Pym: A Novel
by Mat Johnson
Publication Date: Mar 01, 2011
List Price: $24.00
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Imprint: Spiegel & Grau
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann
In PYM, recently canned professor of American literature Chris Jaynes is obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe’s strange and only novel,The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. When Jaynes discovers an old manuscript of a memoir that seems to confirm the reality of Poe’s fiction, he conspires to get to Antarctica, the setting for Poe’s book, in hopes of discovering Tsalal, the remote and mythic land 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.
For his expedition, Jaynes convenes an all-black crew ’ some members are going to the South Pole in search of adventure, some for natural resources to exploit, and, for Jaynes at least, the mythical world of The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. But soon, he and his fellow adventurers find themselves unable to make contact with the rest of the world and enslaved by the giant white ice creatures that also appear in Poe’s Narrative. 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 expedition under the permafrost of Antarctica, beneath the surface of American history, and behind one of literature’s great mysteries.
A riveting adventure novel and a cutting, insightful meditation on race, literature, and obsession, PYM is sure to be one of the most inventive and engaging novels of 2011.
"You can trust the veracity of this account: Pym is a spectacularly sly and nimble-footed send-up of this world, the next world, and all points in between. A satire with heart, as courageous as it is cunning." —Colson Whitehead, author of Sag Harbor
"Johnson’s new novel is nothing short of fantastic, in every sense. I fell in love with the voice, the tone and the world of Pym. This is an adventure novel, a work of historical and social commentary, a rumination on identity. The only problem I could find with this novel is that I didn’t write it. It’s a beautiful piece of work." —Percival Everett, author of I Am Not Sidney Poitier
"Johnson has come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass, and he’s all out of bubble gum. Pym is an adventure, a satire, and a bracing political debate all rolled into one brilliant novel. Edgar Allen Poe has inspired many authors but Mat Johnson has the inspired audacity to both honor and discredit the man, often in the same sentence. I imagine Poe choking on half the things Johnson writes in this novel, and tipping his tiny hat in admiration to the rest." —Victor LaValle, author of Big Machine
"Johnson writes with all the probing intelligence of James Baldwin, the scalding satire of Dany Laferriere and the technique of a master craftsman, all of which make him one of the most exciting, important and gifted writers of his generation. Pym is a moving and accomplished novel." —Chris Abani, author of GraceLand and the Virgin of Flames