Percival Everett (born December 22, 1956)[1] is an American writer[2] and Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Southern California. He has described himself as 'pathologically ironic' [3] and has played around with numerous genres such as western fiction, mysteries, thrillers, satire and philosophical fiction.[4] His books are often satirical, aimed at exploring race and identity issues in the United States.

Percival Everett
Everett in 2022
Everett in 2022
Born (1956-12-22) December 22, 1956 (age 67)
Fort Gordon, Georgia, U.S.
OccupationNovelist, story writer
EducationUniversity of Miami (BA)
Brown University (MA)
Notable worksErasure (2001); I Am Not Sidney Poitier (2009); The Trees (2021)
Notable awardsHurston/Wright Legacy Award; Windham-Campbell Prize for fiction, 2023

He is best known for his novels Erasure (2001), I Am Not Sidney Poitier (2009), and The Trees (2021), which was shortlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize.

Erasure was adapted as the film American Fiction (2023), written and directed by Cord Jefferson, starring Jeffrey Wright, Sterling K. Brown, and Leslie Uggams.

Personal life and education edit

Percival L. Everett, named after his father, was born in Fort Gordon, Georgia, where his father, Percival Leonard Everett, was a sergeant in the U.S. Army. His mother was Dorothy (née Stinson) Everett. When the younger Everett was still an infant, the family moved to Columbia, South Carolina, where he lived through high school. He was the oldest of several children.[5] His father became a dentist and his parents continued to live in South Carolina. The younger Everett eventually moved to the American West.[5]

Everett earned a bachelors in philosophy from the University of Miami.[6] He studied a broad variety of topics including biochemistry and mathematical logic.[7] In 1982 he earned an M.A. in fiction from Brown University.[8]

Everett now lives in Los Angeles, California with his wife, the novelist, Danzy Senna, and their two children.[9][10]

Everett's great-grandmother was at one point enslaved.[11]

Literary career edit

While completing his M.A., Everett wrote his first novel, Suder (1983). His lead character was Craig Suder, a Seattle Mariners third baseman in a major league slump, both on and off the field.[12]

Everett's second novel, Walk Me to the Distance (1985), features veteran David Larson after his return from Vietnam. Larson becomes involved in a search for the developmentally disabled son of a sheep rancher in Slut's Whole, Wyoming. The novel was later adapted, with an altered plot, as an ABC-TV movie entitled Follow Your Heart.[12][13] Everett disowned this adaptation, stating that "I never saw it. I read the script, and I didn’t like it. The changes that they made were so grotesque, there was no way to embrace that at all."[14]

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.[15]

In 1987, Everett published The Weather and Women Treat Me Fair: Stories, a collection of short stories set mostly in the contemporary western United States.

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.[12]

Switching genres, Everett next wrote a children's book, The One That Got Away (1992). This illustrated book for young readers follows three cowboys as they attempt to corral "ones", the mischievous numerals.[16]

Returning to novels, Everett published his first book-length western, God's Country, in 1994. In this novel, Curt Marder and his black tracker Bubba search "God's country" for Marder's wife, who has been kidnapped by bandits. Marder is not sure whether he wants to find her. The book is a parody of westerns and the politics of race and gender. It includes a cross-dressing George Armstrong Custer.[12]

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, Everett also published his second collection of stories, Big Picture.[12]

In Frenzy (1997), Everett returned to Greek mythology. Vlepo, Dionysos's assistant, is forced to undergo a "frenzy" of odd activities, including becoming lice and bedroom curtains at different times during the story, which he narrates. These events occur so that he can explain these experiences to Dionysos, the demi-god.[12]

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. He writes notes to his mother on a variety of literary topics based on books she supplies. Ralph is kidnapped several times by parties trying to exploit his special skills. His odyssey (as "written" by four-year-old Ralph) teaches him more about love than intellect.[17]

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.

In 2001 Everett also published his satirical novel Erasure, in which he portrays how the publishing industry pigeon-holes African-American writers. The novel, a metafictional piece, revolves around the main character's decision to write an outrageous novella, based among the urban poor and dissolute, entitled My Pafology. The writer renames it as Fuck, wanting to push the edge of acceptability and influenced by what he calls ghetto fiction, such as Richard Wright's Native Son and Sapphire's novel Push.[18]

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 US Senator Strom Thurmond (R-SC) (occasionally) and his aide's crazy assistant, Barton Wilkes. The latter orders the authors around even as he stalks them.[19]

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.[20]

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.[21]

Everett's 2006 collection of poetry, re:f (gesture), features one of his paintings on the front cover. His 2010 poetry book, Swimming Swimmers Swimming, was published 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.[22]

In 2009, Graywolf Press released I Am Not Sidney Poitier. The protagonist, with the name Not Sidney Poitier and a physical resemblance to the actor Sidney Poitier, meets challenges relating to identity and racial segregation across North America. He faces similar challenges in identity construction in relation to his adopted white father, Ted Turner.[23]

Assumption: A Novel (2011) is a triptych of stories with some characters who have been in earlier Everett stories. The story "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. As other cases pile up, Ogden gives chase and soon finds himself on the seamier side of Denver, in a hippie commune.

