×

Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

A History of the African-American People (Proposed) by Strom Thurmond, as told to Percival Everett & James Kincaid (A Novel)
     

A History of the African-American People (Proposed) by Strom Thurmond, as told to Percival Everett & James Kincaid (A Novel)

by Percival Everett
 

See All Formats & Editions

Praise for Percival Everett:

“If Percival Everett isn’t already a household name, it’s because people are more interested in politics than truth.”—Madison Smartt Bell, author of The Washington Square Ensemble

“Everett’s talent is multifaceted, sparked by a satiric brilliance that could place him alongside

Overview

Praise for Percival Everett:

“If Percival Everett isn’t already a household name, it’s because people are more interested in politics than truth.”—Madison Smartt Bell, author of The Washington Square Ensemble

“Everett’s talent is multifaceted, sparked by a satiric brilliance that could place him alongside Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison . . .”—Publishers Weekly

“I think Percival Everett is a genius. I’ve been a fan since his first novel. He continues to amaze me with each novel—as if he likes making 90-degree turns to see what’s around the corner, and then over the edge . . . He’s a brilliant writer and so damn smart I envy him.”—Terry McMillan, author of Mama

A fictitious and satirical chronicle of South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond’s desire to pen a history of African-Americans—his and his aides’ belief being that he has done as much, or more, than any American to shape that history. An epistolary novel, The History follows the letters of loose cannon Congressional office workers, insane interns at a large New York publishing house and disturbed publishing executives, along with homicidal rival editors, kindly family friends, and an aspiring author named Septic. Strom Thurmond appears charming and open, mad and sure of his place in American history.

Percival Everett is the author of 15 works of fiction, among them Glyph, Watershed and Frenzy. His most recent novel, Erasure, won the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and did little to earn him friends.

James Kincaid is an English professor at the University of Southern California and has written seven books in literary theory and cultural studies. These books and Kincaid himself have gradually lost their moorings in the academic world, so there was nothing left for him to do but to adopt the guise of fiction writer. Writing about madness comes easy to him.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The mere broaching of the outrageous titular book proposal is enough to keep this hilarious high-concept satire humming along. Among the characters who try to make sense of it are the fey, omnisexual Tennessee Williamsish congressional aide proposing the book, who attempts to clarify things by suggesting that the Methuselan segregationist senator "is, properly understood, a black writer"; the fatuous Simon & Schuster editor who thinks such a project might make for a fashionably "hot" manuscript (but said editor doesn't have "enough holes in his bowling ball"); and the authors, inserting themselves into the novel as academic ghostwriters whose curiosity and greed overcome their revulsion at the idea. And then there's the slyly charming Thurmond himself, who's far from fully committed to the project, and cagily justifies his own racist record by throwing away the concepts of objective truth and personal responsibility as casually as he throws out homespun anecdotes ("You know, my brother Bill used to stutter something terrible. He couldn't say grace and have his food be hot"). The story's epistolary format allows novelist Everett and literary theorist Kincaid to write in a chorus of richly individuated voices, by turns-and often simultaneously-sardonic, hysterical, obsequious and threatening, aware of their own hypocrisies but unwilling to renounce them. The result is a truly funny sendup of the corrupt politics of academe, the publishing industry and politics, as well as a subtle but biting critique of racial ideology. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
I'll bet you didn't realize that Sen. Strom Thurmond was actually the best thing that ever happened to African Americans-at least, that's what one of the octogenarian's aides sets out to prove in this fictional account of a publishing snafu. Painfully insecure, sexually confused, and schizoid, Barton Wilkes imagines a chronicle of Thurmond's contributions to the black community and attempts to con a major house into publishing it. Confusions, con jobs, coercions, and conflicts cross and become convoluted in mysterious ways as ever more editors, editorial assistants, authors, various would-be lovers, and even Thurmond himself swirl through the project. Everyone has a piece of the puzzle, but nothing fits. Everett and Kincaid cast themelves as major characters, only slightly saner than the rest, and use an epistolary style that includes letters, memos, contracts, and interview notes to create a unique voice for every character. The result is an outrageously funny satire of race relations and racism, U.S. history, contemporary sexual mores and behavior, academia, and the publishing industry. It could become a cult classic or even that rarest of rarities-a small-press best seller. Highly recommended for all public and academic libraries.-Jim Dwyer, California State Univ. Lib., Chico Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781617752131
Publisher:
Akashic Books
Publication date:
12/20/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
300
Sales rank:
1,208,634
File size:
660 KB

