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4.19  ·  Rating details ·  3,457 ratings  ·  371 reviews
"Thelonious (Monk) Ellison has never allowed race to define his identity. But as both a writer and an African American, he is offended and angered by the success of We's Lives in Da Ghetto, the exploitative debut novel of a young, middle-class black woman who once visited "some relatives in Harlem for a couple of days." Hailed as an authentic representation of the African ...more
Paperback, Reprint, 280 pages
Published October 2nd 2002 by Hyperion (first published 2001)
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Average rating 4.19  · 
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 ·  3,457 ratings  ·  371 reviews

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Jan 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: african-american
On Not Fitting In

Racism is, of course, one of a large family of cultural behaviours which includes misogyny, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia, among many others. We are told by sociologists that these behaviours are in some sense normal because we have a natural human preference for those who are like ourselves. Folk have a right to value what they know and feel familiar with, politicians say. Because such preferences are instinctive, there is really no way to inhibit them, lawyers
MJ Nicholls
A strange blend of family drama and razor-sharp satire. Thelonious Ellison is an academic writer in the mould of Barthes or Derrida, whose unreadable novels upset and alienate colleagues and readers. Riled by the rise of cheap and racist "ghetto-lit," he pens a satire against the genre, which becomes unbearably popular.

Despite this mouthwatering premise, however, most of Erasure is about Ellison's relationship with his mother, a passionate woman succumbing to Alzhemier's. The story is a touching
Nov 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
ERASURE was published eight years ago, in 2001, before the J.T. Leroy hoax was outed and before the eerily echoing current debate over the film PRECIOUS. it's hard to discuss the novel without talking about its elaborate plot and book-within-a-book structure. here's PW's gloss:

Thelonius "Monk" Ellison is an erudite, accomplished but seldom-read author who insists on writing obscure literary papers rather than the so-called "ghetto prose" that would make him a commercial success. He finally
Richard Derus
Rating: 2.5* of five

The Publisher Says: Thelonious "Monk" Ellisons writing career has bottomed out: his latest manuscript has been rejected by seventeen publishers, which stings all the more because his previous novels have been "critically acclaimed." He seethes on the sidelines of the literary establishment as he watches the meteoric success of  Wes Lives in Da Ghetto, a first novel by a woman who once visited "some relatives in Harlem for a couple of days." Meanwhile, Monk struggles with real
Feb 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I took an advanced fiction class from Percival Everett and admired him immensely as a teacher and person, so I finally got around to reading one of his books. I had taken a look at "Glyph" before, but "Erasure" really got me. It's the story of a brilliant Black man who defies popular (and forced) stereotypes about black men - not unlike Everett himself though I'm sure he would resent comparisons intensely.

The character - Monk - is so discouraged by the lack of audience his uber-intellectual
Betsy Robinson
Nov 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"I feel generally out of place," says the protagonist Thelonious "Monk" Ellison near the end of this astounding book. Me too. And perhaps that's why this book hits me so personally that I almost can't see straight.

Funny, moving, andas with the seven other Percival Everett books I've readunexpected and unpredictable, the paperback of Erasure is printed in a tiny font, and I was glad because I didn't want it to end. I often stopped reading in order to prolong the pleasure.

Without ruining your
Feb 11, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Terence by: Nation review of Erasure/Assumption
If Erasure is about anything, its about identity. Ones we invent for ourselves, ones we invent for others, ones that are forced on us, and ones that we lose. From the first page, the novels protagonist, Thelonius Monk Ellison, tries to establish his:

I have dark brown skin, curly hair, a broad nose, some of my ancestors were slaves and I have been detained by pasty white policemen in New Hampshire, Arizona and Georgia and so the society in which I live tells me I am black; that is my race. Though
Jamilla Rice
Jun 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Thus my P.E. obsession loses its vestigial tail and sprouts wings . . .

Initially, I wanted to read through a few reviews to see how anyone really had the

intestinal fortitude

to write a review.

