peteg's blog - noise - books - 2015 12 20 PaulBeatty TheSellout

Paul Beatty: The Sellout.

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Kindle. Mostly read on a soggy day in (a room at Diễm's and Liên's guesthouse in) paradise. Beatty is very funny. His premise is that some people of colour pine for the good old days of slavery and segregation (those with even more repugant markets and regulations?), and what's more, things might turn out better with a return to antebellum conditions: there's no violence on the bus, the students are more successful (according to standardized tests?), the whites start agitating for desegregation and people are going to want their slogans in Latin. I guess it's a quantity theory for the L.A. ghetto, in sitcom-style like the Hitler revival I just completed. There's plenty of racism to go around, though Beatty reserves the most scathing for his own people. His humour makes it possible for him to explore what it means to be of colour in the U.S. in 2015 without disrespect or occlusion. I'm certainly keen to chase up his other stuff.

Dwight Garner didn't sell it to me back in February, but only in his list of the year's best. (I don't know why.) One thing he got slightly wrong is that the narrator does not wilfully reintroduce slavery, but caves into the wishes of his mate, the aged star Hominy, who demands a weekly whipping. The book is rife with these types of smooth feints that would probably feel like trolling in less capable hands. Kevin Young. Seth Colter Walls at the Guardian.

2016-10-26: Beatty wins the Booker Prize for The Sellout.