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Percival Everett by Virgil Russell: A Novel Paperback – February 5, 2013
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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
“[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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Percival manages to make many statements on writing, life, death and other things. These observations are always poignant and well put, but due to the shiftiness of the story, they may not be well appreciated. There are moments that are humorous and brilliant, just not enough of them.
It seems like Percival was being clever for the sake of showing his writing brilliance, and forgot to make the novel resonate. And I'm afraid many will be disappointed by this failure to connect with the reader.
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.
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
If you're looking for a beginning, middle an end, run as fast as you can from this book. However, if you are open to a literary experience that will make you think hard, then jump in at the deep end.
Most recent customer reviews
various antedotes in his life, or seemingly someone who is...Read more