A Novel

Book - 2011
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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 Poe's strange and only novel. When he discovers the manuscript of a crude slave narrative that seems to confirm the reality of Poe's 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 Pym's 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 literature's great mysteries. He finds that here, there be monsters.
Publisher: New York : Spiegel & Grau, c2011
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780812981582
Branch Call Number: JOHNSON
Characteristics: 322 p. : ill. ; 22 cm


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Aug 18, 2018

Buy some Little Debbies snacks before reading.

crkrouse Jul 05, 2013

This is a sly examination of whiteness, blackness, insanity and bondage, presented in the form of a semi-sci-fi narrative. As a 75-year-old white female, I did not relate at first to the 30-something mixed-race male narrator, but once the story moved beyond the first 40 pages, and dropped much of its jive talk, the events kept me reading. I'm not sure the jive talk served any positive function other than establishing the narrator's street creds.

Feb 27, 2013

This was our book club selection in February and was roundly enjoyed by all, besides providing lots of meat for discussion. It's a spot-on academic satire, a bizarre adventure story, and a meditation on race in America.

debwalker Mar 06, 2011

Johnson plays with the premise of Edgar Allan Poe's only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Poe's novel was a "master text of anxious white fright," says Maureen Corrigan, and Johnson's clever book shines new light on the material.


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