Read an Excerpt

A History of the African-American People (Proposed)


By Strom Thurmond

Akashic Books

ISBN: 1-888451-57-2


Chapter One

MEMO

March 1, 2002 From: Barton Wilkes To: The Senator

You will doubtless remember me but maybe not. You commented last Tuesday on my tie (bow, new) and red hair (not so much red as auburn, like the school).

But to get to the point, you know that you hold a peculiar place in history. You must know that, for all your modesty, and know too that I mean nothing special by peculiar. That place is history is perhaps nowhere so remarkable as vis a vis the colored people (aka Afro-Americans, negroes, people of color [one section thereof], and blacks). Now that your career has fully matured (you know I mean nothing special by matured), perhaps it is time to explore the true and unmistakable understanding (ripe right to the core) that you have attained vis a vis the subject(s) aforementioned to a nation failing to appreciate not only its most glittering jewels but the true depth and thickness of its historical roots.

While to many in our nation, the new diversity, as we may call it unhappily, may appear as cute as a speckled pup, I feel (and the nation will echo my feeling) it is your place to point out the route we have traveled to arrive at this place. Map it, I say! Like a 21st-century Vasco da Gama.

To this end, I trust I am not overstepping my bounds as I suggest to you that we initiate a discussion leading to the potential production of a possible mode of transport to allow us to travel that route aforementioned. And by this I mean a good old-fashioned Southern Greyhound Bus.

I await your pleasure, having taken such initial steps, baby though they may be, (Did you ever play Mother, May I?) that will pour starter fluid on the briquets.

Devotedly,

Barton Wilkes, Assistant to Aide

* * *

March 3, 2002 To: Barton Wilkes From: Strom

Come to think of it, I did play Mother May I. That's been a while.

Who are you?

What?

* * *

Office of Senator Strom Thurmond 217 Russell Senate Building Washington, D.C. 20515 March 13, 2002

Simon & Schuster, Publishers 47 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10037

Dear Sir/Madam:

I will be brief.

The project is this: A History of the African-American People by Strom Thurmond. As Advisor to Senator Thurmond, I have his ear and will not say I have been entirely uninstrumental in persuading him to undertake the project in its present form. (By the way, the book title should have no honorific titles in it: no "Senator" or "The Honorable." That's the direct wish of the Senator. It'll be a title without titles, as it were.)

Please contact me at this address and I will relay to the Senator details about such things as:

1. publicity plans

2. advances

3. royalties

Meanwhile, I remain, your friendly and helpful associate in all things,

Most sincerely, Barton Wilkes Junior Advisor, Public Relations The Hon. Strom Thurmond

* * *

Office of Senator Strom Thurmond 217 Russell Senate Building Washington, D.C. 20515

April 15, 2002

Simon & Schuster, Publishers 47 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10037 ATTN: Senior Editor

Dear Sir/Madam:

In ref. to mine of the 17th inst.

Ha, ha. I'm just joking, of course. There's no need for such formality.

However, there is need for some dispatch, as the Senator always says, when telling the story about how there was only one outhouse at the school pie-eating contest when some prankster the Senator swears, with a twinkle in his eye, it was not he put castor oil in the blackberries that filled the pies (blackberry pie, the Senator's favorite to this day): "There is need for some dispatch, Sammy!" shouts one of the boys in line. I wish you could hear the Senator tell that one.

Of course it will not be appropriate to the project we are discussing.

Or rather, I am discussing. I sent you an inquiry one month ago and have been, you will perhaps comprehend, somewhat confused by your failure to respond.

What am I to understand?

