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Percival Everett by Virgil Russell: A Novel Paperback – February 5, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

This new novel by the prolific and always inventive Everett will, with its odd title alone, bedevil librarians, booksellers, and bibliographers. It is, however, an innovative exploration of the outer limits of narrative ambiguity, and it’s also a deeply felt book about a father and son. Our initial narrator, visiting his elderly, invalided father, is handed an autobiographical manuscript presumably written by the elder “as if” the son had composed it, but even that narrative, this novel’s core, changes shape from segment to segment. Along the way, there are interpolations, dialogues, and speculations about narrative—for example, what if Nat Turner were to have written a memoir of William Styron?—as Everett proceeds, in his customary manner, to amuse and provoke his readers. An intriguing and intricate puzzle of a novel. --Mark Levine

Review

"[A] stark, shattering novel. . . . The splintered stories keep their urgency even as they lose their drift. The note of sadness struck in the dedication swells and echoes through the wreckage of narrative, reaching a pitch of extraordinary anguish. This meta-fiction is deeply moving." (The Wall Street Journal)

"A potent and thoughtful exploration of the bonds between fathers and children." (The Washington Post)

"Everett is one of the most gifted and versatile of contemporary writers. . . . His work takes hold of us and won't let go." (Alan Cheuse, NPR.org)

"Though funny, the novel also possesses a terrible and still sadness, concerning as it does not only William Styron and Nat Turner but also aging and death, the tragic hatred of racists, the depth of solitude at life's end. . . . The book, though it's frequently philosophical, is not in the least boring. Dear reader, how that impressed me! For there are times when philosophy can be less than action-packed. This is not one of them. Therefore, I heartily commend this book to you. It's like a carnival ride, but not the kind where you vomit. . . . Percival Everett numbers among his very best." (Lydia Millet, Los Angeles Times)

"Funny, insightful, and unpredictable. . . . Everett is a master of his trade." (Time Out Chicago)

"Possessed by a loopy, madcap energy. . . . [Everett] demonstrates that a literary work can be cerebral, emotionally affecting, and highly readable at the same time. The novel also turns out to be relentlessly funny." (Paste Magazine)

"In a more perfect world the novelist Percival Everett would dominate the bestseller list to such a degree that they would need to give him his own category, Harry Potter style. . . . The man is practically A Goddamn National Treasure." (Alex Balk, The Awl)

"Combines the philosophical puzzling of Beckett with the oddball discursiveness of Brautigan, and has the playfulness of both." (PWxyz, "PW Best Books of 2013")

"Witty [and] perceptive . . . Everett's writing is dazzling throughout." (PopMatters)

"[Contains] scenes of great emotional authenticity. . . . Everett's metafictional reflections on identity will further solidify his critical reputation." (Shelf Awareness)

"Everett gives us a work of fiction that grapples with grief, the fragility of human life, death, relationships, loneliness, and yearning for purpose. . . We are left breathless, with heartache and with the understanding we are all made of stories, nothing but products of our diverging and converging plot lines that eventually will come to an inexorable point." (ZYZZYVA)

"[Percival Everett is] so humanely adept at getting to the heart of the human condition. . . . Everett has created much more than an exercise in unreliable narration, an exploration of the nature of language and the rationales we create to keep ourselves going as we grow old. By the conclusion, every sentence, indeed every word, has come to seem like a valuable key, not just to this puzzle of a novel, but to the meaning of existence." (Publishers Weekly)

"[Percival Everett by Virgil Russell is] an innovative exploration of the outer limits of narrative ambiguity, and it's also a deeply felt book about a father and a son. . . . An intriguing and intricate puzzle of a novel." (Booklist)

"The heart of storytelling and the heart of a complicated man beat together in this extraordinary meditation on love, language, and the irrevocable action of time. Who tells whose story when and why and how do we know when it's over? For Everett, it's never over, and it's never enough, and it's the very best thing we've got. A novel of surpassing intelligence, grief, and tenderness." (Stacey D'Erasmo, author of The Sky Below)

"Within [a] narrative labyrinth, the novel is much more than an academic exercise . . . as it searches for the possibility of meaning in life as well as narrative and meditates on the process of aging and the inevitability of death." (Kirkus Reviews)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press (February 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555976344
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555976347
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #920,783 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sophie Pantouffle on March 18, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Less straightforward than some of Percival Everett's other works (including his masterpiece Erasure), this is nonetheless a beautifully written contemplation of narrative, storytelling, and mortality. Stick with it and you will not be sorry.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By zed stein on February 21, 2013
Format: Paperback
Read a review of this of this novel that complained that the author didn't simply tell the story. Well, the story is the story. It is a narrative about narrative and the nature of narrative. I am not a fan of all of Everett's works, but this one blew me away. It's not for the timid reader; that's true. But it's worth the effort. If you realize that a novel can be many things at once. This book pushed me. It made me question my conception of fiction. It's made me a better reader. Love the songs.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By westreader on May 14, 2014
Format: Paperback
There isn't a simple way to describe or categorize this novel. How that would have troubled the members of the Vienna Circle, and how Wittgenstein would have understood. Everett has constructed a work of fiction that attempts to expose the inherent ambiguities of language that those thinkers, at least initially, believed (or hoped) could be reduced to Euclidean rules. While not an easy thing to do, Everett has succeeded. The novel is difficult, but playful. The misunderstandings, confusions, and blind alleys that form the basis for what we try to do when we believe we are communicating are the novel. Leading the reader in one direction, Everett often simply leaves him there, wondering. Although there is a lot going on, we eventually at least see where the author is headed, and why. Too, every now and then, out of nowhere something hilarious happens, because Everett not only understands the philosophy he is attempting to show us, he is also very funny.

I think the book is a masterpiece, but if you are simply looking for easy entertainment don't look here. Everett wishes to place us into the world he has created, not just have one observe it. On the last page, of course, we learn again that "Whereof we cannot speak, thereof we must keep silent." Or maybe we learn that throughout the work. Or maybe we learn nothing. Like the world we live in, it is never quite clear.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By H. Patricia Blackshire on March 18, 2014
Format: Paperback
In reading Percival Everett's literary works, you really have to be patient. Your mind has to be calm and serene. If you're rushing through the book, or, are distracted you will miss subtle things going on in the novel. Reading Everett is like trying out for an advance gymnastic class, but only in this case it's his masterful use of words and how powerfully he uses them. Yes, his writing is far different from what most people are familiar with. And, that's why it's extremely important to be in a relaxed state of mind. I agree with some of the reviews... he sometimes loses his reader. And, it could be that he is trying to show everyone how clever he is or vice versa: how "dopey" we are

Maybe, we think we can read and he's showing us that we are average readers at best. He's trying to challenge us! When I read him, I'm always thinking of what is going on in his life at the time of his writings.

Fan of Percival Everett, HPB
Washington, DC MARCH 2014
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Commissaris on April 26, 2013
Format: Paperback
This is the first novel that I have read my Everett, and it seems that his other works have prestigious reviews. This book reads like a poem, as a dying father speaks to his son and tries to make some sense out of his life in closure. An interesting perspective to write a book from, I might add.

Overall, I felt this story was muddled, but perhaps that is the entire point of the book, that there is no epiphany in the end per se, and that we can't always quantify a solid lesson from everything in life. Sometimes life is just strange, and his father is thankful for the experiences he had but isn't going to pigeon hole them all into some human perception or contrived conclusions.

I look forward to reading more of Everett's work.
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