Everett, a critically-acclaimed African American writer who hasn’t had much commercial success, tells the story of a critically-acclaimed African-American writer who hasn’t had much commercial success. Thelonius “Monk” Ellison deals with the murder of his sister, his brother’s coming out, his father’s secret life, and his mother’s slow decline into Alzheimer’s, but when a privileged Midwesterner writes a successful book called We’s Lives in Da Ghetto, he blasts out a bitter satirical response under the pseudonym Stagg R. Leigh. My Pafology nets him a six-figure advance, a seven-figure film deal, critical praise, and the attendant problems – including passing himself off as an ex-con despite his own privileged upbringing. Monk must weigh the money, which will allow his mother to live in comfort, against his artistic integrity, which is further compromised when My Pafology is nominated for a major literature award, for which Monk himself is a judge.
Taking out the fact that My Pafology is Monk’s conscious rip-off of Richard Wright’s Native Son (which none of the critics or publishers seem to notice), Everett skewers the idea that there is “a” black experience, and that it is best represented by the street lit genre. His satirical take is leavened by Monk’s struggle with his family problems, with his fumbling attempts to create relationships, and with his periodic insertion of novel ideas or ruminations on woodworking and trout fishing. A brilliant piece of work that dives through multiple levels while retaining a readibility that makes it entertaining. One caution: My Pafology is replete with violence, misogyny, and a carpet of f-bombs, but it can be skipped if sensitive readers want to follow Monk’s story.