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Season 3, Episode 5: Novelist Percival Everett

Percival Everett won a 2022 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in fiction for “The Trees.” The idea for the novel sprung from the traditional song “I Rise Up” and a Lyle Lovett cover of “Ain’t No More Cane” that Everett was listening to before playing a tennis game. At the time, he also happened to be researching lynching.

What “The Trees” became, in the estimation of Anisfield-Wolf Juror Joyce Carol Oates, is a profound novel, “easily the most idiosyncratic, least classifiable work of fiction the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards has ever honored. This is a wickedly clever novel of ideas in the guise of genre fiction, a combination mystery, thriller, police procedural and absurdist comedy.”

Everett joined The Asterisk* via zoom in June 2023 from his home in Pasadena, Calif., where he lives with his wife, the novelist Danzy Senna. A distinguished professor of English at the University of Southern California, he has written more than 30 books, including poetry, a Pulitzer finalist in “Telephone,” and his most recent effort, “Dr. No.” He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Miami and a master’s from Brown University.

In April, Everett won the Windham Campbell Prize for his “virtuosic body of work (that) exemplifies fiction’s capacity for play, vigilance and compassion for life’s precarity in an uncertain world.”

View a transcript of this episode