Jamilla Rice's Reviews > I am Not Sidney Poitier

I am Not Sidney Poitier by Percival Everett
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Jun 27, 12

it was amazing
Read in June, 2012

I finished this yesterday, but was too high on oxy (yes, it is my prescription and it’s legal--sprained ankle) to write the review. Although, it WOULD have been interesting. You could say that I wasn't myself yesterday. Which would have been so fitting, considering the content of this novel.

Bildungsroman, odyssey, social commentary, confessional, fan fiction, picaresque pictorial, call to action . . . this novel does so much, so elegantly, so deftly—sleight of words, is how I'd describe it. So many characters and situations are craftily shuffled and dealt in and out that you are three to five moves behind Everett, the dealer, so that you have the inevitable jaw drop when the unexpected King of Hearts is not where you know it should be. Remember. Things are not as they seem.

Not Sidney Poitier is the most endearing nondescript protagonist to ever grace the page since Joseph Andrews. Brilliant doesn't even begin to describe the effect of what he does with words. The references to Poitier films, Ted Turner impersonation, Cosby speech parody, author cameo and Webster/Diff'rent Strokes archetype bashing all could have gone horribly wrong in luddite hands. But they didn't. And we are ever so grateful to have the pleasure of Everett's satirical take on everything from fame to fellatio to fraternities to finance.

I won’t write any more, because, I could never do it the justice it deserves. How is it that this man has not yet won a Pulitzer or National Book Award? How is it that he is not required reading in every high school and college in this country? How can I read anything else now? I am in awe and cannot wait to read the stack I have on hold at the library and the latest Everett novel, Percival Everett, by Virgil Russell. Sleight of words . . .


Favorite Quotes:

I am the ill-starred fruit of a hysterical pregnancy, and surprisingly, odd though I might be, I am not hysterical myself.
"What's your name?" a kid would ask. "Not Sidney," I would say. "Okay, then what is it?"
I was a sexual imbecile. More than that, I was an innocent, a stowaway. I had come to her country with no visa, passport, and with no destinations in mind.
"As far as I can see, nothing of any importance comes with a manual."
My first thought was this man sounds like Jesse Jackson. My second thought was not to mention my first.
I was, to say the very least, terrified. To say the very most, in my mind, I was bending over as far as I could to kiss my ass goodbye.
It was a terrestrial black hole, rather a white hole, a kind of giant Caucasian anus that only sucked, yet smelled like a fart.
His name was Dudley Feet and so had to be in some way related to Gladys Feet. How many Feet could there be? There were at least two.
"Did you know that black girls graduating from high school outnumber men seventy to thirty? Where are these educated, fine young women going to find suitable partners? That's why I have some babies on the side. Pudding Pops!"
Slippery place, your mind . . .
My mother had been, if not disdainful then suspicious of holidays; she thought that they were all either some form of corporate extortion, religious indoctrination, or governmental propaganda. Thanksgiving fell into the third category--one big glorious lie to put a good face on continental theft.
This was when my life again became essentially a wildlife film, in the way that it worked itself out as something of a vast morality play, where the strong survive and the maintenance of social conventions seems the most certain and steadiest hedge against the harsh and unforgiving environment.
To have called Morris Chesney passive-aggressive would have been a glaring understatement, as much as any understatement can glare.
"Don't be a sheep, Mr. Poitier. Be anything, be a deer or a squirrel, a beaver or a gnu, but don't be a sheep."
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