Erasure (novel)

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Erasure is a 2001 novel by Percival Everett and originally published by UPNE. The novel reacts against the dominant strains of discussion surrounding the publication and criticism of African American literature.


The novel's plot revolves around how the publishing industry pigeon-holes African-American writers. The protagonist, Thelonious "Monk" Ellison, a professor of English literature, is repeatedly criticized for not writing "black enough". Ellison is angered by the success of an Oprah-like book club's selection of a novel reflecting what is supposedly contemporary black experience, but which presents a stereotypical story. He composes a satirical response based on Richard Wright's Native Son and Sapphire's novel Push, which he first entitles My Pafology before changing it to Fuck. The talk show host, a Hollywood producer, and a panel of famous novelists, all prove more willing to accept the brutal, dehumanized black man of the novel than a middle-class intellectual like Ellison. He in turn has trouble facing impoverished blacks both real and fictional.[1]


Part of the novels structure involves the multiple embedded narratives, framed as if written by the main character Thelonious "Monk" Ellison. The first such section, titled My Pafology, The Guardian described as a "This skilful, extended parody of ghetto novels such as Sapphire's Push will no doubt get Erasure talked about."[2] The novel includes other narrative styles within the larger frame narrative, including an academic paper, personal letters, book reviews, story ideas, and imagined dialogue between fictionalized historical characters.[2]


The novel was well received. The Guardian focused on the dark comedy that it represents, describing it as moving towards "bleakest comedy" and "sly work."[2] Ready Steady Book focused more on the novel being "full of anger" about the African American literary establishment, but describes the most redeeming elements of the plot coming from " moving portrait of a son coming to terms with his mother’s life."[3]


  1. ^ Erasure page at Graywolf Press.
  2. ^ a b c Pinckney, Darryl (2003-04-18). "Colour bind". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2014-04-25. 
  3. ^ Tripney, Natasha (05/02/2010). "Erasure by Percival Everett". Ready Steady Book.  Check date values in: |date= (help)

Further reading[edit]