The Book Behind ‘American Fiction’ Came Out 23 Years Ago. It’s Still Current.

by 24britishtvFeb. 3, 2024, 2 p.m. 20
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There’s a scene in Percival Everett’s 2001 novel, “Erasure,” in which the main character, a cerebral Black novelist named Thelonious “Monk” Ellison, goes to a bookstore to hunt, as writers often do, for his own books. He finds four of them — including “The Persians,” an “obscure reworking of a Greek tragedy” — placed, infuriatingly, in the “African American Studies” section.

The only thing “ostensibly African American” about the book, he fumes to himself, “was my jacket photograph.”

“Erasure,” the basis for Cord Jefferson’s new movie “American Fiction,” is a mordant satire of the way the literary world imposes broad-strokes racial stereotypes on nonwhite authors, as well as a moving portrait of a complicated Black man from a complicated family.

In a fit of fury after the rejection of his latest novel, an abstruse story about Aristophanes, Euripides and “the death of metaphysics,” Monk produces an over-the-top satirical novel featuring an uneducated Black teenager who already has four children with four different women. When the novel — initially called “My Pafology” and supposedly written by an escaped convict named Stagg R. Leigh — becomes a massive best seller and cultural phenomenon, Monk responds with utter disbelief.

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