36. I am Not Sidney Portier

Everett is an English Professor with a wicked satirical streak, and although this novel is comical, I’m sure he’s deadly serious. It’s a Black Comedy, in both senses of the word. Not Sidney Portier spent twice as long gestating as any other normal person, and his life just gets weirder from there. He looks exactly like Sidney Portier, he inherits enough shares of Turner Broadcasting to shame Rockefeller, and Ted himself installs him at his mansion after Not Sidney’s mother dies. NSP goes on to college, meets the author, buys BET, gets arrested for driving while black in the deep south, attempts to build a church and solve a murder, all before being mistaken at the Oscars for Portier himself. He masters a sort of automatic hypnotism that allows him to compel others to act out his own will for them. Oh, and NSP’s dreams: he dreams himself into various Black identities or roles in the history of Being Black. The novel is a tragicomic tour through the myriad ways that being Black in America is an exercise in surreality, and through his many misadventures NSP is demonstrating that no one has a handle on who the Black Man is supposed to be. He’s as confused as you are. The Black Identity is as fractured and fugged as possible, beset by racism, classism, nationalism, pretension, issues of authenticity, self-hatred, sexuality, bootstrapping, slavery. No one wants him, everyone wants to use him, his only friends are men whose minds or monies have so divorced from identity as to make them ciphers. He has no idea where he comes from or where he’s going. A sadder commentary on the dissolution of a people it would be hard to imagine, nor a more humorously dry one.

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