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3.56  ·  Rating Details ·  2,549 Ratings  ·  460 Reviews
From Publishers Weekly November 29, 2010

Social criticism rubs shoulders with cutting satire in this high-concept adventure from novelist and graphic novelist Johnson. Shortly after Chris Jaynes, a struggling "blackademic" at a small Hudson Valley college who has a particular interest in Edgar Allan Poe's Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, is passed over for tenure, he lucks i
Published March 1st 2011 by Recorded Books (first published January 1st 2011)
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The Black Geek I found this book to be very engaging and funny throughout. I will definitely make the time to reread this gem of a book...
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Community Reviews

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Sep 13, 2011 Maureen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
oh god. i am almost ready to give up satire and humour entirely. i adore a good quip. i love a wag, i cheer a wit (and mat johnson fits these categories) but i don't seem to have the patience for the sustained point behind it all these days. happily, there was a lot of other filling in this little debbie cake novel which has a lot going for it in terms of voice, intertextuality, intelligence, and invention: chris jaynes, an african-american professor who wants to teach poe instead of pursuing th ...more
Mistinguette Smith
Read this book now.

Marvelous satire, and a post modern literary play on the life of words, Pym is the best time I've had between the covers of a book in ages. Taking on everything from Poe to Toni Morrison's Playing the Dark, Johnson writes a tale at once absurd, laugh out loud funny, ironic and broadly satirical.

And yes, it really is about a black professor who has a meltdown when he doesn't get tenure, and ends of travelling to the (literal) ends of the earth and the end of time with his bes
What a strange book. I wasn't sure what to make of Pym when I finished it earlier today, but after thinking it over for a while, I'm pretty sure I like it. I read it for a book club at work, and let's just say it was NOT a popular choice. The general consensus was that Pym was offensive and ridiculous, the protagonist was angry, and the characters were obnoxious. At the beginning of the meeting I was inclined to agree with many of the criticisms, but as the discussion went on, I found myself def ...more
Jan 06, 2015 Linda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, black-author
I thought that the first 100 pages or so of Pym were fantastic. The satire was imaginative; I felt like I was in on the joke. I, also, appreciated the irreverent, social commentary. Up until (view spoiler) I thought that this would be one of my best books of 2015. Johnson’s use of Poe’s novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket is so creative that I figured that alone would put this book on my favorites list. However, at t ...more
I bought this book because it got such rave reviews on Salon and Fresh Air. The concept was great and the passages quoted were hilarious. I love academic satires and fiction about fiction and Poe (and Lovecraft) and critical theory about race ... So I was set to LOVE this book, and for the first 150 pages I did love it. I was snickering and giggling and tipping with laughter at the dry humor and footnotes and gentle mockery of academic language.

Then something happened. I don't know what exactly.
Maurice Carlos Ruffin
America is afraid to engage with it's great original sin. No surprise. Slavery tarnished the ideals of freedom and rugged individuality enshrined in our Constitution. During the time of slavery, we ignored the irony inherent in this set up. Today, we generally acknowledge the horror of that period in our history, but we're still afraid to engage with the idea of race and our slaveholding past's affect on our present. You want to unsettle people at a dinner party? Mention the Dred Scot revolt. Yo ...more
Nancy Oakes
Apr 08, 2011 Nancy Oakes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite, fantasy
There are just some books that have the power to take you out of the real world for a while so that all there is is the story in front of you, and Pym is one of those. This book fits the bill of that old phrase "a rollicking good yarn," while simultaneously offering its readers the author's ruminations on the issue of race. Trying to pigeonhole this metafictional novel is not a simple task: it's got it all -- alternative history, fantasy, adventure, satire, and above all, comedy. I think there w ...more
Pym is the tale of white and black and no end to the shades of grey that such binaries necessarily imply. It doesn't waste any time in telling us so either. Chris Jaynes, the novel's protagonist is a professor of black literature who isn't concerned with teaching only that anymore, and is trying to get around to understanding the conception of whiteness, specifically through the work of Edgar Allan Poe. This, however, doesn't sit well with the president of the small, white, Midwestern college wh ...more
Mocha Girl
Dec 16, 2010 Mocha Girl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: satire
The social satire within the pages of Mat Johnson’s latest offering, Pym, is nothing short of brilliant and extremely hilarious -- I found it to be a seriously and literally “laugh out loud” funny novel! Inspired by Edgar Allen Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, Pym’s protagonist is a recently dismissed, professor Chris Jaynes, who is frustrated with his former employer’s decision to deny him tenure for what he views as insubordination. His act of defiance is refusing to join ...more
Mike Ingram
May 03, 2012 Mike Ingram rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Well, it appears I have to be the contrarian on this one. My Goodreads friends--and the world at large--seem to have nothing but praise for Pym. And I was primed to love it, too. A biting, satirical treatment of whiteness as a social construction? Edgar Allen Poe meets "Fear of a Black Planet"? I'm totally on board with that project.

