Commercialized Writing in “Erasure” by P. Everett Essay (Book Review)

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Jul 30th, 2020

Erasure is a novel by Percival Everett, in which the author heavily criticizes the commercialization of literary work. Instead, the novel calls for creating alternative American literature to defend east-cost literary activities. Specifically, as Everett discusses the commercialization of literary culture, as well as how it distorts the actual value of literary works. Consumption culture deteriorates the genuine purpose of the publishing business because books are published only when they are in high demand among the readers. Everett’s subjects focus on social observations of the life of African Americans, as well as how it is disruptive by the existing stereotypes on the life of the black community. The protagonist of the story is Thelonious Ellison, an intelligent and well-educated writer who makes up novels in a sophisticated manner so that only a few people can understand them. The protagonist, who is also called Monk, experiences serious hardships in their personal life and professional career because the community believes that he is not “black enough” to be an honorable member of the African-American community.

The events in Ellison’s life are complicated because his father committed suicide, whereas his mother suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. Monk’s sister is murdered by the abortion protester, and his brother is homosexual, although he is married and has children. Ellison has nothing to do, but to leave his prosperous California life and look after his mother in a detached, solitary place, writing his dense novels. Hence, Monk’s life encounters both the crisis of both his family and his writing career. Further, in the novel, the heroes face a dilemma of searching for his another sister’s identity, a child of his father and his lover, a German woman with whom he acquainted in the 1950s. Therefore, most of Ellison’s work is dedicated to his family’s history, particularly to the moments when he recollects memories of his father. While describing his like, the hero provides a picture of the medium class of African Americans whose story is much more convincing as compared to other stereotypical narrations of the impoverished black community.

Everett’s account on the black community is not false due to the genuine representation of facts. With partial reliance on the autobiographic event, the story acquires trustful meaning. The author does not adhere to the accepted conservative spirit that the U.S. community has got used to while hearing the story about African Americans. While deviating from the established views on the life of national minorities, the novel focuses on psychological realism, which is depicted through Monk’s family. The protagonist is enraged by the false depiction of the Black communities that do not entirely belong to a low-income class. There are families that originate from mid-class societies and that have noble professions. Hence, Monk’s indignation with the benignly racial attitudes to the African community grows as he notices the bestseller book We’s Lives in Da Ghetto by Juanita Mae Jenkins on the bookshelf. The novel exaggerates the tragedy of the life of the Harlem family; yet, it is highly recognized as a realistic interpretation of the reality. The racially discriminated regions have been described when Jenkins was a 12-year-old girl. To respond to the distorted portrayal of African-American culture, Monk decides to write a vulgar caricature called My Pafology, which later becomes the bestselling book as well. Signed by the pseudonym of Stagg P. Leigh, Ellison is at a loss because he could not decide whether his real name should be discovered because either of the cases would mean the loss of reputation.

The book is both an autobiographical narration and the representation of the search for the answer of self-identity. Erasure focuses on the shortcomings of identity, which is difficult to understand within the established stereotypical boundaries. Ellison cannot pretend to be the black author, which is accepted in the American community; instead, he wants the writer who can render authentic facts about the life of a black nation. Monk is ignorant of such issues as a ghetto, racial discrimination, and, therefore, he makes use of irony to emphasize his irritation of the reality in which he lives. At this point, the novel demonstrates how people treat diverse displays of racial discrimination in literature, as well as how the existing racist notion differs from the real ones. It is not in vain, therefore, that the book is called Erasure because it sheds light on the corrupted representation of the life of the African American community.

At the beginning of the story, the author emphasizes that he “[has] dark brown skin, curly hair, a broad nose, some of my ancestors were slaves and [he has] been detained by pasty white policemen” (Everett 1). At the same time, the author denies other attributes and qualities that are imposed by stereotypes. Specifically, the author confesses that he “hardly ever think about race” (Everett 2). All these comments make the hero more “real” as compared to other heroes and the surrounding background, although the very existence of stereotypes is presented through suspicion, misunderstanding, and disruption.

Apart from criticizing the current outlooks on African-American ancestry, the author also approaches phones, television, and stories that once again emphasize the fake nature of the stereotypes. In response to these false identities, Monk rejects the self-murder and despair at the very beginning of the book by stating that he does not want to see anyone on the pages of his book. The author also faces a challenge while searching for the ways of expressing his identity and creativity, particularly when the entire literature industry and commercialized culture prevents writers from exposing the truth about the black community. Instead, the appreciation is given to the authors that blatantly lie about the existence of racial discrimination.

While focusing on the weaknesses of the book, specific attention should be given to the narrative style of the book where the emphasis is given to storytelling, but not representing facts and generalized statements. In this respect, it is possible to compare Everett with his protagonist, who also has difficulties with the writing style because it is destined for sophisticated and advanced readers, but not for ordinary people. Therefore, the book might be difficult for those who do not have sufficient knowledge of African culture.

In general, the book is a valuable addition to the analysis of African-American ancestry. It does dispel not only the myths about overt racial discrimination but also distorts the established stereotypes about the black community, which is often depicted as poorly education, possessing low-income status. By introducing Monk, the author proves that African Americans can receive higher education and get a prestigious job. At the same time, he criticizes the commercialization of the minority culture to attract more readers and make them consumer published products.

Works Cited

Everett, Percival. Erasure. US: Graywolf Press. 2011, Print.

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