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To Read: Pym by Mat Johnson

June 21, 2011

I was listening to On Point on NPR and they were talking about “hot summer reads.”  Four guests were discussing their top choices for the summer and Maggie Galehouse, book editor for the Houston Chronicle and blogger at “Bookish: A Book Blog with Maggie Galehouse,” suggested Pym by Mat Johnson.

Galehouse described the premise of the novel and it sounded really interesting. She said that the main character has been let go from his position as a professor and decides to take a trip with his friend. They end up off the coast of Antarctica where they find islands filled with different types of people. She said the novel focuses on race and self discovery, with a healthy dose of comedy thrown in.

IndieBound describes Pym as “a comic journey into the ultimate land of whiteness by an unlikely band of African American adventurers” and goes on to say:

Recently canned professor of American literature Chris Jaynes is obsessed with The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, Edgar Allan Poe’s strange and only novel. When he discovers the manuscript of a crude slave narrative that seems to confirm the reality of Poe’s fiction, he resolves to seek out Tsalal, the remote island of pure and utter blackness that Poe describes with horror. Jaynes imagines it to be the last untouched bastion of the African Diaspora and the key to his personal salvation.

He convenes an all-black crew of six to follow Pym’s trail to the South Pole in search of adventure, natural resources to exploit, and, for Jaynes at least, the mythical world of the novel. With little but the firsthand account from which Poe derived his seafaring tale, a bag of bones, and a stash of Little Debbie snack cakes, Jaynes embarks on an epic journey under the permafrost of Antarctica, beneath the surface of American history, and behind one of literature’s great mysteries. He finds that here, there be monsters.

Not really typical light summer reading, but I think it looks like a great read. What are you picking up this summer?

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