While reading Percival Everett’s work it can be determined that he dislikes the preset structural guidelines implemented on writers and in specific writing forms. This idea is demonstrated throughout re: f(gestures), I Am Not Sidney Poitier, and in the blog posts we write for this class, based on Everett’s work. In the novel, Not Sidney goes to college where Everett is his professor and in the book of poems, Everett writes a dedication to each letter of the alphabet but sometimes associates them with words that do not start with that letter. With my close reading of the novel and book of poems, I believe Everett is anti-structure.
In the novel I Am Not Sidney Poitier, Not Sidney buys himself into college where he overrides into Everett nonsense class. Our first encounter with Everett’s anti-structure view is on page 89 of the text, where Everett and Not Sidney go to lunch after their first formal meeting; Not asks about the structure of the class and what they will be learning and Everett responds to his question by saying “Who knows?… We’ll learn something, maybe. We’ll read some stuff, maybe a lot of stuff. What, I don’t know yet. You guys will do some presentations, I suppose. Bore each other and, sadly, me to sleep. Probably be some papers to write…” (89). This part of the novel shows his opposition because as a college professor you need to have a structured plan for the course as well as follow academic guidelines set into place by the institution. There is also significance in the name of the class he is teaching, Philosophy of Nonsense. Nonsense means that the spoken or written word has no meaning and holds no weight, this is similar to Everett’s anti-structure belief because without structure things may seem to be nonsense, due to its spontaneous changes or scattered thoughts, seen throughout the novel.
Throughout Not’s journey in the class he visits Everett’s office several times to ask questions or to find some sense in his nonsense class. In this specific scene, Not walks into his office to ask him if his class is “some kind of object lesson” (112); Everett explains that he has never thought about the class in that way then carries on to talk about how much smarter everyone else is, including Not. When he finishes comparing his IQ to others, he goes on to ask Not how many pushups he can do, then kicking him out so that he can eat lunch. Everett never answers Not’s question simply congratulating him for thinking outside the box, pushing this idea of breaking preset guidelines of a professor having to tell you the answer. Also, throughout the development of this novel Everett showcases his anti-structure view by changing to scenes that are drastically different. For example, in chapter two Not decides to leave his Atlanta home and venture to Los Angeles to see where he came from and visit his Mom’s grave, this, however, did not go as planned. Not ends up getting locked up and breaking free after his transport bus gets into a car accident falling off the side of the road. This led to the adventure of two runaway convicts; inevitably Not becomes free a man when he jumps into the train cart heading to Atlanta, leaving Patrice and his lover sleeping on the side of the train tracks. Following this in the next chapter Everett writes about Not buying his way into university and then giving his readers an inside look of what it was like for Not in college. The scene format of this book is rather unstructured but does, in the end, connect back together, exposing Everett’s anti-structure point of view while giving evidence that a story can be unstructured and make sense in the end.
Another work of Everett’s that shows the structureless writing style is in re:f(gestures). In this book, all the poems that he wrote are alphabetized, however in some poems the letter does not correlate with the word he chooses to connect it with. For example, in the K dedication poem he writes “K is for immortality” (25), although this seems rather unusual the parallel that is drawn between the letter and the word serves as a link to the larger idea of the poem. Also, the poems written in this book gave the impression of Everett stringing together a bunch of threads, creating the section titles “Zulus”; this unstructured string of information breaks the idea that a set of poems need to follow a strict topic in a certain order.
Following this idea of anti-structure, the blog post assignments in this class forces you to think outside the box and protests structure. While writing my blog post I find myself falling back into the formal structure of argumentative essays and research papers, and when realizing this I have to stop and ask myself a few questions: does this piece of information add to my point? So what? Are you unpacking? Are you identifying? Since this is a blog post the writer does not have to write formally, but I find this difficult because of the many years of writing formal papers. The blog post forces you to look further rather than vomiting out information already learned in class or through reading the text. Forcing students to think outside the box and follow their own guidelines rather than the university guidelines pushes this idea of anti-structure Everett seems to dislike so much.
Everett clearly points out his belief in disliking structuralism throughout his work and is carried out through this class based on his work. In defying structure and the preset rules set into place by institutions and time, Everett is trying to tell his readers to think outside the box and make good use of the elements in writing but to ensure the point they are making is received. In breaking these rules, he creates a rather complex set of novels that are still properly developed and understood by many readers. Being anti-structure Percival Everett makes the idea of breaking the rules come to life.