American Fiction
October 19, 2023 5:32 AM   Subscribe

Once upon a time Watchmen and Station Eleven writer Cord Jefferson picked up a book by Percival Everett called Erasure. Like most people who read Everett, he was deeply gripped by this bitterly funny satire. Unlike most readers, he decided to make it into a movie: Here's the trailer for the upcoming American Fiction starring Jeffrey Wright and Issa Rae.
posted by mittens (39 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't been this excited about a movie in years, and I hope it makes everyone go out and read more Everett. I just read his Booker short-listed The Trees this year, and it's like going to a show by your favorite stand-up comedian and instead of telling jokes, he announces that he's placed a bomb under every single chair and they're all about to blow. I'm not sure I've ever read an angrier book, and how he managed to keep it simultaneously funny and furious and heartbreaking all at once is some kind of writer-magic I just can't fathom.
posted by mittens at 5:43 AM on October 19 [11 favorites]

I have never heard of Erasure, and now I really want to read it. Thanks, mittens!

Also, I hope the movie is as funny as pre-reviews are making it out to be, because the combination of "funny + meaningful" would be a nice change from recent noisy-but-empty movies.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:46 AM on October 19 [2 favorites]

(Also, the link to The Trees goes to its Booker Prize page, which includes a reading guide for the story. Who knew that the Booker people give away a lot of free reading guides for book clubs and libraries?? So great!)
posted by wenestvedt at 5:49 AM on October 19 [5 favorites]

oh my god
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:53 AM on October 19

Looks like it would make an interesting double-header with Spike Lee’s Bamboozled, looking at the way racism impacts Black cultural producers and the stories they are able to tell with commercial success in different areas.
posted by eviemath at 5:56 AM on October 19 [4 favorites]

Every single one of Percival Everett's books is excellent. Most of them (not Erasure!) barely mention Blackness. Each one is quite different from all the others in terms of story, subject matter, etc.

Turns out that Angela Bassett was slated to direct this adaptation ten years ago. From the Blavity website: It’s been suggested in the past by some that “Erasure,” the novel, was a scathing critique of “Push,” the novel by Sapphire, on which “Precious,” the movie, was based. The movie was to be titled Erasure, then United States, then Book of the Year.

Glad one of Everett's books finally made it to the screen. There are a few other of his novels I would suggest...
posted by kozad at 6:20 AM on October 19 [5 favorites]

This trailer is incredible. The comic timing is so good. Every single actor kills it, and the cuts are perfect.
posted by prefpara at 6:33 AM on October 19 [2 favorites]

I read Dr. No by Everett earlier this year and it is probably the funniest novel I've read in the past 10 years. It scratched the same itch in my mind as first reading the hitchhiker's guide.

Erasure just jumped to the front of the read me next line.
posted by cmfletcher at 6:42 AM on October 19 [6 favorites]

I knew nothing about this but happened to catch the trailer. Jeffrey Wrigth's reactions ( especially this one) to the increasing absurdity made me laugh harder than anything I've seen in some time. Really looking forward to this!
posted by Frayed Knot at 6:53 AM on October 19 [1 favorite]

I hope this boosts Jeffrey Wright's career. He was by far the best thing in The French Dispatch, but he doesn't seem to get a ton of lead roles.
posted by praemunire at 7:20 AM on October 19 [3 favorites]

Stagg R. Leigh. Gold.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:41 AM on October 19 [6 favorites]

I had never heard of Everett, but I was at a hotel while on vacation over the summer when I found a copy of The Trees in a little lending library area. I started reading it, and, mittens, felt exactly like a bomb had gone off under my seat.

I can't wait to see this movie, and I can't wait to read the book first.
posted by heyitsgogi at 7:50 AM on October 19 [3 favorites]

Also: Station Eleven and Watchmen are two of the most astounding pieces of storytelling in the last decade. I'd go see this based on that alone.
posted by heyitsgogi at 7:53 AM on October 19 [11 favorites]

I also just finished Percival Everett's The Trees based on an earlier mittens recommendation right here on MetaFilter. mittens summarized the tone of the book as contemptuous. I knew nothing else about it and don't think any other description of the book would capture how well crafted it is.

I read it straight through in a couple of sittings, and it's been a while since I devoured a book like that. But that's because I don't usually go for a mystery, but it's not secret what the core evil heart of the book is. The Trees is properly haunted.
posted by zenon at 7:57 AM on October 19 [1 favorite]

I was reading this Mary Sue review that compared it to Sorry To Bother You (in a flattering way) that reminded me of this Wired article on Quan Millz which seems to be exactly the type of writing Everett is taking on.

(A charitable take on Millz is that he's a Black, Chuck Tingle style author that writes whatever his brain spits out. The more popular view is that he's a White person writing stereotyped "ghetto" literature for the money.)
posted by fiercekitten at 8:00 AM on October 19

omfg that trailer is brilliant. I CANNOT wait to see this!! what a great cast. I was full on laughing during the trailer. Jeffrey Wright is such a treasure.
posted by supermedusa at 8:16 AM on October 19

I'm almost afraid to see the movie now, because the trailer itself was like a perfectly modulated Key & Peele sketch.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:18 AM on October 19 [6 favorites]

heyitsgogi Also: Station Eleven and Watchmen are two of the most astounding pieces of storytelling in the last decade. I'd go see this based on that alone.

10000% agreed! I thought that exactly before I watched the traller.
posted by supermedusa at 8:18 AM on October 19

Adding Everett to my library's "For Later" shelf. I've really been meditating the last few years on the idea that not everything is "made for me," came up when I first heard Solange's second (?) album. That doesn't mean I'm excluded or that I can't enjoy it, just means I can be free of having to voice an self-centered approval/complaint about things that don't appeal to me.

