My only previous exposure to Percival Everett had been his book American Desert, which I had liked but not loved.
So it was with middling expectations that I picked up his last novel, I am Not Sidney Poitier.A day or two later, I could confidently say that this was, and would be, the funniest book I read all year, if not ever.
I don’t have a copy in front of me from which I could share quotes with you, but the tale of a young boy named Not Sidney, who—in addition to having the unlikely last name of Poitier—bears a striking resemblance to the award-winning actor. (Oh, and another thing: When I say this is may be the funniest book ever, you should know that I don’t subscribe to the notion that A Confederacy of Dunces was the funniest book yet written. I find it barely readable. I really liked Catch-22 though. I’m not sure what bearing this information will have on your appreciation of Everett’s book, but there you go.)
Between Everett’s portrayal of Ted Turner, who exists as a non-sequitor spewing adopted father to Not Sidney, a Father Mappleish speech by Bill Cosby (he regularly exclaims “Pudding Pops!” in his talk to a room of college students) and an amazing recreation of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner that leaves a rich and racist white family eating shit, there was not a page of this book that didn’t have me smirking my face off and wishing I was a funnier person, even as I recognized the sad realties of racial issues in our country that made this kind of satire possible. Everett is razor sharp throughout, and Mr. Tibbs could have no better tribute.