In 2013, Graywolf Press published Percival Everett by Virgil Russell: A Novel,[24] a novel in which a man visits his father in a nursing home, where his father appears to be writing a novel from the point of view of his son. Eight years later, the same press published The Trees, a satirical novel about historic and contemporary lynchings in Mississippi, the South and across the US. (It was published in the UK by Influx Press). It won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was shortlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize.[25]

Dr. No, published by Graywolf Press in 2022, won the 2023 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award and was named a finalist for the 2023 National Book Critics award for fiction.[26]

Everett received a 2023 Windham Campbell Prize for fiction.[27]

In 2023 the film American Fiction was released, with a screenplay adapted by its director Cord Jefferson from Everett's novel Erasure. American Fiction won Best Adapted Screenplay at the 96th Academy Awards.

James,[28] published by Doubleday in 2024, is a re-imagining of Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from the perspective of the runaway slave character Jim.[29] Everett humanizes the character, re-inventing him as a wise and literate man, who has conversations with enlightenment philosophers in his dreams and teaches other enslaved people to read. The character hides this literacy and wisdom from the white characters in the book, who will undoubtedly feel threatened by an educated black man and punish him. Although opposed to book banning, Everett commented that he hoped his re-imagined version would get banned "only because I like irritating those people who do not think and read".[3]

Bibliography edit

Novels edit

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)

Poetry edit

  • 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

Contributions edit

  • 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

Everett's stories have been included in the Pushcart Prize Anthology and Best American Short Stories.

Everett received an honorary doctorate from the College of Santa Fe in 2008. In 2015, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship in Fiction, as well as the Phi Kappa Phi Presidential Medallion from the University of Southern California.

Awards for Everett and his writing
Year Title Award Result Ref.
1990 Zulus New American Writing Award
1997 Big Picture PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award Winner [30]
2001 Erasure Academy Award in Literature from The American Academy of Arts and Letters
2002 Erasure Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Fiction Winner [31]
2006 Wounded PEN Center USA Award for Fiction Winner [32]
2010 - Dos Passos Prize Winner
I Am Not Sidney Poitier Believer Book Award Winner
Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Fiction Winner [31][33][34]
Wounded (Ferito) Premio Gregor von Rezzori Winner [35]
2016 Creative Capital Award Winner
2018 So Much Blue PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award Winner [30]
2019 - Reginald Lockett Lifetime Achievement Award Winner [30]
2021 Telephone Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Fiction Winner [31]
Pulitzer Prize for Fiction Finalist
2022 Dr. No National Book Critics Circle Award Shortlist [25]
The Trees Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction Winner [36]
Booker Prize Shortlist
Hurston/Wright Legacy Award Winner [37]
2023 - Los Angeles Review of Books/UCR Lifetime Achievement Award Winner
Windham-Campbell Literature Prize for Fiction Winner [38]
Dr. No PEN/Jean Stein Book Award Winner [39]
The Trees PEN/Jean Stein Book Award Finalist [40][41]

