Percival Everett

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Percival Everett (born 1956) is an American writer[1] and Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Southern California.

Life[edit]

Everett lives in Los Angeles, California, with his wife, novelist Danzy Senna, and their two sons.

Literary career[edit]

While completing his AM degree at Brown University, Everett wrote his first novel, Suder (1983), about Craig Suder, a Seattle Mariners third baseman in major league slump, both on and off the field.[2] Everett's second novel, Walk Me to the Distance (1985) features David Larson after his return from Vietnam. He becomes involved in a search for the retarded son of a sheep rancher in Slut's Whole, Wyoming. It was later adapted with an altered plot as an ABC-TV movie entitled Follow Your Heart.[3][2]

Cutting Lisa (1986; re-issued 2000) begins with John Livesey meeting a man who has performed a Caesarean section. This prompts the protagonist to evaluate his relationships.[4]

In 1987, Everett published The Weather and Women Treat Me Fair: Stories, a collection of short stories. In 1990 Everett published two books re-fashioning Greek myths: Zulus, which combines the grotesque and the apocalypse; and For Her Dark Skin, a new version of Medea by the Greek playwright Euripedes.[2]

Switching genres, Everett wrote a children's book, The One That Got Away (1992), an illustrated book for young readers that follows three cowboys as they attempt to corral "ones," the mischievous numerals.[5]

Returning to novels, Everett published his first book-length western, God's Country, in 1994. In the novel, Curt Marder and his tracker Bubba search "God's country" for Marder's wife who has been kidnapped by bandits. He is not sure if he wants to find her. The book is a parody of westerns and the politics of race and gender, which includes a cross-dressing George Armstrong Custer).[2]

In 1996 Everett published two books: Watershed has a contemporary western setting, in which the loner hydrologist Robert Hawkes meets a Native American "small person," who helps him come to terms with the inter-relation of people. That year he also published Big Picture, his second collection of stories.[2]

In Frenzy (1997), Everett returned to Greek mythology. Vlepo, Dionysos' assistant, is forced to experience a "frenzy" of odd activities, including becoming lice and bedroom curtains at different times during the story, which he narrates. This occurs so he can explain what the experiences are like to Dionysos, the half-god.[2]

Glyph (1999) is the story within a story of Ralph, a baby who chooses not to speak but has extraordinary muscle-control and an IQ nearing 500, which he uses to write notes to his mother on a variety of literary topics based on books she supplies. Ralph is kidnapped a variety of times due to his special skills, and his odyssey (as "written" by four-year-old Ralph) teaches him more about love than intellect.[6]

Grand Canyon, Inc. (2001) is Everett's first novella. In it, Rhino Tanner attempts to tame Mother Nature with a commercialization of the Grand Canyon.

Everett also published the novel Erasure in 2001. In it, he portrays how the publishing industry pigeon-holes African-American writers. The novel, a metafictional piece, satirically revolves around a novella written by the main character entitled My Pafology then Fuck, which emulates fiction like Richard Wright's Native Son and Sapphire's novel Push.[7]

A History of the African-American People (proposed) by Strom Thurmond, as told to Percival Everett and James Kincaid (2004) is an epistolary novel that chronicles the characters "Percival Everett" and "James Kincaid" as they work with Thurmond (occasionally) and his aide's crazy assistant, Barton Wilkes. The latter orders the authors around even as he stalks them.[8]

Also in 2004, Everett released American Desert and Damned If I Do: Stories, another collection of short stories. In American Desert, Ted Street plans to drown himself in the ocean but is killed in a traffic accident on the way there. Three days later, Street suddenly sits up in his casket at the funeral, although his head is severed and he lacks a beating heart. Throughout the rest of the novel, Street undergoes an odyssey of self-discovery about what being alive really means, exploring religion, revelation, faith, zealotry, love, family, media sensationalism, and death.[9]