Unfortunately, I found the satire rather shallow, and the book's characters were mostly one-dimensional caricatures. I realize that's sometimes how satire works, but
Arinn Dembo
Mar 25, 2012 Arinn Dembo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: weird-fiction
I had great fun with this novel, for a variety of reasons. For one, I was already a fan of Johnson's work--Incognegro was one of the best graphic novels of 2008 and I still recommend it friends who are willing to read anything other than long underwear comics, for example, and I've been spending a lot of time lately tracking down his other writing, both in and out of print.

I'm also a fan of Poe, however, and of his spiritual and literary descendants in the Weird Tales generation, in particular H
Dov Zeller
This novel is more sort of two novels that meet in the middle, one a cutting social satire, and one a strange, eerie, tale of exploration and adventure that tries to squeeze humor and significance out of places where the well has run a bit dry. As many reviewers have said, the first half of the novel promises greatness, with its humor, intertextuality and relationship situations, setting the stage for a powerfully narrative and comic experience. But the second half gets a little too caught up in ...more
Mar 11, 2011 Alex rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You don't know about this, without you have read a book by the name of the Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, and it does matter. That book was made by Mr. Edgar Allen Poe, and like Coetzee's Foe to Robinson Crusoe, this one is so thoroughly wrapped up in its source that you won't get half the book otherwise.

That said, this is a very good book. It flips Poe's Pym around: where Poe described a group of white people conflicting with black people - and I use white and black here because P
Jenny Roth
Sep 17, 2011 Jenny Roth rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Consciously or unconsciously, I'm always rating the books I read as I go along, and this one slowly made its way down the scale.

It started off a five: the preface is reminiscent of Frankenstein and other 19th-century adventure tales, and the early chapters contain laugh-out-loud lines that would feel at home in a smart, race-based stand-up routine. Johnson's observations on the strangeness of everyday American life, particularly in academia, are similarly intelligent and funny. However, when he
John Pappas
Sep 17, 2011 John Pappas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Falling somewhere between the witty insouciance of Percival Everett and the cool intellectualism of Colson Whitehead's quasi-allegories, Mat Johnson's satirical and metafictional novel Pym takes on American literature, American culture, identity and the construction of "whiteness" and "blackness." Johnson's protagonist, Chris Jaynes, is an American literature professor who is obsessed with white American authors, namely Edgar Allan Poe. Because he doesn't fit the university's idea of diversity, ...more
Jun 11, 2012 Maxine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chris Jaynes is the only black professor (he considers himself the token black) at a predominantly white liberal arts college where he has been hired to teach Black Studies. But he has a fascination with Poe's only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, which Jaynes believes exemplifies the "intellectual source of racial Whiteness". Since he is untenured, and since his class size has dwindled due to his refusal to teach anything other than Pym, he soon finds himself out of a job ...more
I have got to read more satire - I haven't had this much fun since James Morrow's Towing Jehovah! The only reason I couldn't give Pym five stars is that it jumped the rails in the second half and got freakin' crazy (I preferred the faux-academic pastiche of the first third). But it's not easy to sustain a satire based on The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym for 300 pages, right? Yet much of the novel is hilarious and incisive and deliciously weird: funny footnotes, a Thomas Kinkaid-like painter wi ...more
Jaclyn Michelle
Aug 22, 2011 Jaclyn Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

First person narration can be tricky, but Mat Johnson has a sense of voice that rivals Junot Diaz. So clear, so compelling. As I read, I wanted to follow Johnson's main character, Chris Jaynes, anywhere he went. Until he decided to leave the States (and reality) far, far behind...

The premise of this book is really quite genius: the self-described token black professor at a small, predominately white liberal arts college finds himself without tenure after f
William Thomas
I wonder who told Mat Johnson that he'd make a good writer. Maybe they said 'great' instead of good. I don't know. Whoever this person/people were, they lied to his face. Or through email. Or text messages. Whatever medium, they were lying in it. Because this is easily the worst book I've read in 10 years.

Yes, even counting those times I tried to read paranormal romance novels. This is worse. Because those writer of paranormal romance created their books without the pretense or the hope that th
And to think I almost didn't read this.

