Black Author, Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Satire

Pym by Mat Johnson is an interesting read if you like satire and fantasy

My rating: 3 of 5 stars (rounded down from a 3.5)

I want to start out this review by mentioning that there’s a good amount of crass language in this book, so if that’s not your jam you may not want to pick it up. The first few chapters have a lot of the n-word, and it’s sprinkled throughout the book as well. If you don’t mind that and enjoy satire, it’s worth a read.

In Pym, our first-person narrator is Chris Jaynes, an American literature professor who was recently fired from a New England college because he didn’t want to be on the school’s Diversity Committee or teach specifically African-American literature as the token minority faculty member. Instead, he becomes obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe’s only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Unfortunately, the president of the college had movers clear out Jaynes’ campus office, and strangely they left his entire book collection on his porch during a rainstorm, leaving them all ruined.

Thanks to a windfall settlement from the college for the abuse of his collection, Jaynes has enough money to plunk down on an Antarctic expedition to try to follow the path of Arthur Gordon Pym from the Poe novel. He brings along a cast of characters that all have various obsessions: Little Debbie snack cakes, Thomas Karvel (a fictional version of Thomas Kincade), and naming rights to things they discover to name a few.

I appreciated the literary criticisms of Poe’s novel in the early part of this book, along with the critical theory about race that author Mat Johnson inserted via his characters. Many of the characters in this book are thinly-veiled stereotypes.

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