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Erasure Paperback – October 2, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 265 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion (October 2, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786888156
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786888153
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84,862 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Everett's (Glyph; Frenzy; etc.) latest is an over-the-top masterpiece about an African-American writer who "overcomes" his intellectual tendency to "write white" and ends up penning a parody of ghetto fiction that becomes a huge commercial and literary success. 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.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Thelonius "Monk" Ellison, author of experimental novels, is somewhat estranged from his family because he was favored by an emotionally distant, recently deceased father. When his sister is killed, Monk returns to Washington, D.C., to care for his mother, who is in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. At the same time that he deals with family crises, Monk is also in the midst of a professional crisis after the seventh rejection of his most recent novel. In a fury over the success of We's Lives in Da Ghetto, a debut novel by a black woman exploiting racial stereotypes, Monk writes his own ultra ghetto novel. It is a parody, reminiscent of Native Son but with none of the pathos and perspective. Monk's main character is an Ebonics-spouting brute with no regard for his four children or their respective mothers. To his chagrin, the novel is a success, and Monk is left to struggle with artistic ethics versus the comforts of wealth. A scathingly funny look at racism and the book business: editors, publishers, readers, and writers alike. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

This is a classic novel.
Amazon Customer
If you want a good read that will make you think without making you choke on your own yawns, pick this book up.
A. Nissel
This was funny in a very dark, satirical way.
Alyssa RM

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By JLind555 on February 26, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In "Erasure",Percival Everett has written a book within a book and the reader can be excused for feeling he or she has purchased two books in one. Everett is clearly fed up with the current plague of "blaxploitation" novels, badly written by writers with no art and even less craft, whose only purpose is to jump on the "ghetto fab" bandwagon and make a quick buck. His protagonist, Thelonious Ellison (with the name Thelonius, what else could he be called but Monk?), writes literature deemed too obscure (read: too "white") for a black audience and finds his work relegated to dusty corners in the back of the bookstores. Fueling his outrage is a piece of trash literature called "We Lives In Da Ghetto", hailed as an "authentic" voice of the "black experience" by reviewers who lump all blacks as ghetto blacks, which rakes in $3 million. What's a struggling author with bills to pay and a terminally ailing mother to do? If you can't beat 'em, join 'em... better yet, out-do 'em. In no time at all, Monk has banged out the blaxploitation novel to end all blaxploitation novels, a mishmash called "My Pafology" (later renamed a four-letter word I can't print here), under the pseudonym Stagg R. Lee, which not only wins the National Book Award, but also has Hollywood beating his door down for the movie rights. Everett is clearly disgusted both at those whites whose contempt of blacks runs so deep that they take trash "blaxploitation" novels at face value and consider them as representative of "the black experience" (as if there is one single "black experience"), and at those blacks whose lack of self-respect is so deep that they buy into the hype. As a black reader, I share his feelings totally. Everett at times takes himself too seriously and this is the only thing that kept me from giving this book five stars; but he's an enormously talented and promising writer who has the gift of making you think even while he has you laughing out loud. I'm looking forward to his next book.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By David C McGoy on November 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book offers perhaps the first great protagonist of the new century. Thelonius "Monk" Ellison, college professor, author of "dense" experimental novels, and recipient of seventeen rejection letters, is forced to leave L.A. and return to his childhood home in D.C. to care for his ailing mother. He parlays his frustrations into "My Pafology", an exploitive novel that represents everything he hates about the publishing industry. The novel, written under the pseudonym Stagg R. Leigh, catapults him to the forefront of literary scene, causing Monk's wildest dreams and worst nightmares to unfold simultaneously.
Using Rinehart (from Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man") as a role model, Monk's pseudonym becomes all too real and comfortable for him. The elusive Stagg is able to show just enough of himself to impress a Random House editor and sell the film rights to his novel for a whopping $3 million. To his shock and horror, Monk now finds "My Pafology" on the short list for the most prestigious book award in the country.
The compelling plot takes many interesting turns, addressing themes of race, family, and publishing. A murder, family secrets revealed, and his mother's worsening condition all swirl around as Monk's literary transformation unfolds. He grapples with his creative integrity, but it is hardly a moral dilemma over taking the money. The conflict lies in his extreme sense of isolation, even in his own family, and his level of acceptance at "selling out". While Monk is ultimately able to come to terms with "My Pafology" as his masterpiece, his sense of isolation remains all too real.
With multiple layers of satire, "Erasure" takes no prisoners in its assault on the publishing industry and its notions of "African American literature".
Read more ›
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By kib on December 3, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Thank God for a good black book that doesnt deal with man and woman and other woman and infidelity and sex and man and woman and infidelity and sex. I really really enjoyed this book, perhaps because the author echoes sentiments I have had for a long time about the calibre of books being published of late. Many times I have had to stop ten pages through to check and see who published the book I'm reading because it is so awful. And often the book is published by some well known mainstream publisher, which in turn leads one to wonder if perhaps mainstream publishing believes that this stuff is a) all we are capable of writing or b)all we are capable of reading? I am so sick of books called novels that deal with nothing more than finding a "good" man etc etc. Give Jack his jacket. If a book is a romance then for God's sake dub it so and put it in the romance section but please dont call it a novel. Most of it is an insult to people's intelligence and Mr. Everett does a brilliant job of exposing it. I personally thought the book was hilarious, especially the story within the story. Mr. Everett writes like a snob (thats a simplistic description of his stance) and I love it. I love his style of writing, the book was a page turner to me but it might not be to everyone. But please try it and dont be turned off by the philosophical essays-there aren't many and you dont even have to read them, I didnt-because they dont add anything to the story except to emphasize the brilliance of the protagonist who has to literally sell his soul in order to gain some recognition. I cant wait for another book by Mr. Everett, but I wonder if anything can come close to Erasure. Thank you sir.
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