My favorite artist is Basquiat. "Is" because although he is dead, he lives on through the massiveness of his art. Anyone who has seen his art in the flesh (and they do seem to be breathing, layers upon layers of thoughts like skin whispering to be peeled
Nov 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the story of a black author, artist and intellectual who is greatly respected in small circles, yet has not (and does not seek) fame for his talents. On a lark he writes a ridiculously over-the-top racist pop novel of massively stereotyped ghetto and submits it anonymously. To his great chagrin it becomes a best seller and he becomes wealthy overnight. The story weaves his youth as a black man in America with his professional family in a most skilful and interesting way. The struggles of ...more
All right, so, admittedly, this is not a perfect book. It's not. The parody inset arguably goes on too long (though actually I could be convinced on that). I was much more interested in the publishing and soi-disant avant-gardist parts than the family drama parts (though there again, I suspect the family drama may be part of the point, both about form and about the 'easy lives' of those who aren't 'black enough').

But none of that stops this from being one fucking hell of a great book, or
Maurice Ruffin
Dec 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
It's not exactly a secret that black writers are often lauded for creating works that feature characters who play into stereotypes of hopelessness and deprivation. Meanwhile, black writers who create books about characters who're are just people that happen to be black are often ignored. That's the underlying idea behind this amazingly thoughtful and unique book.

The plot? A professor specializes in Greek literary theory, among other obscure topics. Yet, his books are placed in the black section
Jul 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 18, 2007 rated it really liked it
Well - This was an extrememly thought provoking book and I would have given it five stars had it not been so thought provoking at times that I had some difficulty following where the author wanted me to go.

I felt the work dense -- and unfortunately I don't know Latin beyond the rudimentary and it was hard at the end to make sense of the big picture that Everett wqas painting.

But I do understand what he meant by alienation. What happens when you don't belong anywhere? And the issues he speaks
Mar 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I had a lot of fun with this book...from his waaay over the top novel within a the imagined conversations of historical was a book I was anxious to get back to. Also included was a rather sad piece of family dynamics that the majority of the baby booming generation is currently facing..the aging of ones parents...Its not often one finds historical hilarity, skewering of authors and the publishing game, racial perceptions and stereotypes and family drama all wrapped into one ...more
Carl R.
May 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This conversation between the artists de Kooning and Rauschenberg

appears in the middle of Percival Everetts Erasure. Apparently something like this actually happened, but never mind. Everetts version is at the heart of the title and spirit of the novel.

Rauschenberg exchanges a roof repair job for one of de Koonings drawings. Four weeks later:

Rauschenberg: Well, it took me forty erasers, but I did it.

de Kooning: Did what?

R: Erased it. The picture you drew for me.

K: You erased my picture?

Jul 23, 2012 rated it liked it
The T-shirt I'm wearin' be funky as shit. But I don't give a fuck. The world be stinkin' so why not me?

My first awareness of Erasure was in Rain Taxi; damn, I used to love that publication. There were all these small presses and I would ponder the depth of each reviewed novel.

This was likely before goodreads.

I found a copy of Erasure later at a Half Price; I bought it and devoured it immediately. An academic pens inaccesible novels that no one likes. He then writes examples of Urban
There was an incredibly dense novel from a well-known, reclusive writer of dense novels. There was a nicely crafted and notably lean novel from a writer whose reputation was astonishingly well made. There was a volume of collected stories from a dead writer, a shelf of first novels about fatherly abuse and motherly alcoholism (and the reverse), a mid-list author's new (but dreadfully old) take on the academic novel, twenty-eight middle America, domestic, where-will-the-children-live novels,
Feb 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book is gorgeously written, and it's a searing indictment of the publishing industry and fetishized and stereotyped blackness in popular culture. I loved the way Everett laced miniature plays throughout his text, ironic encounters between famous artists. (Cecille B. DeMille and Richard Wright was perhaps my favorite pairing.) The family relationships are drawn sparely and poignantly; Everett does an amazing job evoking the joint violence and passivity of Alzheimer's and the difficulty of ...more
Jan 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Erasure is an exceptional fictional novel by Percival Everett concerning the literary world and its controversial acquiescence of African American literature. Written with intellectual boldness and sprinkled with random comical satires as well as colorful characters, Everett creates a noteworthy novel within the confines of its pages.

