In Percival Everett's Percival Everett by Virgil Russell (2013), the author uses words and images to carry out his metatextual investigation of poststructuralist theory even as he builds fictitious worlds of meaning. As in Glyph (1999) and Erasure (2001), Everett's strong wit enriches the semiotic inquiry that underlies his clever tales. The novel unfolds as a methodological field where the author plays with shifting signifiers and meaning-making systems as he does earlier in various poems, stories, and paintings. Paradoxically, Everett asserts a solid reality located in a place he depicts via various differential modes of signification. His patterning toward abstraction in language and in paint involves not only the repetition of figures, tropes, sonic and visual elements, but also the evocation of earlier twentieth-century conceptual approaches to questions of representation including those that challenge notions of origin, presence, and truth. By examining the way Everett defamiliarizes the world of objects and ideas in Percival Everett by Virgil Russell and several of his paintings, mainly from There Are No Names for Red (2010), co-published with poet Chris Abani, I argue that the very ambiguity, indeterminacy, and contradictions of his forms serve as pictorial elements. His works present and enact the often mysterious and even chaotic human experiences of perception and cognition, and in that way involve elements of realism and mimesis. Everett at once revels in verbal/visual language's ambiguity and semantic openness, and insists on its power to connect people and lend sense to an unpredictable and often surprising world.


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pp. 111-127
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