Praise for Percival Everett:
“If Percival Everett isn’t already a household name, it’s because people are more interested in politics than truth.”—Madison Smartt Bell, author of The Washington Square Ensemble
“Everett’s talent is multifaceted, sparked by a satiric brilliance that could place him alongside Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison . . .”—Publishers Weekly
“I think Percival Everett is a genius. I’ve been a fan since his first novel. He continues to amaze me with each novel—as if he likes making 90-degree turns to see what’s around the corner, and then over the edge . . . He’s a brilliant writer and so damn smart I envy him.”—Terry McMillan, author of Mama
A fictitious and satirical chronicle of South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond’s desire to pen a history of African-Americans—his and his aides’ belief being that he has done as much, or more, than any American to shape that history. An epistolary novel, The History follows the letters of loose cannon Congressional office workers, insane interns at a large New York publishing house and disturbed publishing executives, along with homicidal rival editors, kindly family friends, and an aspiring author named Septic. Strom Thurmond appears charming and open, mad and sure of his place in American history.
Percival Everett is the author of 15 works of fiction, among them Glyph, Watershed and Frenzy. His most recent novel, Erasure, won the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and did little to earn him friends.
James Kincaid is an English professor at the University of Southern California and has written seven books in literary theory and cultural studies. These books and Kincaid himself have gradually lost their moorings in the academic world, so there was nothing left for him to do but to adopt the guise of fiction writer. Writing about madness comes easy to him.
The mere broaching of the outrageous titular book proposal is enough to keep this hilarious high-concept satire humming along. Among the characters who try to make sense of it are the fey, omnisexual Tennessee Williamsish congressional aide proposing the book, who attempts to clarify things by suggesting that the Methuselan segregationist senator "is, properly understood, a black writer"; the fatuous Simon & Schuster editor who thinks such a project might make for a fashionably "hot" manuscript (but said editor doesn't have "enough holes in his bowling ball"); and the authors, inserting themselves into the novel as academic ghostwriters whose curiosity and greed overcome their revulsion at the idea. And then there's the slyly charming Thurmond himself, who's far from fully committed to the project, and cagily justifies his own racist record by throwing away the concepts of objective truth and personal responsibility as casually as he throws out homespun anecdotes ("You know, my brother Bill used to stutter something terrible. He couldn't say grace and have his food be hot"). The story's epistolary format allows novelist Everett and literary theorist Kincaid to write in a chorus of richly individuated voices, by turns and often simultaneously sardonic, hysterical, obsequious and threatening, aware of their own hypocrisies but unwilling to renounce them. The result is a truly funny sendup of the corrupt politics of academe, the publishing industry and politics, as well as a subtle but biting critique of racial ideology.