Friday, March 4, 7pm – Fiction
author of Pym: A Novel ($24.00 Spiegel & Grau)
A comic journey into the ultimate land of whiteness by an unlikely band of African American adventurers. Recently canned professor of American literature Chris Jaynes is obsessed with The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, Edgar Allan Poe’s strange and only novel. When he discovers the manuscript of a crude slave narrative that seems to confirm the reality of Poe’s fiction, he resolves to seek out Tsalal, the remote island of pure and utter blackness that Poe describes with horror. Jaynes imagines it to be the last untouched bastion of the African Diaspora and the key to his personal salvation. He convenes an all-black crew of six to follow Pym’s trail to the South Pole in search of adventure, natural resources to exploit, and, for Jaynes at least, the mythical world of the novel. With little but the firsthand account from which Poe derived his seafaring tale, a bag of bones, and a stash of Little Debbie snack cakes, Jaynes embarks on an epic journey under the permafrost of Antarctica, beneath the surface of American history, and behind one of literature’s great mysteries. He finds that here, there be monsters. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Mat Johnson grew up in the Germantown and Mount Airy sections of the city. His first novel, Drop, was a B&N Discover Great New Writers selection. His second novel, Hunting in Harlem, won the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. He has written for a variety of publications, including a stint as a columnist for Time Out-NY. His latest books are The Great Negro Plot, a history of race and hysteria in Colonial New York, and Incognegro, a graphic novel (illustrated by Walter Pleece) set in the 1930s, and the newly released PYM. He teaches at University of Houston.
“Mat Johnson’s new novel is nothing short of fantastic, in every sense. I fell in love with the voice, the tone and the world of Pym. This is an adventure novel, a work of historical and social commentary, a rumination on identity. The only problem I could find with this novel is that I didn’t write it. It’s a beautiful piece of work.” –Percival Everett, author of I Am Not Sidney Poitier
“PYM reframes far more than Poe – it reframes everything American, from the whiteness of Ahab’s whale to Detroit bus drivers; from DNA testing to tenure review; from the Gatsbyesque dream of romantic love to the dream of Utopia; from our fear of life to our love of death. No one today writes inside the brilliant black mind better.”–Alice Randall, author of The Wind Done Gone and Rebel Yell
“Social criticism rubs shoulders with cutting satire in this high-concept adventure. [PYM] is caustically hilarious as it offers a memorable take on America’s ‘racial pathology’ and ‘the whole ugly story of our world.'” –Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Mat Johnson writes with all the probing intelligence of James Baldwin, the scalding satire of Dany Laferriere and the technique of a master craftsman, all of which make him one of the most exciting, important and gifted writers of his generation. Pym is a moving and accomplished novel.” — Chris Abani, author of GraceLand and the Virgin of Flames.