Recently canned professor of American literature Chris Jaynes is obsessed with The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, Edgar Allan Poes strange and only novel. When he discovers the manuscript of a crude slave narrative that seems to confirm the reality of Poes 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 Pyms 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 literatures great mysteries. He finds that here, there be monsters.
The Washington Post - Michael Dirda
Hats off, please, to Mat Johnson, author of this wonderful, black-humored novel - part social satire, part meditation on race in America, part metafiction and, just as important, a rollicking fantasy adventure.... Pym really shouldn't be missed.
Blisteringly funny... a full-fledged and fiendishly inventive inversion of Poe's [Pym], a series of bizarre encounters I can't bring myself to spoil, each one more deliciously pointed than the last.
The New York Times - Adam Mansbach
[R]elentlessly entertaining… It's no easy task to balance social satire against life - threatening adventure, the allegory against the gory, but Johnson's hand is steady and his ability to play against Poe's text masterly… the book is polyphonous and incisive, an uproarious and hard-driving journey toward the heart of whiteness.
An amusing read, but comic-book fans may lament the absence of graphics, while fans of satirical fiction will wish Johnson had hewn to the witty racial commentary of the early chapters.
Starred Review. Though the love story is flat and some of the secondary characters are narrowly portrayed, the book is caustically hilarious.
Starred Review. An acutely humorous, very original story that will delight lovers of literature and fantasy alike.
Victor LaValle, author of Big Machine Pym is an adventure, a satire, and a bracing political debate all rolled into one brilliant novel. Edgar Allen Poe has inspired many authors but Mat Johnson has the inspired audacity to both honor and discredit the man, often in the same sentence. I imagine Poe choking on half the things Johnson writes in this novel, and tipping his tiny hat in admiration to the rest.
Alice Randall, author of The Wind Done Gone and Rebel Yell 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.
Colson Whitehead, author of Sag Harbor
You can trust the veracity of this account: Mat Johnson's Pym is a spectacularly sly and nimble-footed send-up of this world, the next world, and all points in between. A satire with heart, as courageous as it is cunning.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Phyllis Social Satire At Its Best The social satire within the pages of Mat Johnson's latest offering, Pym, is nothing short of brilliant and extremely hilarious -- I found it to be a seriously and literally "laugh out loud" funny novel! Inspired by Edgar Allen Poe's The... Read More
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