Percival Everett is an extremely intelligent author and English professor who has a knack for getting readers to think deeply about his literature. Everett is a genius when it comes to English concepts, expertly manipulating the English language to do what he wants. His writing is sophisticated and calculated in order to get readers to think through different lenses. Everett also uses allusions and references to complicate his stories as well, making his literature that much more difficult to fully understand. Throughout Everett’s works he makes readers ask questions like “what the heck is going on, is that really the end of the book, what is with this title, or is this author insane?”. All of these questions are fair questions to be asked when reading his novel entitled “I Am Not Sidney Poitier”. “I Am Not Sidney Poitier” is very thought provoking for the reader and there are many surprises along the way. These surprises shape the question: Is Everett messing with us?
Percival Everett may just be messing with us when it comes to “I Am Not Sidney Poitier”. There are so many oddities and surprises throughout this novel that completely catch the reader off guard. A few major oddities include Not Sidney’s potential super powers, his mother’s absurdly lengthy pregnancy, his seemingly endless money, his superpowers, Wanda Fonda and the ending of the novel most of all. We find out early in the story that Not Sidney was in his mother’s womb for an extremely long time, “Two years” (3) to be exact. Considering the average time in the womb is only nine months, this length of pregnancy is exceptional. Why Everett would make this an aspect of the story is to be determined by the reader, but I think he is just trying to make Not Sidney seem sort of mysterious and different. Later in the story we come to find out that his mother became very rich by investing her money. Not Sidney said that “When I was two, in 1970, she invested every dime she had in a little-known company called The Turner Communications Group that would later become Turner Broadcasting System” (6). This is by no means impossible, but it is another odd part of Sidney’s life, having an absurd amount of money off of one investment. When he asked Ted’s accountant, Podgy, about how much money Not Sidney owned, Podgy replied with “Let me just say ‘vast.’ The actual figure may frighten you” (27). He also oddly enough has almost no motivation to spend that money either. Most kids would love to spend vast amounts of money on absurd things, but not Not Sidney. He ends up driving a fairly humble car considering the amount of money he possesses and he really only spends a lot of money to get into college. Not Sidney also meets Wonda Fonda, Jane’s interestingly named niece. Wonda Fonda instantly shows a fondness for Not Sidney and she is attached to him the whole time that they’re together. While on Ted’s boat, Wonda Fonda shows Not Sidney this odd cherry tattoo and explains to him that “it has to do with sex” (25). This part of the book is an extremely odd moment, because why would a young girl have a tattoo like this especially for the reason that she explains? The last oddity that I will mention is his super powers, although this book is overflowing with weird occurrences. Not Sidney discovered that he has the ability to “fesermerize” people, which is essentially mind controlling them. He uses this power many times throughout the novel as an attempt to get what he wants from people and more often than not it works. He was going to use it in an attempt to get out of jail and he uses it to get Wonda to take off Jane’s top while on the boat. Not Sidney talked to a judge and “considered attempting a bit of Fesemerization, but I was terribly afraid of the effects of ineffective staring” (49). This quote shows that he really may have this power over peoples minds and the power followed him into adulthood. Instinct may tell the reader that fesmerzation was a figment of Not Sidney’s child imagination, but he believed in his abilities even as he grew older. Not Sidney’s fesmerization abilities are an interesting aspect of the story and Everett really tries to make the power seem real to the reader. There are countless instances that will leave the reader in disbelief of what is actually happening in the story and Everett toys with the reader’s mind in that way.
The final oddity in “I Am Not Sidney Poitier” is the bizarre ending. Everett leaves readers wondering about everything that just happened, as every reader is left waiting for Ashton Kutcher to yell “You just got Punk’d”. The ending is truly incomprehensible unless you are Everett, because he makes Not Sidney announce that he is in fact actually Sidney Poitier the actor. This surprise ending comes out of left field, because there wasn’t much evidence of him being the actual Sidney Poitier prior to the award show final scene. Not Sidney’s story reflects countless of Sidney Poitier’s movies, but to go from living out each movie to then announcing at the end of the movie that he is the actor is mind boggling. The only way that I could equate this final scene is like watching all of the “Star Wars” movies and at the very end of the last movie in the series, Luke Skywalker, the protagonist played by Mark Hamill, tells everyone that he has been actor Mark Hamill all along. The ending that consists of Not Sidney accepting an award as actor Sidney Poitier is a fantastic moment where Everett tricks us all.
Percival Everett masterfully makes readers question what is actually happening in his novel “I Am Not Sidney Poitier” and it makes the journey through the book all the more exciting.