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5 Novels That Showcase the LA Writer’s Enigmatic Style

By on November 8, 2022 0

The LA Times Book Club reads “Dr. No” by Percival Everett. (Graywolf Press/Wesley Lapointe)

Percival Everett’s latest book, “Dr. Nois part spy bullshit, part philosophical study of the concept of ‘nothing’, part satire of the oversized worlds of billionaires.

Kirkus Reviews calls the novel a “good place to start finding out why Everett has such a devoted cult following”.

An English professor at USC, Everett has received international accolades for his body of work: 34 books, including novels, poetry, short stories and a children’s story. This fall, “The Trees” was a 2022 finalist for the Booker Prize. Her novel “Telephone” was a 2021 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

On November 16, Everett joined the LA Times Book Club to discuss “Dr. No” with Times columnist LZ Granderson.

Everett was born in Georgia, raised in South Carolina, and spent time in Wyoming before moving to Southern California in 1988. It’s kinda dumb,” he says. “I write fiction.”

If you’ve been a longtime fan or just new to his work, here are five novels to savor — stories that show off Everett’s distinctive, often playful, literary style.

‘dr. Nope’ (2022)

Everett constantly plays with the tropes of Western fiction, mysteries, thrillers, satire, and philosophical fiction. Published this month, its new Roman is another cross-genre hybrid featuring a cast of characters from a 007 novel. Star Tribune described “Dr. No” as an “airy, eerie, often hilarious action-adventure story brimming with Everett’s talent for deadpan dialogue and lively direction” with “clever tangents”.

‘Assumption’ (2011)

Everett delivers the familiar elements of a classic Western – the silent lawman who sets out to bring justice, broken villains, struggling women, a kind-hearted mother – then gradually undermines everything you think you know. Readers meet Ogden Walker, a deputy sheriff in the small town of Plata, NM When a body is discovered and a stranger comes to town, Walker will have to up his game to become the detective who will solve the crime. As Everett reveals that all of your assumptions were wrong, it appears to you that you missed the same important clues as Walker. And in this serene landscape, you watch a man’s identity dry up and fly away.

“So Much Blue” (2017)

Abstract painter and father with a wife and children, Kevin Pace seems to live an idyllic life in New England. But like Everett draws the curtains in this domestic drama, the cracks in the paint are highlighted. Pace confronts a blank canvas, and as he works on it alone, readers are made aware of the secrets that itch under the painter’s skin like mosquito bites. Two events from his past trouble him. Everett takes readers back to 1979, when Central America was a war zone, and Pace was traveling with a friend to retrieve a lost American. Years later, Pace himself disappeared in Europe, where an affair with a talented and much younger artist turned his life upside down. Everett creates a work of art in which what lies beneath the painter’s brush are the lies we tell ourselves to live.

‘Telephone’ (2020)

Do you remember the party game of “Telephone”, where a statement, passed from one person to another, bears no resemblance to the original message? This is perhaps Everett’s boldest novel. He wrote and published three different versions. Zach Wells is a paleobiologist and geologist. Returning home from a research trip, he notices that something is wrong with his teenage daughter. Campus politics make his job as a teacher harder than he wants. And opening a new shirt, he finds a note asking for help in one of his pockets. The three storylines intertwine like a spaghetti pattern for an approaching hurricane, but readers never lose the clearest trail Everett lays down to guide them. “Telephoneis a novel about a man who sets out to be a hero but discovers that the life and death choices facing a rescuer raise existential questions that may not matter regardless of the choice. what he does. In each version, different decisions are made, culminating in a “choose your own adventure” for adults.

“The Trees” (2021)

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Everett’s comedic masterpiece is about zombies returning for revenge for acts of racist hate. Everett confuses classic Southern novels that portray black people as childish fools in need of white people’s help. In “TreesEverett overturns these stereotypes to portray white people who lynched their neighbors as burlesque clowns who resort to violence. Beneath the lively dialogue, however, Everett wonders how we can respond to this country’s history of racial terror. Is it better to describe it in academic terms so that knowledge enters as learning? Or is it better to create cinematic dramas – even comics – to catch the viewer’s consciousness? Everett makes the reader laugh so much that it takes them a minute to realize you’ve been stabbed with a dagger.

Book club: if you go

What: Novelist Percival Everett joins the LA Times Book Club to discuss “Dr. No” with journalist LZ Granderson.

When: 7 p.m. Pacific November 16. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Where: Autry Museum of the American West, 4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles. Enjoy an evening of talk, wine, live music, and an after-hours stroll through the museum. Get tickets.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.