PW Best Books 2013: ‘Percival Everett by Virgil Russell’ by Percival Everett

Gabe Habash -- October 23rd, 2013

Percival Everett by Virgil Russell

Leading up to the November 1st publication of PW’s Best Books of 2013, our reviews editors are blogging about some of their favorites from our top 100. Here’s the latest post:

I started working fiction reviews at PW back in June, so I had some catching up to do on the first six months of 2013′s books. One of those books was Percival Everett by Virgil Russell by Percival Everett, a novel that, before I read it, was lodged in my head as the one with the title that I didn’t understand.

Since reading it, though, it’s become the book that I’ve pulled down four different times from my shelf just to flip through and reread. And because I have lines underlined on nearly every page, there is so much to reread. Percival Everett by Virgil Russell combines the philosophical puzzling of Beckett with the oddball discursiveness of Brautigan, and has the playfulness of both.

Take for example, this Brautigan-like line (which also doesn’t not sound like Beckett):

Everything felt off, awkward, like a typewriter that would not sit level on a desk, like a toothbrush with one long bristle that you can’t find when you stare at it, like the smell of gun oil in a baby’s nursery, like a smile in the mouth of the man who is robbing you.

Or this Beckett-like passage (which also doesn’t not sound like Brautigan):

This is where I pause to mull. You might think that I should be mulling something over, but I am a fan of the simple mull. I want to consider the day you were born. There was not a cloud in the sky and there were very few birds as well. Your mother was in the hospital in good time, time enough to even think that she was there too early. These were the days when fathers paced the hallways and waited helplessly, smoking, because everyone smoked everywhere. The obstetrician probably had a Camel filter dangling from his lips as he got a good grip on your oversized head and pulled you into this miserable, good-for-nothing world. You know the world I mean, where the rich get richer and the dumb get dumber and the horny get hornier and the only thing that ever changes is the size of insecure women’s breasts.

Or this line, which sounds like both writers at the same time:

The only person I met at the march that remained a close friend was Charlton Heston. I am Nat Turner and I’m sort of pissed off. Just fucking with you. I’m Bill Styron.

I’m not going to get on the horse, telling you that more people should read Percival Everett and that you should be among them. You should be, but I’m not going to make you. Just know that you’re missing whole pages that remind you how good writing can be.

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