A fabulous and funny (and serious) read about a fired black English professor who, because of a manuscript he finds, mounts an all-black crew to travel to Antartica to look for the places mentioned in Edgar Allen Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Yes, it sounds crazy, and what they find sends the story off in the realm of speculative fiction. And I can't tell you why, because that would spoil it.

But the characters!

Chris Jaynes, English
Mar 28, 2011 Tony rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Johnson, Mat. PYM. (2011). ***. This novel starts off as a marvelous satirical take-off on Poe’s “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.” What happens after that is anyone’s guess. Chris Jaynes is a recently fired professor of American Literature at a small college. Ostensibly, the reason is that he wouldn’t join the Committee of Deversity. This was especially damning since he was the only black professor on campus. He takes this in stride and continues his study of the origins of blac ...more
Mar 30, 2011 Julai rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Say you're a black academic, and you find yourself a little disenchanted with a university system that wants you to teach rap lyrics when all you really want to do is explore the many contradictions in Edgar Allan Poe's only (and terrible) novel, "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym," an esoteric cliffhanger wrapped in mystery and confusion, with a big, racist bow on top.

Mat Johnson's "Pym" starts with a recap of Poe's novel, and this outline serves as the map for the rest of Pym's arc, taking e
Hilarious meditation/re-envisioning of Poe's sole novel PYM. It's a satirical novel that takes jabs at academia, racial politics, Little Debbie and the paintings of Thomas Kinkeade. Imagine Invisible Man and Mumbo Jumbo were written by Moliere and edited by Richard Pryor and you have this fast moving, exciting laugh-out-loud work. Highly recommended for both literary and genre (fantasy/horror) lovers.
Apr 19, 2011 Akon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
this book is hilarious!
unfortunately, it makes me want to read poe's book too.
would recommend to anyone with a sense of (racial) humour.
Jim Brucker
Jan 30, 2013 Jim Brucker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I knew nothing of this novel, as it was a gift. There are blurbs on the back cover that connect the work with the spirit of Vonnegut. I'm open to that, as Vonnegut was one of my big authors, and primarily responsible for my interest in creating my own fiction. Have Vonnegut so embedded into my soul, though, can work against any recent writer who is critically compared to the old man. I mean, there was only one Vonnegut, and that's how it should be with any great writer, from Pynchon to Boyle. Th ...more
Jul 26, 2013 Sara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pym is a mirror and an upending of Edgar Allan Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, and it subverts the racist narrative that Poe created in this, his only novel. It's also very funny.
I loved the opening—part literary analysis, party racial analysis all mixed in with a quirky and surprising voice. Chris Jaynes is a Black professor at a predominately white college. His obsession, much to the dismay of his fellow faculty, is with Poe and his novel. (They'd rather he fill the tok
Nov 24, 2015 blakeR rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A highly entertaining, farcical examination of U.S. race relations through a story loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. It's as clever as it is entertaining, though I think anyone who reads it without first having read Poe's original will be leaving a lot of enjoyment on the table.

My main criticism is with the tone. It's not quite funny enough (and its theme is too serious) to work as pure farce, but because of its farcical leanings it fails at time
Zac Smith
there are two levels to this book, and i have different opinions on each. in terms of the story, the events that happen in it, i wasn't a fan-- i'd give that part of it 1/5. in terms of the social commentary re: race and american/literary history, i'm a huge fan-- i'd give that part 4/5. so i'll talk about the first then the second here, and the average is my rating, more or less.

this is a weird sort of adventure story built to heavily reference and mirror Edgar Allen Ooe's only novel, which, fr
Jun 20, 2011 Evan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was attracted to this peculiar novel by a plot summary on NPR of all places. I was impressed that a book described on NPR sounded genuinely impudent, and not merely quirky or irreverent. So I decided to stop reading law books long enough to check out a new novel by an author I'd never heard of. Very unlike me.

The author, like his novel's protagonist, is a light-skinned black man. The protagonist is a professor of African-Amerian literature at some small liberal arts college who gets canned for
May 03, 2011 Amy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-book
Chris Jaynes, the only black professor at a mediocre college, is obsessed with "how the pathology of Whiteness was constructed". Hired to teach African-American literature, he is fired because he's more interested in teaching Poe and ultimately when he won't join the Diversity Committee. His job is lost and his book collection is in ruins when a manuscript that appears to be written by Dirk Peters (the 'half-breed' character from Poe's only full-length novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym o ...more
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2017 Reading Chal...: Pym by Mat Johnson 1 21 Apr 16, 2016 10:14PM  
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