Wounded: A Novel (2005) tells the story of John Hunt, a horse trainer confronted with hate crimes against a homosexual and a Native American. Hunt avoids getting mixed up in the political nature of these crimes, taking action only when he is forced to do so.[10]

The Water Cure (2007) is a novel about Ishmael Kidder, who has had a successful career as a romance novelist until the death of his daughter, when his life takes a dark turn. In a remote cabin in New Mexico, Kidder has imprisoned a man he believes to be his daughter's killer. The book's title refers to one of the torture techniques Kidder uses on the man, namely waterboarding.[11]

In 2009, Graywolf Press released I Am Not Sidney Poitier. With the name Not Sidney Poitier and a resemblance to the actor with a similar name, the protagonist meets challenges relating to identity and racial segregation across North America. He meets similar challenges with identity construction in relation to his adopted father, Ted Turner.[12]

Assumption: A Novel (2011) is a triptych of stories with some characters who have been in earlier Everett stories. "Big" returns to the character of Ogden Walker, deputy sheriff of a small New Mexico town. He is on the trail of an old woman’s murderer. But at the crime scene, his are the only footprints leading up to and away from her door. Something is amiss, and even his mother knows it. As other cases pile up, Ogden gives chase, pursuing flimsy leads for even flimsier reasons. His hunt leads him from the seamier side of Denver to a hippie commune as he seeks the puzzling solution.

In February 2013, Graywolf Press published Percival Everett by Virgil Russell.[13]

Poetry[edit]

Everett's collection of poetry, re:f (gesture) (2006), features one of his paintings on the front cover. His latest poetry book, Swimming Swimmers Swimming, was published in 2010 by Red Hen Press.

Other[edit]

Everett's introduction was added to the 2004 paperback edition of The Jefferson Bible.

Honors[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Suder (Viking Books; 1983)
  • Walk Me to the Distance (Clarion Books; 1985)
  • Cutting Lisa (Ticknor & Fields; 1986)
  • The Weather and Women Treat Me Fair: Stories (August House Publishers, Inc.; 1987)
  • Zulus (The Permanent Press; 1990)
  • For Her Dark Skin (Owl Creek Press; 1990)
  • The One That Got Away (with Dirk Zimmer) (Clarion Books; 1992), a children's book
  • God's Country: a novel (Faber & Faber; 1994)
  • The Body of Martin Aguilera (Owl Creek Press; 2003)
  • Big Picture: Stories (Graywolf Press; 1996)
  • Watershed (Graywolf Press; 1996)
  • Frenzy (Graywolf Press; 1997)
  • Glyph: a novel (Graywolf Press; 1999)
  • Grand Canyon, Inc. (Versus Press; 2001)
  • Erasure: a novel (University Press of New England; 2001)
  • Damned if I do: Stories (Graywolf Press; 2004)
  • A History of the African-American people (proposed) by Strom Thurmond, as told to Percival Everett and James Kincaid (with James Kincaid) (Akashic Books; 2004)
  • American desert: a novel (Hyperion Books; 2004)
  • My California: Journeys by Great Writers (contributor / 2004)
  • Wounded: a novel (Graywolf Press; 2005)
  • re:f (gesture) (Red Hen Press; 2006), a collection of poetry
  • The Water Cure (Graywolf Press; 2007)
  • Abstraktion und Einfühlung (with Chris Abani) (Akashic Books; 2008), a collection of poetry
  • I am Not Sidney Poitier: A Novel (Graywolf Press; 2009)
  • There Are No Names for Red (a collaboration with Chris Abani; paintings by Percival Everett) (Red Hen Press; 2010), a collection of poetry
  • Swimming Swimmers Swimming (Red Hen Press; 2010), a collection of poetry
  • Assumption: A Novel (Graywolf Press; 2011)
  • Percival Everett by Virgil Russell: A Novel (Graywolf Press; 2013)
  • Little Faith (Graywolf Press; 2015), forthcoming

References[edit]

External links[edit]