Protagonist Thelonious Monk Ellison is an unenthusiastic academic whose career as a writer has been met with numerous rejections from publishers. Monks writings
I just finished reading this funny and smart book a few days ago. Because it was published in 2001 (I am late to the party, as usual), I will not give a rundown of the story; it's been done so many times already. I cannot add anything new. Booklist did it right:

From Booklist:

"Thelonius "Monk" Ellison, author of experimental novels, is somewhat estranged from his family because he was favored by an emotionally distant, recently deceased father. When his sister is killed, Monk returns to
I read Erasure thinking of every black friend I've had whose white acquaintances have asked them to recommend some hip-hop out of the blue, every black man I know who gets approached at the club by white women trying to mime black cadences so she can live out her stallion fantasy, every black woman I know whose co-workers tell her how pretty her hair is, and is that an African style in origin? I read Erasure thinking of every black friend, classmate, colleague, and neighbor I have who at the end ...more
Thelonius Monk Ellison is forever out of place, the lone intellectual in a family of doctors, a merciless critic of mushy pseudo intellectual literature, and a black writer inspired by the classics who refuses to write about the so-called "black experience". Tired of seeing his avant garde novels pigeon-holed in the Afro American sections of book stores, and outraged at the popularity of We's Lives in da Ghetto, a self consciously "street" work of imbecilic trash, Monk decides to compose his own ...more
Naia Pard
Welcome yoll to the experiment of intellectual prostitution. Please take a sit and remain quiet during the performance. The nerves of the players have been stretched just enough that they are on the verge of a breakdown from any minute now.
How do you call a book that gives voice to fears so inherent to what you are that it takes time for you to recognize and to distinguish them as not being a part of who you are?
It could not have been a better time for me to read Erasure. Its not about the form
Nov 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: just about everyone
Probably my favorite contemporary work of fiction, also one of my favorite all-time novels, and written by one of my two favorite authors. _Erasure_ was mostly marketed as a send-up of the publishing industry (especially in regards to race), and while it performs that function as humorously as you could hope for, its real pleasure for me was its presentation of something I guess you could call the indeterminacy of identity. Our protagonist here is black by white standards and white by black ...more
Jun 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
I like Percival Everett for the most part. And I loved this story about what it means to be a black writer, or to be black in general. I was most interested in his comment on the kind of black writing that sells because I think it's so true. But his writing is often a little schizophrenic for me, a little too (post)modern. It sometimes comes off a tad heavy handed as well. But what works for me really works for me, so I'll be reading more of him. I've already read Assumption which is so far my ...more
Sep 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Percival Everett is the best writer I have encountered in quite some time. I first discovered him through an interview in the Paris Review followed by a review of his newest novel in the NYTimes which led to a trip to my neighborhood bookstore where I picked up his book of short stories, Half and Inch of Water. I devoured that - the stories are smart, intriguing, spare and quite frankly perfect.

Erasure, is funny, heartbreaking, brilliant, angry (but not in the way one would think) and again
Branden Meyers
Jun 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: black
It is a very complex book, and a difficult one to read, but it provides a lot of worthwhile commentary on race and anti-intellectualism as well as the extremes of intellectualism. The metafiction aspects are definitely interesting as well, with a novel inside of the novel.
Apr 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A shocking exposé. A cold, hard look at the marginalized, nitty gritty underworld of the middle class American intellectual.
Sep 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-spinach
Someone pointed out this book while I was reading a discussion on another site about the issues of race and publishing in America. The book addresses the popularity of the urban fiction genre (books like Push/Precious), and what that means for African-American authors who want to escape being pigeon-holed into writing about certain subjects pertaining to racial identity. This book makes the subject entertaining and most of the characters believable and sympathetic.

The plot is really split into
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Thought Provoking! 1 10 Nov 19, 2013 04:56PM  
African American ...: Erasure: Finding Humor in Racism 1 22 Sep 03, 2012 10:29PM  
Literary Fiction by People of Color 44 81 Sep 16, 2008 09:19AM  

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Percival L. Everett (born 1956) is an American writer and Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Southern California.

There might not be a more fertile mind in American fiction today than Everetts. In 22 years, he has written 19 books, including a farcical Western, a savage satire of the publishing industry, a childrens story spoofing counting books, retellings of the Greek myths

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