Tuesday, January 24, 2012
How Black is Black Enough? Review of "Erasure" by Percival Everett
The writing of Percival Everett is new to me, but if "Erasure" is a fair sampling of his work, I will be back for second helpings soon. In this sardonic novel, he points a critical and satirical eye at what it means to be Black in America, what it means to be a "Black Writer," and how an educated artist who happens to be Black can find his way in this world. Using the ironic pseudonym of Stagg R. Leigh - a tip of the cap to the iconic Stagger Lee mythology in the Black community - the protagonist, Thelonius "Monk" Ellison dashes off an outrageous short novel voiced in pseudo-Ebonics. The book is a surprise hit, and Ellison-Leigh must decide ow to respond to the success while hanging onto a modicum of pride.
Along the way, Everett takes a swing at the worlds of academia, publishing, literary awards, popular culture and what it means to be "Black enough."
The writing is razor-sharp, challenging, acerbic and profoundly entertaining. Is it a comedy,a tragedy, or a political and sociological commentary? You decide.