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I Am Not Sidney Poitier: A Novel Paperback – May 26, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Driven by the most sidesplitting dialogue this side of Catch-22, Everett's latest tells the story of a young man named Not Sidney Poitier who bears an uncanny resemblance to the famed actor and is adept at deploying a hypnotic technique called Fesmerism. When Not Sidney is young, his mother dies, but not before becoming an early investor in Ted Turner's enterprises. The boy then moves to Atlanta, into the home of Ted Turner. Despite his vast wealth and celebrity looks, when Not Sidney ventures out into the world as a young adult, he faces bizarre, stinging and potentially deadly forms of racism. While Not Sidney comes across as a likable and thoughtful soul, he's the perfect foil for the fictionalized Turner's stream-of-consciousness non sequiturs (I've never been struck by lightning. You?) as well as the logical absurdities that pepper the speech of his university professor who happens to be named Percival Everett. Not only is the novel smart and without a trace of pretentiousness, it shows Everett as a novelist at the height of his narrative and satirical powers. (June)
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Review

“Percival Everett is a genius. He's a brilliant writer and so damn smart I envy him.” ―Terry McMillan

“Percival Everett has made a career out of flouting expectations . . . [forging] a nervy, caustic body of work that defies easy categorization . . . [The Water Cure] is one of the most elliptical, eccentric protest novels you're ever likely to read.” ―Los Angeles Times

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 234 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press; Original edition (May 26, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555975275
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555975272
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #245,843 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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Prior to reading this book American Desert was the book I told people new to Everett to read in order to transition them to his style, in a sense. This book has taken the crown! Unlike Glyph, A History of The African American People (Proposed), and Erasure, this book tells its story without the (wonderful) intermissions and interludes that some readers have found disconcerting. (Those tools do, however, drive the story, in my opinion, just not in the straight-forward narrative sort of way.)

This book retains his "Percival Everett-ness" with all the whimsy, profundity, and outright silliness of his kind of storytelling. Often the protagonist is as bewildered by the nonsense swirling around him as the reader is, even while being quite absurd - and always cool in an offbeat way - in his own right. And, as one would expect from an Everett book, our hero is often an anti-hero to the world around him. That's all I will say about the story itself as the editorial review/synopsis gives a good description.

His work is timeless and this is no exception. You are pushed to laugh out loud, giggle, smile, and think. He has the ability, unmatched, in my opinion, to dissect the society we find ourselves in; praising - in his way - its positives, mocking its flaws, and finally giving the whole kit-and-kaboodle a firm finger (you know the one). This is a must read, especially if you are new to Everett's work. I hope he never gets tired of writing because I will never get tired of reading his work!
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Although not up in the stratosphere of greatness with Erasure, this novel was a great read, and very much imbued with the ghost of Percival Everett. Not that he's dead. I mean his spirit, his Everett-ness: smart, wry, sardonic, concise, and lots of compelling characters, including Everett himself! I do hope he's not that cavalier as a teacher; I'm guessing not.

My one quibble is the one-dimensional Southern white characters. I do think there's still a lot that's worthy of skewering in the Southern white racial psyche, but some of the characters here are cardboard stereotypes trucked in from Tobacco Road. That seemed too easy.

Overall, though, this book is sort of an updating of Ellison's Invisible Man, with an even more absurdist twist. It's also very realistic, in that it exposes many of the absurdities that remain in our ever-raced and -classed society.
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This was the first Percival Everett book that I've read and am I looking forward to more of his work. This book was hysterical and had me laughing out loud throughout the book. A young man named Not Sidney Poitier, yes that is his name, encounters life without a family -- he doesn't know who his dad is and his mother has died. And by the way, he does bear a striking resemblance to you guessed it -- the real Sidney Poitier.

Fortunately for Not Sidney, his mother invested in Turner Broadcasting very early on and made a fortune. Ted Turner happens to hear about him and next thing we know Not Sidney is living in Turner's sprawling mansion outside of Atlanta. Not Sidney buys his way into college even though he isn't very interested in formal education. Not Sidney sets out to go back to LA, where the fun and games rev into high gear.

Everett's dialogue is first-rate and the exchanges between Not Sidney and Ted Turner had me laughing every single time. Not just smiles, but laugh out loud funny. And Not Sidney's trek through the South has to be one of the great send-ups of racists from the South.

My one small quibble, and I want provide any spoilers, is that the last 20 pages didn't match the quality of the rest of the book. Outside of that, this is pure genius and Everett is a writer not to be missed -- I can't wait to begin my next Everett novel.
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Let's get this out of the way: Although he may look a little like the famous actor, Not Sidney Poitier is not Sidney Poitier. Nor (as far as he knows) is he related, although he doesn't know who his father is. Instead, he's the wealthiest African American orphan in America, because his mother--the kind of woman who would name her son Not Sidney--invested all of her money in an upstart network headed by the dotty and lovable mogul Ted Turner, who is not really that Ted Turner (we are reassured in a foreword), who is married to an aerobics video queen named Jane Fonda, who becomes a father figure to Not Sidney when the boy's mother dies, and who has an attention span that wouldn't last the length of this sentence. And because Percival Everett is the type of author to spare no one, least of all himself, there's also a professor named Percival Everett who is not Percival Everett and who teaches a course in Nonsense Philosophy, which lives up to its name.

As you would imagine simply from the book's title, there's a lot of humor that resembles the old "Who's on First" routine. ("I'm Not Sidney Poitier." "Of course you're not.") And to top it off, young Not Sidney has the ability to mesmerize some people and get them to succumb to his commands--although practicing this superhuman power gets him into some awkward situations. But, as readers have come to expect from Everett, there's a serious, if always ambiguous, undertone to the humor, particularly once Not Sidney decides to leave Ted and Jane and strike out on his own.

The first time Not Sidney drives out of Atlanta, he is immediately arrested for driving while black and is impressed into a chain gang.
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