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3.57  ·  Rating details ·  3,263 ratings  ·  546 reviews
Recently canned professor of American literature Chris Jaynes has just made a startling discovery: the manuscript of a crude slave narrative that confirms the reality of Edgar Allan Poe’s strange and only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Determined to seek out Tsalal, the remote island of pure and utter blackness that Poe describes, Jaynes convenes a ...more
Kindle Edition, 338 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by Spiegel & Grau
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Brittany Laccetti I thought the beginning was very funny. I think it lost its sense of humor after they meet the ice creatures, then it turns into something more seriou…moreI thought the beginning was very funny. I think it lost its sense of humor after they meet the ice creatures, then it turns into something more serious.(less)
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Average rating 3.57  · 
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 ·  3,263 ratings  ·  546 reviews

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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Roger Brunyate
Nov 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy-surreal, race

[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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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. ...more
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.
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
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.
This year, I have read books about cyborgs in a pandemic, uncontrollable time traveling and a woman who can poison another woman just by braiding her hair. This book is weirder than all of these combined.
Jaclyn Michelle
Aug 22, 2011 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
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
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 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
R.S. Carter
Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!

I knew it was a book for bibliophiles. And I knew it was going to be an adventure of sorts. But those tidbits of information didn't exactly prepare me for the actual Arthur-Gordon-Pym-style adventure this book was going to take, and in reverse polarity.

I don't want to give away spoilers, so I'll simply say that when the story moved from academia to a wild adventure that could only exist in the imagination, I was impossibly hooked.

Moreover, it was hilarious. One of the funnie
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2017 Reading Chal...: Pym by Mat Johnson 1 21 Apr 16, 2016 10:14PM  
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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

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