The Water Cure: Percival Everett

People who like my work like my work for all the reasons that I would want them to like it. And the people who don’t like it, dislike it for all the reasons I would want them to dislike it..” —Percival Everrett

Someone mentioned Percival Everett at one of the writing workshops I attended this summer. I wrote the name down knowing I’d get back around to researching his work and background later, but since then the name has haunted me. I’ve seen his name on fliers, on the cover of a Callaloo journal, and recently for a book giveaway on a few other websites. Then I figured out that he’d recently released the book The Water Cure and I decided to come get my blog on. Shockingly enough, I am ashamed to say that I am totally out of the loop because one bio revealed:

Percival Everett is the author of fifteen novels, three collections of short fiction, and one volume of poetry. Among his novels are Wounded, Glyph, Erasure, American Desert, For Her Dark Skin, Zulus, The Weather and The Women Treat Me Fair, Cutting Lisa, Walk Me to the Distance, Suder, The One That Got Away, Watershed, God’s Country, his short story collection is Big Picture, and his poetry book is re:f (gesture). He is the recipient of the Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, the PEN/Oakland-Josephine Miles Award for Excellence in Literature (for his 1996 story collection Big Picture) and a New American Writing Award (for his 1990 novel Zulus). His stories have been included in the Pushcart Prize Anthology and Best American Short Stories. He has served as a judge for, among others, the 1997 National Book Award for fiction and the PEN/ Faulkner Award for Fiction in 1991. He teaches fiction writing, American Studies and critical theory and he has taught at Bennington College, The University of Wyoming and the University of California at Riverside. He is currently at the University of Southern California.

So where have I been? As I begin my graduate work in English (yeah, I’m studying English, so watch how the writing on this blog changes over the next few months), I am ashamed to admit that I don’t know as much about African-American literature as I seem to think. I will admit that I know a great deal, but definitely not enough. Especially if I hadn’t even heard of Percival Everett–the author of 15 novels (or more now)–until this summer. The shame of it all. As mentioned earlier, Everett has released a new book this month titled The Water Cure. Be sure to read the Washington Post’s review of this novel or continue here for a summary:

The Water Cure is the chilling confession of a victim turned villain. Ishmael Kidder is a successful romance novelist. His agent is coming to visit her usually productive client. But Kidder’s eleven-year-old daughter has been brutally murdered, and it stands to reason that he must take revenge by any means necessary. The punishment is carried out without guilt, and with the usual equipment—duct tape, rope, and super glue. But how will he explain the noises in the basement to his agent? How does he know he has the right man?

Everett has also written a few other notable (as far as other blogs and Amazon reviewers are concerned) books. One title in particular is Erasure:

Erasure by Percival EverettAvant-garde novelist and college professor, woodworker, and fly fisherman — Thelonious (Monk) Ellison has never allowed race to define his identity. But as both a writer and an African-American, he is offended and angered by the success of We’s Lives in Da Ghetto, the exploitative debut novel of a young, middle-class black woman who once visited “some relatives in Harlem for a couple of days.” Hailed as an authentic representation of the African-American experience, the book is a national bestseller and its author feted on the Kenya Dunston television show. Her book’s success rankles all the more as Monk’s own most recent novel has just notched its seventh rejection.

Even as his career as a writer appears to have stalled, Monk finds himself coping with changes in his personal life. Forced to assume responsibility for a mother rapidly succumbing to Alzheimer’s, Monk leaves his home in Los Angeles to return to the Washington, DC house in which he grew up. There he must come to terms with his ailing mother, his siblings, his own childhood and youth, and the legacy of his physician father, a suicide some seven years before. In need of distraction from old memories, new responsibilities, and his professional stagnation, Monk composes, in a heat of inspiration and energy, a fierce parody of the sort of exploitative, ghetto wanna-be lit represented by We’s Lives in Da Ghetto. (Read more…)

Be sure to do the rest of the research on Percival Everett on your own. Don’t be lazy.

Happy reading ya’ll!

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7 thoughts on “The Water Cure: Percival Everett

  1. Great post! I have been following your site for a while. As a M.A. in English, I can say that your writing will definitely improve with your studies. Professors worth their salt Best of luck!

    I would like to invite you to visit The BackList (www.thebacklist.net), Felicia Pride’s (of More than Words) baby. It started out as a newsletter over 5 years ago and has grown into one of the premiere sources for literary and publishing news from a mulicultural standpoint. It’s funny you posted this because we’re holding a contest for free copies of The Water Cure (wasn’t sure if it was our blog you were referring to). Please stop by and enter. Everett is one of Felicia’s favorite authors so look out for more about his latest release on the BackList site and on More than Words.

    Danielle
    Online Community Manager

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  2. Seems like your last comment struck a nerve with a commenter over at the intellectual mad house (my blog). The person asked could you please explain your self.

    There are so many black writer out today, I wonder who will be the next Richard wright? Is Terry Macmillan the Zora Neale Hurst of today? Who is the James Baldwin of today. Nikki Giovanni also, could be in competition for the Zora Neale Hurst title. Literature it is, a world one has to admit that it is fascinating.

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  3. Danielle – The Backlist was definitely one of the sites that I noticed as offering the free copies of The Water Cure. There were actually two other websites doing the same thing, but their deadlines have already passed. I will definitely submit my information for the giveaway. There’s nothing like free or discounted books!

    Chance – I propose those same questions from time to time. How will we find out if the titles are lost behind the ghetto fiction novels? What if the next great black author is a ghetto fiction writer? Could it be possible?

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  4. _Erasure_ (and it’s satire/takedown of Sapphire’s _Push_ and other proto-Urban Lit books) is the novel that lifted Everett’s profile for most readers, so don’t feel too badly about ‘sleeping’ on him. Just be glad you’re awake!:) Everett’s work kinda falls off the radar because he purposefully writes books that are difficult to categorize, and are ‘not black’ (whatever that means). _Glyph_ is a retelling of Greek Myths, _Wounded_ the story of a black rancher in the West and a gay bashing a la the Shepherd case, and your round up of his titles missed the political satire _A History of the African-American People (Proposed) by Strom Thurmond_. Everett gleefully ‘doesn’t fit’ into what most of us consider the stream of African American Literature. From interviews I’ve read with him, he kinda doesn’t care about that either…

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  5. @ Trenee,

    Yes, it is possible that the next great fiction author could come from the ghetto. A lot black writers come from the ghetto, but if you read their books, you will notice that their books often revolve around similar topics. This prevents many of them from standing out over the rest .Remember American Idol when that 17 year old kid Sanjay was a contestant? Notice how long he stayed on as a contestant, and people who really could sing got booted (voted) off the show. Sanjay was one of the worst singers if not the worst singer there in many peoples mind. The reasons the voters kept him on so long was because he was different. The way he tried with a lot of effort, his different hair styles, and his enthusiasm. His looks did not do it alone because many handsome and beautiful people come to American Idol, and many teenagers, men, and women view these handsome singers trying to compete. It was because he was different, and this being different allows one to stand out over the rest, even if you suck.

    Therefore, many black writers of fiction sound similar, and write about similar or same topics. Many of them even have the same style of writing. If you want to be at the top and immortalized like the greats you have to be a little different. You can write about the same subject as many other black writers of fiction, but it is the way you say it, and how you go about saying it (writing style as a story tell/narrator), that makes you stand out.

    Richard Wright wrote about what it was like living in America as a black boy and man, many black writers did the same thing. But the reason Richard Wright stands out, and is remembered and admired by blacks, whites, and other ethnicities is because he said things that many black writers during his time would avoided.

    Richard wright said: used to mull over the strange absence of real kindness in Negroes, how unstable was our tenderness, how lacking in genuine passion we were, how void of great hope, how timid our joy, how bare our traditions, how hollow our memories, how lacking we were in those intangible sentiments that bind man to man, and how shallow was even our despair.”

    The above statement is one of the things that made Richard Wright so unique. He said things that many blacks wanted to say, and felt but were afraid to say them. Notice how Richard is not considered an UNCLE TOM. If a certain blacks say the same thing today they would be called sell outs and Toms.
    The reason Richard is still admired even though he made the above statement is because blacks can sense the spirit that he said in. It was not a spirit of self hate or anger at black people. So Richard wrote about black themes like many black writers — but he is remember while many of them are not – because he said things that caught ones attention, said what many blacks thought about America, whites, and blacks, and his style was honest and based upon the reality of living in America as a black person. James Baldwin is another black writer who stood out, and is remembered, Richard Wright helped James Baldwin receive a writers grant so he (James) could live in France and write. The grant was money that was given to Baldwin while living in France — so he did not have to work a job while living in France. Notice how Baldwin also read a lot of Richard wright’s wittings, and notice how Richard and Baldwin are remembered and idolized until this day, and they knew each other.

    It is like going to other peoples blogs and websites, many are similar but certain ones stand out. Whether we agree with the person or not there is something about their style of writing and the way they write on their blogs, the contents, their ideas, opinions, the way they see things, and the way they go about explaining how they view particular issues that captures your attention. They are thought provoking, they have imagination, they make you ponder what you read, they get at what’s inside of you, and touch you in a way that moves on your emotions in a very specific manner. There is something about their personality too.

    Be different, stand out, be bold, say what others want to say but are afraid to say it, and when you pick up the pen (keyboard to type) be down like Dru down and say it!!!

    Could the next great black writer be Trenee, hey?

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