Not sure if the book follows a parallel journey, but this trailer is a bit of a subtle mindfuck to be part of the demographic that's being critiqued, but the critique itself isn't designed specifically for me to consume. Honestly great, feeling the rewiring of that. I also know it's not a guarantee anyone else is approaching it the same way. Something else for conservatives to throw on their "woke bonfire." Reading a bit of the Black twitter reaction to this over the past day or so really has me wondering whether the entertainment press will take the bait here and assign a bunch of white liberal writers to breathlessly critique the satirical worldviews here.
posted by SoundInhabitant at 8:21 AM on October 19 [3 favorites]

A friend went to see this at TIFF and couldn’t overstate the uproarious laughter rolling through the theatre. TIFF’s audience choice award means something!
posted by sixswitch at 8:55 AM on October 19 [1 favorite]

Just great news.
posted by chavenet at 9:10 AM on October 19 [1 favorite]

I hope this boosts Jeffrey Wright's career. He was by far the best thing in The French Dispatch, but he doesn't seem to get a ton of lead roles.

praemunire, you probably know this, but for anyone else who might want to see more of Jeffrey Wright, a stone-cold genius, a personal hero of mine, and one of our greatest living actors, here is a seriously incomplete list of my favorite performances of his:
Angels in America (where he reprises the roles he originated and won a Tony for) on Broadway
O.G., a towering performance in a fictional story of a man about to be released from a long prison sentence, filmed in and with inmates of an actual facility
Only Lovers Left Alive (A Jarmusch film, with Wright in full weird mode)
Basquiat, his first leading role on film, an incredible debut, and a masterclass in rising above bad material
posted by minervous at 9:15 AM on October 19 [9 favorites]

and if you haven't watched WestWorld, its worth it just for Jeffrey Wright's amazing performances.
posted by supermedusa at 9:23 AM on October 19 [6 favorites]

Trailer is interesting! And Jeffrey Wright is amazing.
posted by davidmsc at 9:38 AM on October 19

I love the movie Game Night, and Wright’s uncredited cameo in it is one of the best things about it—just chef’s kiss perfection. His comedy roles are often so underrated.

I can’t wait to see this.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 10:27 AM on October 19 [1 favorite]

...Station Eleven writer Cord Jefferson...

Apparently, a different Station Eleven than I am familiar with.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:49 AM on October 19

Cord Jefferson wrote episode 5 of the television adaptation of Emily St. John Mandel's novel Station Eleven.
posted by slappy_pinchbottom at 10:54 AM on October 19 [4 favorites]

(oh yes, sorry if I implied he was responsible for the full station eleven series or the book!)
posted by mittens at 10:57 AM on October 19 [1 favorite]

LMAO, that trailer is gold. I've only read "Assumption," and "I am not Sidney Poitier," which are both excellent, btw, but definitely need to pick up some more of his books.
posted by nikoniko at 11:14 AM on October 19

If you need just a little more Wright he is also good in Source Code, though his character there is almost typecast from Bernard in Westworld.
posted by panhopticon at 11:22 AM on October 19 [1 favorite]

just reading the titles of the fictitious books alone makes me want to read this
posted by graywyvern at 11:25 AM on October 19 [2 favorites]

This looks great! Definitely checking out the book as well - though the Station Eleven series was one of the few times I can ever remember seeing an adaptation that was actually better than the (very good) book.
posted by Mchelly at 11:38 AM on October 19 [3 favorites]

he is also good in Source Code, though his character there is almost typecast from Bernard in Westworld.

The other way around, Source Code is older. It is the same casting director though.
posted by biffa at 11:47 AM on October 19

Seconding Dr. No, especially if you are a fan of James Bond, mathematics, or nothing.
posted by Ishbadiddle at 7:19 PM on October 19 [2 favorites]

Erasure is a an absolutely fantastic novel. Percival Everett is the best and sometimes I think Jeffrey Wright is my favorite actor. So, like, I’m all over this. Have already dreamed about it
posted by thivaia at 9:01 PM on October 19 [1 favorite]

I read Erasure in college as part of a course on American novels, and it blew my mind and I loved it so much and wondered why and how that book didn't get bigger. That it's finally being adapted, and like this!!!! is super thrilling and I cannot fucking wait.

I hope Percival Everett becomes a household name and that this movie makes a ton of money for everyone involved.
posted by knotty knots at 10:58 PM on October 19

I read this excellent essay by Leo Robson in the London Review of Books about The Trees, Erasure, and Percival Everett by Virgil Russell in the LRB last year and as a result I picked up all three books as well as I Am Not Sidney Poitier. I can strongly recommend reading the piece, I'm glad I did.
posted by Joeruckus at 7:24 AM on October 20 [1 favorite]

I love this guy’s books. Read most of them. And so should you all. In the trailer, the scene that did it for me was right at the beginning with that on stage interview about the book at the center of the story. The scene flips 180 degrees and in the back of the audience stands a black gentleman with a horrible look on his face that is immediately blocked by a standing up blond who’s applauding. Kind of sums up a lot…
posted by njohnson23 at 7:50 AM on October 20

Loved the book, and I'm curious to see how they adapt the book-within-a-book because My Pafology is a masterpiece in itself.

Also this is all amusing. Originally, Everett, a black academic writes a book about a black academic who writes a book posing as a black gangster which becomes a bestseller.
And now, we have a movie (based upon a book written by a black academic who wrote a book about a black academic who writes a book posing as a black gangster which becomes a bestseller) which is poised to become a hit movie..
posted by storybored at 1:17 PM on October 21 [4 favorites]

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