Pym

by Mat Johnson


It’s almost impossible to describe this book without either sounding like an idiot, giving the book away, or making you not want to read it. And this book is so wonderful, that I hope you will read it. Well, here goes.


Professor Chris Jaynes is a professor of African American Literature whose specialty has been to uncover the issue of race in the literature of the majority rather than the one being oppressed, with a special passion for Edgar Allen Poe. This focus didn’t go over well with his employers, who expected him to take the traditional route of using the Black literary canon and denied him tenure and subsequently a job. He does not handle it well.


Things begin to look up when his favorite book dealer shows up with a rare manuscript that seems to be a slave narrative that corroborates the tale in Poe’s only (and very strange) novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Seeing a way to redeem his professional dignity, Jaynes sets out to  verify the rumors surrounding the publication of Poe’s book, and leads an all-Black team to the South Pole for research and a money-making venture. What happens next can be likened to an episode of Lost.


Sold yet? I know it sounds crazy and the book is crazy. But it is imaginative, magical, and extremely funny. And it is definitely going in my top five books of the year.

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