(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

In the brief introduction to Right Here, Right Now, an anonymous narrator provides readers with several key pieces of information. The subject of the novel is Ashton Robinson, the target of a 60 Minutes investigative piece, who has escaped from a penal institution, disappeared in the Mojave Desert, and is now the world’s most wanted man. A cache of audiocassette tapes has been found, constituting Robinson’s diary over about eighteen months and incorporating both his public utterances and his private thoughts. The novel, divided into three parts by locale, consists of excerpts from the cassettes that reveal how Robinson ended up in the situation that opens the story.

When first glimpsed, Robinson—attended by Jill Lowry, Rom Casciato, and his film crew—is speaking to students at a resort in St. Barth’s. He is teaching a Personal Empowerment Systems (PES) master class meant to supplement his popular self-help books and audiotapes. During these lectures and in private moments, Robinson discloses tidbits of personal information: The descendent of Mississippi sharecroppers, he was a lonely, overweight, intelligent child who grew up in Flint, Michigan. Robinson attended Yale University but dropped out following his junior year. After bouncing around for a time, he met a con man named Dale who taught him many of the principles he would apply to his career as a self-help guru.

At St. Barth’s, Robinson meets the beautiful,...

(The entire section is 495 words.)

Right Here, Right Now Bibliography

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Ellis, Trey. “The Visible Man” In Step into a World: A Global Anthology of the New Black Literature, edited by Kevin Powell. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2000. This essay by Ellis deals with his time abroad in Italy while a student at Stanford University.

Publishers Weekly. Review of Right Here, Right Now, by Trey Ellis. 245, no. 47 (November 23, 1998): 59. Balanced review that praises the author’s narrative technique but complains about the distraction represented by the sexual scenes that dominate the novel.

Smothers, Joyce W. Review of Right Here, Right Now, by Trey Ellis. Literary Journal 123, no. 19 (November 15, 1998): 90. This mostly favorable review focuses on the author’s ability to draw readers into his story.