References edit

  1. ^ Bader, Philip (May 14, 2014). African-American Writers. Infobase Publishing. p. 84. ISBN 978-1-4381-0783-7.
  2. ^ Cowles, Gregory (September 18, 2005). "Fiction Chronicle". The New York Times. p. 22. Retrieved June 11, 2011.
  3. ^ a b Razzall, Katie (April 9, 2024). "Percival Everett: Why I rewrote Huckleberry Finn to give slave Jim a voice". BBC News.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ Berry, Lorraine (November 8, 2022). "Meet Percival Everett: 5 novels that showcase the L.A. writer's enigmatic style". LA Times.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ a b Berry, Lorraine (November 8, 2022). "Meet Percival Everett: 5 novels that showcase the L.A. writer's enigmatic style". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 20, 2023.
  6. ^ Sept. 16, Judith Lewis Mernit; Now, 2013 From the print edition (September 16, 2013). "What do you know?". Retrieved December 27, 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ Makari, George (August 7, 2023). "A Different Language: A Conversation with Percival Everett". Los Angeles Review of Books. Retrieved December 27, 2023.
  8. ^ "Percival Everett". USC Dornsife. Retrieved December 27, 2023.
  9. ^ Rath, A., "For Prolific Author Percival Everett, The Wilderness Is A Place Of Clarity", All Things Considered, NPR, September 20, 2015.
  10. ^ Lucas, Julian (September 20, 2021). "Percival Everett's Deadly Serious Comedy". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved November 20, 2023.
  11. ^ Razzall, Katie (April 9, 2024). "Percival Everett: Why I rewrote Huckleberry Finn to give slave Jim a voice". BBC.
  12. ^ a b c d e f "Percival L. Everett", The University of South Carolina-Aiken.Archived December 10, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Cynthia Whitcomb website.
  14. ^ Shariatmadari, David (April 6, 2024). "'I'd love a scathing review': novelist Percival Everett on American Fiction and rewriting Huckleberry Finn". The Guardian.
  15. ^ Cutting Lisa (Voices of the South).
  16. ^ Percival Everett, The One That Got Away, Emerging Writers Network, July 2009.
  17. ^ Lichtig, Toby, "Deconstructing daddy", A review, TLS, June 6, 2004. Review-a-Day, Powell's. Archived January 31, 2013, at
  18. ^ Erasure page Archived January 24, 2013, at the Wayback Machine at Graywolf Press.
  19. ^ Kincaid, James, and Percival Everett (2003). "A History of the African American People by Strom Thurmond (Part 2)", Transition 12(4), 68–99. Project Muse.
  20. ^ Terry D'Auray, American Desert review, July 28, 2004.
  21. ^ Alan Cheuse, "Percival Everett's 'Wounded': Winter in Wyoming", NPR, October 11, 2005.
  22. ^ 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
  23. ^ "Review: I Am Not Sidney Poitier" Archived September 25, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Quarterly Conversation.
  24. ^ Everett, Percival (February 5, 2013). Percival Everett by Virgil Russell: A Novel. ISBN 978-1555976347.
  25. ^ a b "The Booker Prize 2022 | The Booker Prizes". Retrieved October 5, 2022.
  26. ^ Varno, David (February 1, 2023). "National Book Critics Circle Announces Finalists for Publishing Year 2022". National Book Critics Circle. Retrieved February 3, 2023.
  27. ^ "2023 Prize Recipients". Windham Campbell Prizes 2023. Windham Campbell Prizes. Retrieved April 21, 2023.
  28. ^ Everett, Percival (March 19, 2024). James. ISBN 9780385550369.
  29. ^ Razzal, Katie (April 9, 2024). "Percival Everett: Why I rewrote Huckleberry Finn to give slave Jim a voice". BBC News. Retrieved April 9, 2024.
  30. ^ a b c "PEN Oakland awards and winners". PEN Oakland. Retrieved March 1, 2020.
  31. ^ a b c "The Hurston/Wright Legacy Award". African American Literature Book Club. Archived from the original on March 31, 2023. Retrieved April 29, 2024.
  32. ^ "Past Winners". PEN America. December 19, 2018. Retrieved October 5, 2022.
  33. ^ "Awards: Hurston/Wright Legacy Winners". Shelf Awareness. December 1, 2010. Archived from the original on October 2, 2017. Retrieved April 29, 2024.
  34. ^ Reid, Calvin (November 16, 2010). "Kelley, Everett, Dove, Madhubuti Win Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved April 29, 2024.
  35. ^ "2010 Winners". Festival degli Scrittori - Premio Gregor von Rezzori. Retrieved October 3, 2016.
  36. ^ "Winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction announced". The Drinks Business. November 27, 2022. Retrieved November 27, 2022.
  37. ^ "Shara McCallum wins the 2022 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Poetry". Peepal Tree Press. October 28, 2022. Archived from the original on March 31, 2023. Retrieved April 29, 2024.
  38. ^ "Windham-Campbell Prizes 2023 recipients announced". Books+Publishing. April 6, 2023. Retrieved April 8, 2023.
  39. ^ Schaub, Michael (March 3, 2023). "PEN Award Winners Announced". Kirkus Reviews. Archived from the original on March 6, 2023. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  40. ^ Smith, Eliza (March 1, 2022). "Here are the winners of the 2022 PEN America Literary Awards". Literary Hub. Archived from the original on March 3, 2022. Retrieved March 4, 2022.
  41. ^ Stewart, Sophia (January 26, 2022). "PEN America Announces Finalists for 2022 Literary Awards". Publishers Weekly. Archived from the original on December 5, 2022. Retrieved March 6, 2023.

Further reading edit

External links edit

  1. ^ Online version is titled "Percival Everett's deadly serious comedy".