‘The Appropriation of Cultures’ by Percival Everett

I was introduced to Percival Everett by Courttia Newland (more on him later). Since then I have tried to read as many Everett books as possible (there are over 25), but he is not very widely published in the UK, so books have proved hard to get hold of. Everett is an absolute master of storytelling and subversion. He loves to play with form and narrative and expectations and ‘The Appropriation of Cultures’ is him as his mischievous, provocative best. A black musician, Daniel is playing slide guitar in a bar one evening with his band, when some white frat boys ask him, “Play Dixie, play Dixie!” Dixie being, of course, a famous blackface minstrel song. Daniel thinks about refusing, but chooses to take on the song and repurpose it for himself, “deciding the lyrics were his”, and totally transforms the atmosphere of the room. The story develops remarkably after that, no spoilers, but it’s phenomenal.

From Damned if I Do, Graywolf 2004

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