Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Pym” as Want to Read:
Pym
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Pym

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  2,974 ratings  ·  514 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
Kindle Edition, 338 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by Spiegel & Grau (first published January 1st 2011)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Pym, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
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...
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Rating details
Sort: Default
|
Filter
Maureen
Sep 13, 2011 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
...more
Linda
Jan 06, 2015 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
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
Nancy Oakes
Apr 08, 2011 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
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
Maurice Ruffin
Dec 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Roger Brunyate
Nov 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy-surreal, race
Whiteness

[Review from 2011]

Chris Jaynes has just been fired from his position as the token black professor at a prestigious liberal arts college. A few pages later, he has a barroom encounter with the suspiciously-named man brought in to replace him, "Mosaic Johnson, Hip-Hop Theorist," who shakes a black power fist in the air (to the delight of the self-proclaimed white-liberal patrons) and exclaims "I'm down for the fight, know what I'm saying?" The tone of satire is set, but not yet the likabi
...more
Roy
Sep 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting book that made for a quick read. It is filled with Mat Johson's trademark humor regardless of the seriousness of topic at hand. The plot revolves around a recently fired African American Literature professor. Why was he fired? Because his primary focus was on examining a novel by Edgar Allan Poe, the only full length novel written by the brilliant but definitely not African American author. The name of the book is The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. I had never heard of ...more
J.I.
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 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
Holly
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
Mike Ingram
May 03, 2012 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
...more
Arinn Dembo
Mar 25, 2012 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
...more
Alex
Mar 11, 2011 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
...more
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
Lark Benobi
How can any novel manage to be so smart and so ridiculous at the same time? In this novel, Johnson tells a story even more incoherent and open-ended than his source of inspiration, Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. But within his chosen framework of comedic satire, Johnson also makes intellectually exuberant arguments, a cascade of them, about literature, race, identity, feminism, love, and the historical inheritance of slavery. He even manages to explore the conditions unde ...more
Jenny Roth
Sep 17, 2011 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
...more
John Pappas
Sep 17, 2011 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
Maxine
Jun 11, 2012 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
Nostalgia Reader
An amazing, surreal, well-written story that flips and reverses the symbols of Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket , addressing the racial issues of both Narrative and of society in general. Highly recommended, especially if you're like me and enjoyed the novella but were concerned with the ending.
Craig
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.
Sharyl
Sep 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-reads, chuckles
This is satire, aimed squarely at Edgar Alan Poe's "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket." I enjoyed "Pym" more than Poe's novel.

I loved how Mat Johnson's lead character, Chris Jaynes, critiques Poe's novel in the beginning of this novel. Chris is a literature professor at a liberal college, where as the only African-American, he is expected to limit himself in a way he finds objectionable. Chris's refusal to play the narrow role the college is offering means the end of his career. W
...more
Rana
Jun 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At times confusing because I know nothing about Poe or the book in question. Most other times, a brilliant satire on racism, slavery, and lots of shit. As I'm mostly a commute-reader, I found myself having to actively control my facial expressions so I didn't startle fellow train riders with my snorts and giggles.
Jaclyn Michelle
Aug 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Babydoll
Jun 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I must admit, hesitantly, that I was not keen on reading this book when I initially heard about it. When I read the description of the book, I thought it sounded a bit boring. It was not until I took a Saturday afternoon to spend in the bookstore, that I actually sat down and gave this novel a chance. What initially was supposed to be just the first few pages read, turned to be the devouring of the first four chapters. I was obviously proved wrong. This is the perfect example of how one must not ...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
Tony
Mar 28, 2011 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
Julai
Mar 30, 2011 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
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
African-American ...: April '17 Group Read (AA Sci-Fi): Pym -- Mat Johnson 41 31 May 16, 2017 12:02PM  
2017 Reading Chal...: Pym by Mat Johnson 1 21 Apr 16, 2016 10:14PM  
Other African-American lit? 11 30 Jan 21, 2015 01:36PM  
  • If Sons, Then Heirs
  • John Henry Days
  • Black No More
  • Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self
  • Erasure
  • Makeda
  • Plum Bun: A Novel without a Moral
  • The Taste of Salt
  • A Taste of Honey: Stories
  • The Tragedy of Arthur
  • All Aunt Hagar's Children: Stories
  • Act of Grace
  • Oreo
  • You Are Free
  • Time of the Locust
  • Unburnable
  • Orange Mint and Honey
  • Leaving Atlanta
237 followers
Mat Johnson is an American writer of literary fiction who works in both prose and the comics format. In 2007, he was named the first USA James Baldwin Fellow by United States Artists.

Johnson was born and raised in the Germantown and Mount Airy communities in Philadelphia.

His mother is African American and his father is Irish Catholic. He attended Greene Street Friends School, West Chester Univers
...more
“It is a great moment in every freak's life when he or she finds out that at least they are not the only one.” 12 likes
“There are two types of lazy bosses. One is so lazy that they make you do not only your own work but theirs too. Worse, they lie to you about it, unloading all responsibility for their actions. The other is so lazy that not only do they not do their own work but they can't even be bothered to provide you work to do. These bosses lie as well, but only to themselves, passively. The first is the hardest boss to work for, the second the easiest.” 4 likes
More quotes…