Pym
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Pym

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3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  1,554 ratings  ·  312 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...more
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Published March 1st 2011 by Recorded Books (first published January 1st 2011)
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Maureen
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
Jessica
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
Jason
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
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...more
Heather
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....more
Nancy Oakes
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
John Pappas
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
Mocha Girl
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
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...more
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
Tony
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
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...more
Maxine
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
Sara
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...more
Ksab
What a great ride!! Excellent story- a masterpiece on many levels first being that the footnote commentary is hilarious. As a lover of African-American,American ( same as African-am) history, literature,historical fiction (???!!!) adventure and travel to unknown parts-I was truly engrossed , entertained and - shall I say- mentally challenged(oops=sorry)- I meant mentally stimulated by Pym-a Novel. I read Johnson's Hunting in Harlem several years ago and went looking for Incognegro at my library...more
Arinn Dembo
Mar 27, 2012 Arinn Dembo rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
Jaclyn Michelle
http://wineandabook.com/2011/09/01/re...

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...more
Julai

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...more
Mary-Lynn
"As spectacular as it sounds, I think it's pretty clear we're dealing with some sort of lost Neanderthals here. Or possibly another line of hominid, a spur of Homo erectus," I offered.

..."Just some ugly, big-headed honky albinos," continued Booker Jaynes, undaunted. "I don't know, maybe some Vikings got lost down here a long time ago, something like that, inbred for a few centuries. Who the hell knows? But these things are white folks...maybe the whitest folks you ever met, but white folks just...more
Dree
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...more
Booknblues
What a long strange trip it is.....Chris Jaynes an African American who happens to be a professor of literature is fired at the beginning of Pym, reminding me of a book I’d recently read The Lecturer’s Tale by James Hynes which started in much the same way. Jaynes has a fascination with Edgar Allen Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket and a copy of Dirk Peter’s diary a supposedly fictional character of the novel . Jaynes decides that he should follow in Peter’s footsteps to Anta...more
Jim Brucker
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
Amy
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
Kara
Mat Johnson's Pym is nothing less than an absolute masterpiece. It is easily among the top 5 books I have ever read in my life. Johnson continually shows a razor sharp wit in crafting his protagonist's consciousness -- at different moments, his observations had me heartily laughing out loud at his incisive or absurd insights, giggling at the silliness of the fantastical realm he finds himself in, and chuckling bittersweetly at the comically framed horrors that are sometimes described. A lot of t...more
Elizabeth
Apr 20, 2011 Elizabeth rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: scrappy intellectual fans of the absurd
Shelves: 2011
I tend to shy away from satires as they disorient me and I tend to feel like I don't get it. When this book arrived at the library for me, I couldn't remember where or when I had decided to take it on. It doesn't matter because it ended up being a fun read- even if I didn't appreciate the exact satire-ness it probably deserves.

The blackcentric liberal arts professor who loses his chance at tenure because he won't join the diversity committee sets the stage. He is obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe an...more
Jennifer
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...more
Will Caskey
This book is fantastic. It's a great read at every level: it's fun and fast-paced, it's a satire that hits the sweet spot between accessibility and poignancy, and it even has a layer of lit theory as fiction for former English majors like me to savor. I can't remember the last book that had me actually laughing out loud, but this one did with every chapter.

The jacket summary made me a bit hesitant; it doesn't really do the story justice. However, in this case it's for a good cause: its various t...more
Mr. Cole
This was the final book I read for a course on African American Identity; it followed James Baldwin's Go Tell it on the Mountain and Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon as an entirely modern take on the issue of black identity in a post-Obama world. Loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe's only novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket & Related Tales, the book follows the first person narration of American literature professor Chris Jaynes as he pursues the literary heritage of contempora...more
Bookmarks Magazine
In this “relentlessly entertaining novel” (New York Times Book Review), Johnson skewers contemporary culture, deftly balancing social satire with an old-fashioned (if wacky) adventure tale that simultaneously lampoons the 19th-century racial assumptions encapsulated in Poe’s original Narrative. As a result, some passages can read more like literary criticism than fiction, but Johnson’s wit and insight keep the story—his own unique slave narrative—moving forward. While the Boston Globe complained...more
Evan
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...more
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Other African-American lit? 7 19 Aug 29, 2013 07:21PM  
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