BookBrowse Reviews Pym by Mat Johnson

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Pym

A Novel

by Mat Johnson

Pym by Mat Johnson
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2011, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2012, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jennifer G Wilder

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A riotously funny satire about race in America - with polar adventures, zany characters, and a rare take on Poe's only novel

Imagine the conversation around the table at Random House when Mat Johnson's agent pitched Pym:

"This book is Eddie Murphy does The X-Files."

"No, it's Philip K. Dick with a touch of The Corrections."

"Wait, I thought it was post-colonial gothic stuff - Edgar Allan Poe meets Urkel from that old TV show..."

What genre is this thing? Pym is slow to reveal where it is going, and the mix of highbrow cultural critique and lowbrow, sitcom-worthy gags can be disorienting. The novel starts on the comic turf of the out-of-sync academic, as narrator Chris Jaynes falls from grace at the upstate New York university where he teaches. His tenure is vetoed because he won't play the part for which the administration hired him; he refuses to serve on the "toothless Diversity Committee," and he won't teach standard survey courses in African-American lit. Instead he insists on giving the ...

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