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Extended Audio Sample Pym, by Mat Johnson Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,112 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Mat Johnson Narrator: J. D. Jackson Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: December 2012 ISBN: 9781461809142
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Pym was named one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post, Vanity Fair, Houston Chronicle, Seattle Times, Salon, National Post, and the A. V. Club.

Recently canned professor of American literature Chris Jaynes has just made a startling discovery: the manuscript of a crude slave narrative that confirms the reality of Edgar Allan Poe’s strange and only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Determined to seek out Tsalal, the remote island of pure and utter blackness that Poe describes, Jaynes convenes an all-black crew of six to follow Pym’s trail to the South Pole, armed with little but the firsthand account from which Poe derived his seafaring tale, a bag of bones, and a stash of Little Debbie snack cakes.

Thus begins an epic journey by an unlikely band of adventurers under the permafrost of Antarctica, beneath the surface of American history, and behind one of literature’s great mysteries.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Relentlessly entertaining...It’s no easy task to balance social satire against life-threatening adventure, the allegory against the gory, but Johnson’s hand is steady and his ability to play against Poe’s text masterly. The book is polyphonous and incisive, an uproarious and hard-driving journey.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • Pym reframes far more than Poe—it reframes everything American...No one today writes inside the brilliant black mind better.”

    Alice Randall, New York Times bestselling author of The Wind Done Gone

  • “Outrageously entertaining, [Pym] brilliantly reimagines and extends Edgar Allan Poe’s enigmatic and unsettling Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket...[A] seemingly effortless blend of the serious, comic, and fantastic.”

    Washington Post

  • “Riotous...Mr. Johnson knows plenty about the character types he skewers.”

    Wall Street Journal

  • "Screamingly funny.”

    Houston Chronicle

  • “Hilarious and provocative.”

    Rolling Stone

  • “Blisteringly funny.”

    Salon

  • “Loony, disrespectful, and sharp, Johnson’s Pym is a welcome riff on the surrealistic shudder-fest that is Poe’s original.”

    NPR

  • “Social criticism rubs shoulders with cutting satire in this high-concept adventure…[Pym] is caustically hilarious as it offers a memorable take on America's ‘racial pathology’ and ‘the whole ugly story of our world.’”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “An acutely humorous, very original story that will delight lovers of literature and fantasy alike.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • A 2011 Washington Post Best Book for Fiction
  • A 2011 Seattle Times Best Book for Fiction
  • A Kirkus Reviews “New and Notable Title”, March 2011
  • A 2011 Salon Magazine Best Book of the Year for Fiction

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Seth | 2/20/2014

    " The beginning reminded me of parts of Whitehead's John Henry Days, in that it mined old material to find some new insights around race in the U.S. The end reminded me of parts of Beatty's The White Boy Shuffle but combined with the odd surreal elements of the Antarctica scenes from Chabon's The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Kris | 2/19/2014

    " The author is trying to talk about racism and enslavement in a fantasy gone bizarre. Wish I had put it down after the first hour like I wanted to. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nick | 2/11/2014

    " I debated adding a shelf labelled "Racism" because that is one of the recurring themes of this fascinating novel, one of three "sequels" to Poe's problematic "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym." Johnson uses the frame of Poe's novel to structure his consideration of whiteness, racism and slavery. I found it thoughtful, relevant and insightful. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Caroline | 2/8/2014

    " The opening chapters set the bar very, very high - then absurdity strikes like a fever dream. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jeff Golick | 1/27/2014

    " A fascinating comment on/conversation with Poe's legendary work. Also an in-depth treatment/send-up of race, via an old-school adventure tale on arctic ice, complete with freaky-large snow-creatures. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Andrea | 1/18/2014

    " Such a strange little book, at times laugh-out-loud funny and at other times just plain weird. I'm not sure I understood half of what was going on - maybe reading the Poe story would help - but I did enjoy the ride. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kelly | 1/17/2014

    " An interesting meditation on the implications of race in America and history. Some of the more fantastical elements may not be for all tastes, but I found it to be a rather rollicking change of pace from the norm. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Paul | 12/26/2013

    " Starts good. Then it's great. Later it lags. And lags. And lags. Gets sloppy. Gets sloppier. Gets interesting again near the end. Then it ends. I wish the last 270 pages were as good as the first 50. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Megan | 12/17/2013

    " Pretty strange--goes to places you wouldn't even imagine at the start of the book. Definitely Sci-fi. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 RoxannaP | 12/10/2013

    " The end of this clever piece kind of falls apart, just like Poe's original, but I guess that's exactly the point (?). "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kama | 4/20/2013

    " This book is a mess. I had high hopes, based on the description. The only clever, interesting parts were the footnotes. Bah. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Beckydham | 12/22/2012

    " Loved the way this guy's voice sounded in my head. I would not have expected such a thoughtful action movie from this. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Christine | 9/23/2012

    " I did enjoy this angry Black man story. I think I may be one too. I get pissed off about the same things this character does when it comes to academia. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cristella | 9/11/2012

    " The description of Pym in the rave from the Onion A/V Club made me want to read this. I highly recommend it if you like satire, maybe especially if you like Vonnegut. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bill | 4/10/2012

    " This is a fabulous nerdy adventure tale much in the same vein as Foucault's Pendulum and The Calcutta Chromosome--and funny to boot. As a fellow black novelist, Mat Johnson indeed gives me hope. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jen | 2/21/2012

    " Still processing this. It is really unique and maybe tries a little too hard at times. But all in all an interesting approach to discussing the history of racism. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Cindy Maxey | 8/26/2011

    " Started out quite well, but I lost interest about half-way through and couldn't get myself to finish it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Josie | 6/13/2011

    " Very creative intense, insane novel. Can't wait to read this author again. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sarah | 6/10/2011

    " This started as a wicked satire, veered into fantasy, stumbled into a hot mess, then pulled itself back into shape at the very end. A little disappointing after the high bar set by the early chapters, but I can see the potential in the author and plan to check out more of his work in the future. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rob | 5/22/2011

    " Excellent book. Subversively funny and truthful. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Gttman | 5/19/2011

    " Good for a literature freak. I liked the atmosphere. A little too preachy in some sections. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kelly | 5/19/2011

    " very clever, but I found it somewhat boring. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jackie | 5/18/2011

    " Ridiculously clever. One of the funniest, smartest novels I've read in decades. Johnson takes on race, literary criticism, contemporary culture, and the politics of academe in a Poe-drenched piece of social satire worthy of Swift. Fire up the grill and let's roast us up some Tekelians. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Shaun | 5/8/2011

    " This book was an absolute blast. Narratively, Pym resst somewhere between Chabon and Diaz and it was an absolute pleasure to read. And on top of all that, there are gears and symbols and allegory resting just beneath the surface. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kirsten | 5/1/2011

    " Adventure, humor, satire... a very entertaining look at Race. The serious side is lurking beneath the surface, but not too overbearing. If the beginning weren't so slow and academic it would be a five star. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Carol | 4/27/2011

    " A surprisingly good, sad, funny book. Don't worry about never reading Poe's Pym, not needed, he'll give the synopsis early on. I find it very hard to explain this book, science fiction, I guess, but oh my what a ride. I was sorry it ended. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jocelyn | 4/27/2011

    " This book started out pretty slow and I wasn't sure that I liked it very much. However, about 1/4 of the way in, it got interesting and the adventure started. I enjoyed the comparison and similarity to Poe's "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket". "

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