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Written by: Percival Everett
Review by: Tina Morgan

Occasionally, just for the perverse pleasure of it, I read a novel so far outside my genre of preference that I struggle to understand the words. They dance across the page in a ballet too complicated for my straightforward mind to follow. I see the dancers move but I cannot follow their feet. Erasure by Percival Everett is one of these novels. The story of a black writer in modern America fascinated me from the start.

I write this review knowing full well that literary readers and critics are going to scoff and say that I missed the point of the story and that I lack the ability to understand the underlying theme. I would argue that not being able to understand all the steps of the dance does not take away from my enjoyment of it. If the writer hoped I would come away with a deeper meaning then I must confess I'm not sure I caught every nuance.

At one point, Thelonious "Monk" Ellison rages about how his books are incorrectly shelved at a large chain bookstore. A minor issue to those who do not write, but an understandable catastrophe to writers trying to make a living from their works.

Ellison has five published and critically acclaimed novels. Unfortunately, this is not enough to sell his sixth novel that has been rejected by seven publishing houses and his agent has about given up hope of ever selling it. Ellison's frustration is increased by the success of We's lives in Da Ghetto, a novel written by a black woman who claims to have visited relatives in the inner city "for a few days". As a black man, he feels the book is a shame and highly inaccurate portrayal of blacks in America.

With his mother slipping further into Alzheimer's, his brother's divorce and his sister's tragic accident, Ellison feels overwhelmed. Unable to sell his sixth novel, he pens a parody, "My Pafology", under the pen name, Stagg R. Leigh. The book becomes an overnight bestseller and Hollywood is soon knocking on the reclusive "Mr. Leigh's" door.

Erasure is a witty novel with subtle humor that shines. The irony of a "literary" author penning a commercial success was particularly amusing to this fantasy writer. (I've been accused by a well-known literary editor of "writing for the masses".) I found Ellison's fall from literary grace to be a very entertaining story.

One note of warning; Everett includes sixty-seven pages of "My Pafology". The excerpt is riddled with language that some readers may find highly offensive.

Rating Scale:
* * * * * = Un-put-downable, excellent reading!
* * * * = Good value, interesting reading.
* * * = Had potential, but could have been better.
* * = Slow, difficult to read, could have been improved.
* = Imminently forgettable.



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