The Greatest Catastrophe — and True Hero — of Percival Everett’s Life

Percival Everett had lived a hard life: born with a condition which had made him nearly blind, estranged from most of his family, he spent months on end in a hospital. Still, despite his hardships, he hoped to one day settle in New York and write his own books. He had just returned from a tryst with a married woman, and followed the lovebirds’ car into the subway station. When he arrived at the entrance, the woman was gone. He had been knocked out cold, by a woman who was not his lover.

For years, this car accident haunted him, but one day he saw a literary work about the things that happened to him, Percival Everett’s Plaice De Helignois, which he found quite attractive. To get rid of this burden he began taking courses in the City College of New York to improve his writing, and by 1954 had written his first book, a collection of short stories, entitled The Chimney Sweep. Of this, he said:

I feel as if I’ve entered a minefield full of pitfalls, and experience enough pain to last me a lifetime, to think of what that little lady did to me.

But in a later book, his father “Peter,” also a writer, put it this way:

I was neither a carpenter nor a plumber, but I took care of the chimney sweep. She was desperate. I felt sorry for her and thought she was worth a book. She was, in short, a good lady….What I’d got most of myself into was a fraud. This time she had done something right…. Her son, my father, was her best friend.

When he came to the front door of his house in Margate, Bedfordshire, the night before he was to graduate from literary studies at the City College of New York, his mother, maid and a last will and testament of 14 volumes of his memoirs all lay across the door with their contents, so that, on the day of his graduation, he had to tear them open.

Read his amazing story of how the literary work helped him get over that bad car accident.

The Movie

After developing various cancerous tumors, Elliot Gould’s 81-year-old Percival Everett decides to leave hospice and undergo the same experimental cancer-fighting drug. While visiting his friend during the treatment, he meets a love interest, a brash and cold-hearted woman who tests his sanity. These characters give a delicate new dimension to the classic hero/anti-hero, and up until now, it’s been fiction. But, in a recent one-off on the U.K. comedy program Last Laugh in Las Vegas, actor Simon Pegg read the scene for the first time. What follows is priceless. But what’s really impressive is the extent to which Gould’s performance reaches. There is only one Percival Everett, who grew up in the 1940s in Yorkshire, whose story is the one we’ll be hearing on the big screen soon.

For all his works, Percival Everett can be seen at his reading at the Tall Tree in West Brighton.

Leave a Comment