cover image Percival Everett by Virgil Russell

Percival Everett by Virgil Russell

Percival Everett. Graywolf, $15 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-55597-634-7

It is a testament to Everett’s brilliance as a writer (I Am Not Sidney Poitier) that his latest novel, so damnably frustrating and more than occasionally tedious, is also so humanely adept at getting to the heart of the human condition. What story there is concerns an aging writer as he dictates his life’s story to his son, Virgil, “words finding the full theater of his mouth.” This writer, who may be named Percival Everett, lives in an assisted living facility, where he becomes involved in a hilarious scheme with other residents to retaliate against the mean-spirited staff. He relates other peculiar, often dubious tales, as well as family memories, some apparently true, others seemingly dreamed or imagined. In fact, everything we hear may have been invented by the fictional Everett, or it may not even be coming out of his mouth at all, but rather from his guilt-ridden but loving son. Everett has created much more than an exercise in unreliable narration, an exploration of the nature of language and the rationales we create to keep ourselves going as we grow old. By the conclusion, every sentence, indeed every word, has come to seem like a valuable key, not just to this puzzle of a novel, but to the meaning of existence. (Feb.)