Most cordially yours,

Barton Wilkes Advisor, Public Relations Department The Hon. Strom Thurmond

* * *

Simon & Schuster, Inc. 1230 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10020

May 14, 2002

Mr. Blanton Wilkes Old Senate Office Building Washington, D.C. The Hon. Strom Thurmond's Staff

Dear Mr. Wilkes:

Thank you very much for your inquiry. We regret to say that the exceedingly large volume of manuscripts/proposals coming our way these days makes it impossible for us to entertain unsolicited inquiries.

We hope you will find a more receptive audience elsewhere.

Sincerely,

Simon & Schuster Publishers

P.S. If you sent a manuscript to us, we have to inform you that we are unable to return it.

* * *

Office of Senator Strom Thurmond 217 Russell Senate Building Washington, D.C. 20515

May 17, 2002

Simon & Schuster, Publishers 47 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10037

Dear Sir/Madam:

I can appreciate a joke as well as the next fellow, as I am sure you will discover in time.

I should begin by asking you to believe that I am whom I say I am, that I represent accurately Senator Thurmond's wishes, and that my reasons for contacting you in this heartlessly impersonal way will become clear.

Now, as they say here on "The Hill," let's get down to business, shall we?

I think you should begin.

Sincerely,

Barton Wilkes, Advisor, Public Relations The Hon. Strom Thurmond

* * *

Memo: Snell to McCloud

May 29, 2002

Hey Juniper!

Have a nice Memorial Day? It's my favorite holiday, Memorial Day is.

Here's who knows what. Barton Wilkes? Maybe you can figure it out. Try. Can you?

Ask the guy for a proposal, but tell him the usual about how we aren't interested. Make that emphatic. Don't leave any room for doubt.

Do you keep a cat? I find a well-groomed cat a great comfort. My ex-wife hated cats.

* * *

Simon & Schuster, INC. 1230 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10020

June 1, 2002

Mr. Barton Wilkes Advisor, Public Relations The Hon Strom Thurmond

Dear Mr. Wilkes:

Martin Snell, an editor here at Simon & Schuster, has asked me to respond to your letter.

Please indicate in standard proposal form what your project is exactly. At that point, we can evaluate its suitability for Simon & Schuster.

Understand that this in no way indicates any interest on our part in the project. We receive many proposals and can proceed with only a small fraction of these.

Sincerely,

R. Juniper McCloud (Mr.) Assistant to Martin Snell

* * *

Office of Senator Strom Thurmond 217 Russell Senate Building Washington, D.C. 20515

June 4, 2002

Mr. R. Juniper McCloud Assistant to Martin Snell, Editor Simon & Schuster, Publishers 47 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10037

Dear Mr. McCloud,

Surely not coincidental that we are both Assistants to important people, me to the Senior Senator of All Time, Claude Pepper having died, and you to the man who is doubtless the Senior Editor there. It's a small world. "I was a child and she was a child/ In our kingdom by the sea." Do you know Poe?

Now, it's easy to see why you are being standoffish. Perhaps I would be too, though it's a matter of our inner nature, really, when the sun goes down. Don't you agree? For instance, my guess is that it is not at all your own decision to be so very formal. I know it wouldn't be mine. Neither of us is quite his own person, though, not to be presumptuous.

Anyhow, as I said, this will be A History of the African-American People by Strom Thurmond.

Would you need more details like the number of pages, illustrations, that sort of thing? If not, I think this can stand as description and what you call proposal. I couldn't at this point supply such details anyhow, so there we are.

Puissant name, "R. Juniper." Are you from the Charleston McClouds? My own name is a matter of some pride to me, as yours is to you. Someone at your place called me "Blanton." Oh my.

Yours for now, Barton Wilkes Advisor, Junior, Public Relations The Hon. Strom Thurmond

* * *

Memo: Snell to McCloud

June 22, 2001

We have reason to believe that this guy is connected to Thurmond, but he doesn't seem to have very many tines to his fork, does he?

It's almost certainly a no-go, but see if you can find out more. Get him to send you a proposal.

Do NOT encourage him, by any word or gesture. Don't even hint that we might be interested give him to understand just the reverse.

Do you wear boxers or briefs? Also, you haven't answered my question about kitty.

