Drew Toal: The Last Book I Loved, I am Not Sidney Poitier


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.

Drew Toal reps South Jersey, works at Time Out New York magazine, occasionally writes for Bookslut and blogs infrequently at HTMLGiant. More from this author →