See, the thing about Pym is that it’s all the novels you want to read in one. There’s apocalypse, there’s adventure, there’s the allusions to a literary classic – it’s all there. The narrator, Chris Jaynes, has a voice that has a hint of academia, a straight forward ease, and a dark humor slant. Johnson is a writer who disregards the restraint of genres. Go and read it right now.
From Booklist: “Jaynes devises a mission to find the lost, black-inhabited island near Antarctica described in Poe’s narrative, setting off with an all-black crew that includes his seafaring cousin; his obese friend Garth; his ex-fiance, Angela, and her husband, Nathaniel; and two flamboyant mechanics. They discover that something else described in Poe’s narrative is also real: giant, yeti-like, albino humanoids living in large colonies below the ice in Antarctica. This extension of Poe’s adventure is a romp that surprises on every page. Funny, insightful, racially important, Pym is a death-defying adventure and a probing examination of notions of race, even at the farthest ends of the earth.”
Here’s some relevant words:
- I used to complain that the only things the white literary would would accept of Africa’s literary descendants were reflections of the Europeans themselves: works that focused on white racism, or the ghettos white economic and social disfranchisement of blacks created. I still think that, I have just come to the understanding that I’m no better (27)
- I am mulatto. I am mulatto in a long line of mulattoes, so visibly lacking in African heritage that I often appear to some uneducated eyes as a random, garden variety white guy. But I’m not….Octoroon would have been the antebellum word for me. …I am a black man who looks white (135)
- I would have to overcompensate for my pale skin to be accepted, I would have to learn to talk blacker, walk blacker, then even my peers. Or be rejected as other forever (137)
Here’s a video of him reading from Pym: