A comic journey into the ultimate land of whiteness by an unlikely band of African American adventurers
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.
Always thought if I didnt get tenure I would shoot myself or strap a bomb to my chest and walk into the faculty cafeteria, but when it happened I just got bourbon drunk and cried a lot and rolled into a ball on my office floor. A couple days of this and I couldnt take it so I ended classes a week early and checked into the Akwaaba Bed and Breakfast in Harlem to be among my own race and party away the pain. But mostly I just found myself back in that same ball some more, still on the floor, just at a more historically resonant address. My buddy Garth Frierson, hed been laid off about six months before, and was nice enough to drive all the way from Detroit to help a childhood friend. This help mostly consisted of him sitting his bus driver ass on my rented bed, busting on me until I had enough shame to get off my own duff and try to make something of myself again.
By then the term was over, graduation done, campus vacant. I didnt want to see anybody. ...
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..." (Reviewed by Jennifer G Wilder).
Full Review (767 words).
Uncharted expanses of polar ice are blank pages for science fiction writers to drool over, and many frozen landmarks spring to mind when trolling the genre.
What better place to locate creepy caves, secret lairs, and unexplained phenomena? A closer look through the early literature of science fiction reveals that polar inscrutability has stirred the imagination for many generations.
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818) opens with the letters of an Arctic explorer, Robert Walton, who comes across an eerie sight: "We beheld, stretched out in every direction, vast and irregular plains of ice, which seemed to have no end. Some of my comrades groaned, and my own mind began to grow watchful with anxious thoughts, when a strange ...
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"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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