WHEN THE SH*T HITS THE FAN: A CONVERSATION WITH PERCIVAL EVERETT
April 15th, 2019
During finals week, right before the semester was over, I was given the opportunity to talk to Percival Everett about his new book, The Book of Training by Colonel Hap Thompson of Roanoke, VA, 1843: Annotated, From the Library of John C. Calhoun. As evident from the title, this book is a mock manual for breaking slaves and is written from the point of view of Colonel Hap Thompson, a slave-breaker. Reading the text, I was amazed by how well Everett could capture the removed, clinical precision of slave-breaking. I kept wondering about the massive act of empathy it would take for a black author to conjure this voice so soundly.
As a black writer myself, the language of the oppressor always feels so sour in my mouth, and I wondered if this was the same for Everett. I was curious: why this book, and why now? I wanted to tap into Everett’s headspace and get a glimpse into the brain of the man who not only gave us this text but also Percival Everett by Virgil Russell, Erasure, I Am Not Sidney Poitier, and so many more powerful and complicated books.