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review 2015-10-17 23:56
Incognegro by Mat Johnson
Incognegro - Mat Johnson,Warren Pleece

I have to admit that I wasn't sure this would be a hit for me - the murder mystery is not always my cup of tea. But reading the author's introduction, detailing his life as a "black boy who could pass for white", and learning how much that influenced the writing of this novel, I was intrigued. And then the novel itself was just really really good.


I thought the historical information was well-integrated into a page-turning thriller, and the twists were genuinely surprising. I was significantly more drawn in than I ever expected to be, and I enjoyed the reading of this graphic novel greatly.

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review 2014-02-05 21:22
Pym: Review
Pym - Mat Johnson

I'll admit, when I read Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, I walked away thinking, what a strange book. Yes, Poe's attitude was most certainly racist (and as I noted, scientifically inaccurate), but overall I just thought the entire thing was so strange. The book moved though, although nothing really made any sense.

So, when I learned that Pym was out there, I knew I'd like to read it because obviously someone thought about Poe's work way more than I did, so maybe I could learn something. 

When I first started Pym, I wasn't sure I was going to like. It started pretty angry, and while I realize that race relations around the world aren't great, I didn't know if I wanted to spend my free time reading a book about how awful white people are. (I'm all for talking about having conversations about racial history, but if you're just going to tell me that X group of people suck because they were born with whatever skin color, I'm probably not going to spend much time listening to you.) (I get it though, white people did some terrible things. Poe's story is really racist. Still it's my free time, and it's precious. You want to be in it, don't yell at me about things that are out of my control.)

I struggled through the first few dozen pages and got to the part where Jaynes visits Dirk Peter's decedents and everyone is pretending to be Native American. I started to get into the book at this point. 

Cut to Antarctica. Johnson's satire really takes off - the all black crew appraising the ice monsters like cattle, I mean slaves, the Little Debbie Snacks, the fact that the crew becomes slaves themselves, the Glenn Beck loving nut job in his bio-dome with his Kool-aid streams, and the annihilation of an entire species - the book gets fantastical, and at times, makes little sense (I never really understood when Jaynes was planning on slipping away from his ice mining operation to find Tsalal.)

Overall, once I got past the beginning of the book, I greatly enjoyed it. It did seem to lag in the middle while they're trapped in the all white world under the Antarctic ice, but once that ended, the book finished with a bang (although I knew how the book would end when I started it. I did read Poe's book first). 

I'm glad I read this book, but I'd probably only recommend it to people who have read Poe's work first. I'm not sure Pym would make much sense had you not read Poe first. That being said, you can go read Poe, and then read Pym and get two black and white view points on some of the same issues from two distinct stories that seem to have separate but equal amounts of weirdness in them. 

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review 2013-08-28 00:00
Pym - Mat Johnson A somewhat-witty satire of both Poe's [b:The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket|766869|The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket |Edgar Allan Poe|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1341387331s/766869.jpg|25789936] & the issue of race. Johnson's book starts out strongly, but bogs down with the fantastical story in the middle of the book. Johnson regains some of his steam for the final few pages & thoughts. Poe pulled-off the weirdness of his Pym tale; Johnson almost did but the story itself was too uneven overall.

The book's highlights/strengths are its skewering of Poe's work & of Thomas Kinkade (contemporary, popular 'painter of light'), along with some of the thoughts on race & race relations. The weakest points are the fantastical storyline & some of the characterization.

I wanted to love this book & did love the sections where Johnson nailed the satire. However, there were just too many uneven/fantastical parts that detracted from the crux of the message for me to fully love the book.

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review 2013-02-22 00:00
Pym: A Novel
Pym - Mat Johnson Very cool idea, executed with some striking insights about literary obsessions and the construction of whiteness and blackness as opposites. (One of my favorite moments is when the narrator mentions in passing that he can't imagine black people existing in the saturated, romantic paintings of Thomas Kinkade's literary double.) But I can't recommend it. Though the planning and structure of the novel is very smart, and there are these excellent moments sprinkled throughout, the quality of prose and characterization felt flat and uninspired. In fact, a great deal of the plot is moved forward by the blundering of a character drawn with some of the most flat-handed and frankly boring fat hatred I've ever seen in an otherwise smart book.
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review 2013-02-17 00:00
Incognegro - Mat Johnson,Warren Pleece What I truly enjoyed about this book was how the illustrator managed to erase all that divided the characters. The book is in black and white and all of the characters were rendered in the same manner such that the reader cannot tell the ethnicity of the characters except for the text telling them.
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