Elizabeth's Reviews > Pym

Pym by Mat Johnson
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's review
Apr 20, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: 2011
Recommended for: scrappy intellectual fans of the absurd

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 and The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, which brings us to the bulk of the story. He ends up taking an all black crew to Antarctica where they run into quite a bit of snag. The crew is comprised of his best friend from middle school, his exwife (who he pines for) and her Morehouse husband, a gay adventure couple and his crazy dread locked relative. They run into, what I'm going to call mythical abominable snowman creatures and become enslaved to them.

All kinds of ridiculousness ensues, including a prominent role for Little Debbie snack cakes. If the narrative wasn't so funny and biting it might be hard for people like me, who are satire-challenged, to engage and enjoy. There are moments when he delves into the literature of Poe which seems more apt for literary criticism and I found kinda boring but you put up with it as the surprises that come down the line make it worthwhile.
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