Friday, June 17, 2011
"Pym" by Mat Johnson
Musings: It's hard to sum up Pym in a few words because this odd, satirical, absurdist, yet meaningful book is full of so much. Johnson mirrors Poe's structure (which Jaynes roundly critcizes) in Pym with perfect effect.
There's a lot of commentary on individuals' interpretations of Whiteness and Blackness without a singular message. Jaynes refuses to do what the "whites" expect of him as an African-American man (teach African-American literature; serve on the diversity committee), but his refusal achieves nothing either. His focus on race also belies his own discomfort as a light-skinned person who is sometimes mistaken for white. Later in the novel Johnson weaves in how easy it is to "other-ize" another being (which goes both ways) as the crew of Jaynes' ship to Antartica is enslaved.
Admist all this is weirdness and randomness, like giant albino snow creatures and Jaynes' friend Garth's obsession with a cheesy landscap painter (a la Thomas Kincaid). And there's a lot issues beyond race addressed, such as the crew's bickering over movie rights when they discover unknown Antarctic creatures.
I enjoyed the book, though I left it without a clear sense of analysis. That doesn't mean it wasn't a fun, weird, trip, though.
***This book qualifies for the POC Reading Challenge.