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.
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.
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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