Percival Everett’s Book Turned Movie
Word on the blogs is that Angela Bassett will soon make her directorial debut with Percival Everett’s Erasure. You know I had to run to my bookshelves to confirm that I own the title. I should, but I don’t. I can fix that. I guess I got Erasure confused with Victor LaVelle’s The Ecstatic. Maybe it’s those Es. Two books that I need to read (I only own one), but haven’t. I need to get on the ball. Anyway, According to The Hollywood Reporter:
As “ER” winds down, Angela Bassett already is lining up her next gig, one that will see her behind the camera. The actress will make her directorial debut with “United States,” an indie feature she will also produce with her Bassett/ Vance Prods. partner and husband Courtney B. Vance. “States,” based on the novel “Erasure” by Percival Everett, is a dramatic comedy about Monk Ellison, a prominent black literary figure who writes a faux autobiography from the perspective of a barely literate hoodlum to decry what is wrong with the glorification of “ghetto” culture. But when the book is lauded as a possible contender for the National Book Award, he must choose between pride and fame. Dwayne Johnson-Cochran wrote the adaptation, which is being eyed for a summer start. “States” will be the first project produced by Bassett/Vance.
Here’s a complete summary of Everett’s Erasure, which I’m sure you’ve read if you’re a black literature fan. I’m the late one. I’ve known about it, just haven’t read it yet.
Avant-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. But when his agent sends this literary indictment (included here in its entirety) out to publishers, it is greeted as an authentic new voice of black America. Monk—or his pseudonymous alter ego, Stagg R. Leigh—is offered money, fame, success beyond anything Monk has known. And as demand begins to build for meetings with and appearances by Leigh, Monk is faced with a whole new set of problems.
Everett also has an upcoming May release, titled I Am Not Sidney Poitier. Read more:
An irresistible comic novel from the master storyteller Percival Everett, and an irreverent take on race, class, and identity in America. I was, in life, to be a gambler, a risk-taker, a swashbuckler, a knight. I accepted, then and there, my place in the world. I was a fighter of windmills. I was a chaser of whales. I was Not Sidney Poitier. Not Sidney Poitier is an amiable young man in an absurd country. The sudden death of his mother orphans him at age eleven, leaving him with an unfortunate name, an uncanny resemblance to the famous actor, and, perhaps more fortunate, a staggering number of shares in the Turner Broadcasting Corporation. Percival Everett’s hilarious new novel follows Not Sidney’s tumultuous life, as the social hierarchy scrambles to balance his skin color with his fabulous wealth. Maturing under the less-than watchful eye of his adopted foster father, Ted Turner, Not gets arrested in rural Georgia for driving while black, sparks a dinnertable explosion at the home of his manipulative girlfriend, and sleuths a murder case in Smut Eye, Alabama, all while navigating the recurrent communication problem: ‘What’s your name?’ a kid would ask. ‘Not Sidney,’ I would say. ‘Okay, then what is it?’
Happy reading, y’all!