Percival Everett

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Percival Everett
Born (1956-12-22) December 22, 1956 (age 65)
Fort Gordon, Georgia, U.S.
OccupationNovelist, story writer

Percival Everett (born December 22, 1956)[1] is an American writer[2] and Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Southern California.


Everett lives in Los Angeles, California.[3]

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 a major league slump, both on and off the field.[4] Everett's second novel, Walk Me to the Distance (1985), features veteran David Larson after his return from Vietnam. He becomes involved in a search for the developmentally disabled 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.[4][5]

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.[6]

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 Euripides.[4]

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.[7]

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. Marder 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.[4]

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.[4]

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.[4]

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.[8]

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.[9]

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.[10]

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.[11]

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.[12]

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.

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.[13]

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.[14]

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.[15]



Short stories[edit]

  • The Weather and Women Treat Me Fair: Stories (August House Publishers, Inc., 1987)
  • Big Picture: Stories (Graywolf Press, 1996)
  • Damned if I do: Stories (Graywolf Press, 2004)
  • Half an Inch of Water (Graywolf Press, 2015)


  • re:f (gesture) (Red Hen Press, 2006), a collection of poetry
  • Abstraktion und Einfühlung (with Chris Abani) (Akashic Books, 2008), a collection of poetry
  • Swimming Swimmers Swimming (Red Hen Press, 2010), a collection of poetry
  • There Are No Names for Red (a collaboration with Chris Abani; paintings by Percival Everett) (Red Hen Press, 2010), a collection of poetry
  • Trout's Lie (Red Hen Press, 2015), a collection of poetry
  • The Book of Training by Colonel Hap Thompson of Roanoke, VA, 1843: Annotated From the Library of John C. Calhoun (Red Hen Press, 2019)

Children's literature[edit]

  • The One That Got Away (with Dirk Zimmer) (Clarion Books, 1992), a children's book


  • My California: Journeys by Great Writers (Angel City Press, 2004)
  • Everett's introduction was added to the 2004 paperback edition of The Jefferson Bible.

As guest editor[edit]

Awards and honors[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Philip Bader (14 May 2014). African-American Writers. Infobase Publishing. p. 84. ISBN 978-1-4381-0783-7.
  2. ^ Cowles, Gregory (18 September 2005). "Fiction Chronicle". The New York Times. p. 22. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
  3. ^ Rath, A., "For Prolific Author Percival Everett, The Wilderness Is A Place Of Clarity", All Things Considered, NPR, September 20, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Percival L. Everett", The University of South Carolina-Aiken. Archived 2013-12-10 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Cynthia Whitcomb website.
  6. ^ Cutting Lisa (Voices of the South).
  7. ^ Percival Everett, The One That Got Away, Emerging Writers Network, July 2009
  8. ^ Toby Lichtig, "Deconstructing daddy", A review, TLS, June 6, 2004. Review-a-Day, Powell's. Archived January 31, 2013, at
  9. ^ Erasure page at Graywolf Press.
  10. ^ "A History of the African American People by Strom Thurmond (Part 2)". James Kincaid, Percival Everett. Project Muse.
  11. ^ American Desert review.
  12. ^ Alan Cheuse, "Percival Everett's 'Wounded': Winter in Wyoming", NPR, October 11, 2005.
  13. ^ Jim Krusoe, "Mirror Images", review of The Water Cure: A Novel, by Percival Everett. Washington Post Book World, August 31, 2007. Review-a-Day, Powell's. Archived August 2, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ "Review: I Am Not Sidney Poitier", Quarterly Conversation.
  15. ^ Everett, Percival (5 February 2013). Percival Everett by Virgil Russell: A Novel. ISBN 978-1555976347.
  16. ^ "2010 Winners". Festival degli Scrittori - Premio Gregor von Rezzori. Retrieved 2016-10-03.

External links[edit]