* * *

Simon & Schuster, INC. 1230 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10020

June 23, 2002

Mr. Barton Wilkes Junior Advisor, Public Relations The Hon Strom Thurmond

Dear Mr. Wilkes:

We are in receipt of your letter of June 4.

Please send us a detailed proposal. Such a proposal should include, but not be limited to:

-a full description of the project

-a detailed chapter outline

-an analysis of the projected audience for such a book

-an estimated time frame for completion

-a discussion of other books in the area and how this proposed book will meet the competition

Do understand that our receipt of such a proposal, should you choose to send it, in no way indicates any interest on our part in the project, much less in publishing it.

Sincerely,

R. Juniper McCloud

* * *

Office of Senator Strom Thurmond 217 Russell Senate Building Washington, D.C. 20515

June 27, 2002

Mr. R. Juniper McCloud Mr. Martin Snell Simon & Schuster

Dear Friends,

Much as I have come to rely on and, indeed, feel some warmth for Mr. McCloud, I expect it is time that he evaporate from the meadow. Marty and I can take it from here.

I am trying to understand your peculiar hesitancy. I do not wish to make judgments hastily, or, indeed, at all. You are evidently not paranoid, nor are you in business in order to drive away profit-making ideas. Or are you? Here I come at you with the plan of the decade (put modestly) and you treat it as one more book on the O. J. Simmons, or Mick Jagger, or Spanking. I do suppose you receive lots of ideas that are just plain kooky, or very tired, or both. But try to be alert when the real thing comes ding-donging at your door.

But I think I would be as skittish as you, perhaps, all things considered.

Strange, you will say, that Senator Thurmond did not contact us directly, did not phone, did not set up a meeting. Well yes, strange according to your way of doing business. I ask you simply to respect the fact, undoubted fact, that your way of doing business is not Senator Thurmond's. This is in no way to impugn you or your practices. It is just that the Senator has his own views on things. It is easier for me to think this way, as I am with him day and night; but now you know.

One mystery I can clear up. The Senator insisted that I convey his views in this manner for the simple reason that he is a believer in justice, equal justice. His words to me were these: "If they like the proposal, that's fine. If they don't, that's fine. That's how I see it." I think that's how I see it too. I would suppose you do too.

The proposal is this: Senator Thurmond proposes to write what he terms A History of the African American People by Strom Thurmond. As the history of the African American People has been, to a great extent, coextensive with the Senator's own, he will be able to draw on his own life experience (and not just in politics) for much of his material. For the earlier years in America (prior to the Senator's coming of age, let us say), he will employ books and the research of scholarly advisors.

Perhaps that will do for what you need. Kindly let me (not the Senator) know of your interest, what shape that interest takes, and where it will lead.

Sincerely,

Barton Wilkes Junior Advisor and Intern, The Hon. Strom Thurmond

P.S. Mr. McCloud, perhaps we can continue our discussion in a parallel fashion, running as a kind of oblongata to the main business.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from A History of the African-American People (Proposed) by Strom Thurmond Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

James Sallis
Percival Everett has been wrestling the angel for years, in all its incarnations-literary novel, Western, naturalist story, experimental work, satire-and in each case he's pinned the angel, made it call uncle. Now he's gone tagteam with James Kincaid, so expect more damage. That Everett is not better known, that he fails to be mentioned alongside the like of Philip Roth,John Updike and Tony Morrison,shames us all.
—author of Chester Himes: A Life
Clarence Major
This is the funniest novel I've read in years! I had trouble reading it because I had to stop to laugh out loud so often. Among many other things, it's a treasure of satiric humor. Don't pass it up!
—author of Configurations

Meet the Author

Percival Everett is the author of fifteen works of fiction, among them GLYPH, WATERSHED, GOD'S COUNTRY and FRENZY. His most recent novel ERASURE won the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and did little to earn him friends. James Kincaid is Aerol Arnold Professor of English at the University of Southern California and has written seven scholarly books in literary studies, literary theory, and cultural studies. Kincaid has gradually lost his moorings in the academic world, so there is nothing left for him to do but adopt the guise of fiction writer. Writing about madness comes easy to him.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews