel American Fiction is adapted from. Both explore the stereotyping of black people and culture. (which can be extrapolated into the stereotyping of any minority group) and the limits of identity politics. It's interesting (as a screenwriter myself) to see how the novel differs from the film. It's better in some ways, not as effective in others. The novel is deeper, and never falls into what I'd term "quality ensemble TV drama cliche", which the film sometimes does. It's darker and edgier, with experimental quirks. The protagonist is less likeable. On the other hand, the film is funnier (good for satire) and more approachable. ( )
  Shepherdessbooks | Jan 29, 2024 |
This might be one of those books that cleverer than I am. Felt like there's a moral hiding in here, I'm just not sure what it is. Monk Ellison is a writer, not a commercially successful one. In frustration at the state of literature that seems to think that the only black voice is written in dialect, he writes such a book. It turns into a runaway success and Monk isn't exactly happy about that. He wants to point out the erroneous assumptions being made about the author and the book's contents, only that would reveal himself as the author. He;s dug himself into a hole and there's not obvious way out. Along side this, we deal with the family, a Dr father who is dead, doctor siblings having various degrees of success in their lives and mother with dementia. Monk is forced out of his academic comfort zone in two directions at once. I;m not sure he;ll ever be the same again.
I suspect that it's a telling critique of race in America, I'm just not sure what lesson I'm supposed to be reading into this. My take is that each person is an individual and that to expect any one voice to represent any group of people is superficial and lazy. Treat each person on their own merits and each book ditto. ( )
  Helenliz | Dec 25, 2023 |
It is really quite hard to summarise or describe this book. It is the story of Thelonius 'Monk' Ellison, an author of books no one reads, whose latest book is rejected by several publishers. Doing the rounds of success is a book called 'We's Lives in Da Ghetto' pronounced by all to be a raw, emotional truth telling about what it is to be Black and by implication that there is only this one way to represent Black.

Monk decides he has to write a book in this style as he is often told that he is not Black enough. He likes things that are often seen as white and middle class: classical music, literature, speaking with a middle class accent and horror of all horrors, a Black man that can't play basketball.

Running alongside this story is the descent of Monk's mother into dementia, the death of his sister who worked in a Women's Clinic and his brother who comes out after 15 years of marriage and two children. And then there is the discovery of a half-sister, if all of that is not enough.

Monk's new book, 'Ma Pafology', written in dialect, tells the story of Van Go Jenkins, is the name a play on Van Gogh?, who has four children by four different women and ends up raping the daughter of a rich Black man who employs him. We get a book within a book here along swith snippets of other texts about woodworking or trout fishing both very 'White' activities.

Ma Pafology, renaned Fuck, goes on to win the most prestigious book award and on the flight to receive the award, Monk finds himself as Monk and his alter ego author Stagg R Leigh sitting in the same seat on the plane representing this split personality of being American and being Black.

Scattered throughout the book are imaginary conversations between artists, musicians and Hitler. The conversation that links to the title of the book is between Rauschenberg and de Kooning where Rauschenberg has asked de kooning to draw him a picture.

Rauschenberg: Well, it took me forty erasers but I did it.

de Kooning: Did what?

Rauschenberg: Erased it. The picture you drew for me.

de Kooning: You erased my picture?

Rauschenberg: Yes.

de Kooning: Where is it?

Rauschenberg: Your drawing is gone. What remains is my erasing and the paper which was mine to begin with.
p254

By writing 'Fuck', Monk is erasing his life as a Black man and selling his erasing through the book.

I struggled with the choice of Monk's name because I don't know enough about jazz. After a quick google I came across the jazz player described as innovative, uses improv by mixing genres and modes. Of course, that is exactly what Everett has done in this book. He is definitely challenging over categorisation of genre

So, this is a book about misrepresentation, or a refusal by society to accept more than one representation of Black-American life. Monk is erased by becoming Staff R Leigh, a parody of Black America and challenges us to think about what it means to be authentic.

Wonderful. ( )
  allthegoodbooks | Oct 14, 2023 |
Set up your Thelonius Monk music and enjoy the many challenges here!

Still a question: why didn't he respond to the possible attack by the man he twice saw
- and likely had been already stalking her - following his sister?

A favorite quote: "It is incredible that a sentence is ever understood."

(Why didn't everyone leave Germany after their art was being burned?)

Oh Lord, not the entire Stagger Lee story in the middle of this really good book...I skimmed a lot.

Plot also falters a bit when there is no explanation from the father for leaving those letters
where his wife would likely read them She did not deserve this and there were other ways to handle
getting the information to his most loved son.

As well, the constant self-hate for FUCK feels overdone when that is the only way to
take care of his mother, his sister's debts, gifts to other nerving people - and what he needs for a decent life...
as the author of exhaustive books and beautiful woodworks.

Plot moves forward with wonderfully predictable humor, except for finally sleeping with Linda - geez.

And dreams within a plot always feel contrived.

(Spare the lovely lonely trout.) ( )
  m.belljackson | Mar 18, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
Ecriture simple et attentive, sens des dialogues, ce roman veut croire qu'il y a encore une vie hors du clinquant médiatique. Et que toute parcelle d'humanité n'est pas encore effacée.
added by miniwark | editTélérama, Pierre Sorgue (Mar 27, 2004)
 

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Percival Everettprimary authorall editionscalculated
Crisden, SeanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
I could never tell a lie that anybody would doubt, nor a truth that anybody would believe.
Mark Twain, Following the Equator
Dedication
For my best friend, my lover, my life, Chessie
First words
My journal is a private affair, but as I cannot know the time of my coming death, and since I am not disposed, however unfortunately, to the serious consideration of self-termination, I am afraid that others will see these pages.
Quotations
It is incredible that a sentence is ever understood.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Thelonius "Monk" Ellison is an erudite, accomplished but seldom-read author who insists on writing obscure literary papers rather than the so-called "ghetto prose" that would make him a commercial success. He finally succumbs to temptation after seeing the Oberlin-educated author of We's Lives in da Ghetto during her appearance on a talk show, firing back with a parody called My Pafology, which he submits to his startled agent under the gangsta pseudonym of Stagg R. Leigh. Ellison quickly finds himself with a six-figure advance from a major house, a multimillion-dollar offer for the movie rights and a monster bestseller on his hands. The money helps with a family crisis, allowing Ellison to care for his widowed mother as she drifts into the fog of Alzheimer's, but it doesn't ease the pain after his sister, a physician, is shot by right-wing fanatics for performing abortions. The dark side of wealth surfaces when both the movie mogul and talk-show host demand to meet the nonexistent Leigh, forcing Ellison to don a disguise and invent a sullen, enigmatic character to meet the demands of the market. The final indignity occurs when Ellison becomes a judge for a major book award and My Pafology (title changed to Fuck) gets nominated, forcing the author to come to terms with his perverse literary joke. 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. (Sept. 21)Forecast: Everett has been well-reviewed before, but his latest far surpasses his previous efforts. Passionate word of mouth (of which there should be plenty), rave reviews (ditto) and the startling cover (a young, smiling black boy holding a toy gun to his head) could help turn this into a genuine publishing event.

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