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**SHORTLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2016** ‘Outrageous, hilarious and profound.’ Simon Schama, Financial Times ‘The longer you stare at Beatty’s pages, the smarter you’ll get.’ Guardian ‘The most badass first 100 pages of an American novel I’ve read.’ New York Times A biting satire about a young man's isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Cour **SHORTLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2016** ‘Outrageous, hilarious and profound.’ Simon Schama, Financial Times ‘The longer you stare at Beatty’s pages, the smarter you’ll get.’ Guardian ‘The most badass first 100 pages of an American novel I’ve read.’ New York Times A biting satire about a young man's isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court, The Sellout showcases a comic genius at the top of his game. Born in Dickens on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles, the narrator of The Sellout spent his childhood as the subject in his father's racially charged psychological studies. He is told that his father’s work will lead to a memoir that will solve their financial woes. But when his father is killed in a drive-by shooting, he discovers there never was a memoir. All that’s left is a bill for a drive-through funeral. What’s more, Dickens has literally been wiped off the map to save California from further embarrassment. Fuelled by despair, the narrator sets out to right this wrong with the most outrageous action conceivable: reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school, which lands him in the Supreme Court.


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**SHORTLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2016** ‘Outrageous, hilarious and profound.’ Simon Schama, Financial Times ‘The longer you stare at Beatty’s pages, the smarter you’ll get.’ Guardian ‘The most badass first 100 pages of an American novel I’ve read.’ New York Times A biting satire about a young man's isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Cour **SHORTLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2016** ‘Outrageous, hilarious and profound.’ Simon Schama, Financial Times ‘The longer you stare at Beatty’s pages, the smarter you’ll get.’ Guardian ‘The most badass first 100 pages of an American novel I’ve read.’ New York Times A biting satire about a young man's isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court, The Sellout showcases a comic genius at the top of his game. Born in Dickens on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles, the narrator of The Sellout spent his childhood as the subject in his father's racially charged psychological studies. He is told that his father’s work will lead to a memoir that will solve their financial woes. But when his father is killed in a drive-by shooting, he discovers there never was a memoir. All that’s left is a bill for a drive-through funeral. What’s more, Dickens has literally been wiped off the map to save California from further embarrassment. Fuelled by despair, the narrator sets out to right this wrong with the most outrageous action conceivable: reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school, which lands him in the Supreme Court.

30 review for The Sellout: WINNER OF THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2016

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    If Kurt Vonnegut and Dave Chappelle had a baby and really messed with its head, it would write this novel. I hope Paul Beatty takes that as a compliment because it's meant that way. This is some seriously biting satire. You know it right away, since it begins with the main character, a black man, before the Supreme Court because he's charged with keeping a slave. Most of the novel is a flashback, showing us how the protagonist not only kept a slave but attempted to re-segregate his formerly all-b If Kurt Vonnegut and Dave Chappelle had a baby and really messed with its head, it would write this novel. I hope Paul Beatty takes that as a compliment because it's meant that way. This is some seriously biting satire. You know it right away, since it begins with the main character, a black man, before the Supreme Court because he's charged with keeping a slave. Most of the novel is a flashback, showing us how the protagonist not only kept a slave but attempted to re-segregate his formerly all-black now mostly hispanic city. Yes, it sounds crazy. It sounds even crazier because the narrator isn't a racist crazy person, but a relatively enlightened guy who's decided this is how he gets his city back on the map. It's a zany book, a constant study of and commentary on race. It's often hilarious and not for the faint of heart or tired of mind. I had a great time reading it, but I admit now I'm hesitant to know how to talk about it. So much in this book is untouchable and off limits and taboo. It's also brilliant and constantly unexpected.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Glenn Sumi

    Paul Beatty’s novel is a savage satire about a “post-racial America,” and it points out how absurd that notion really is. The black narrator, Bonbon, grew up in a “disappeared” L.A. suburb – once an “agrarian ghetto,” called Dickens – where he was subjected to his father’s sociological experiments about race. After his father is “accidentally” killed by the LAPD (see? This is some serious shit), he wants to reintroduce slavery and, gradually, segregation, first in buses and then in a school (ditto Paul Beatty’s novel is a savage satire about a “post-racial America,” and it points out how absurd that notion really is. The black narrator, Bonbon, grew up in a “disappeared” L.A. suburb – once an “agrarian ghetto,” called Dickens – where he was subjected to his father’s sociological experiments about race. After his father is “accidentally” killed by the LAPD (see? This is some serious shit), he wants to reintroduce slavery and, gradually, segregation, first in buses and then in a school (ditto). He elicits help from his friend, Hominy, the last surviving member of TV's Little Rascals (he was Buckwheat’s understudy). All his efforts eventually land him in jail, where his case goes to the Supreme Court. I read this book months ago, but didn’t review it then. I’m not sure why. I didn’t get all the references, and while I found Beatty’s prose and ideas sharp, lively and “Omigod did he just write that?” funny, I also found the experience exhausting. Humour – and this book is hilarious at times – is a brilliant way of dealing with serious subjects. But you’ve got to mix up your act. I guess I wanted the book to be more grounded, so the angry humour could stand out in relief. There’s the opportunity to do that in the possible romantic relationship between the narrator and a bus driver, but Beatty doesn’t do much with this. Still, Beatty takes on every African-American stereotype and politically correct notion and successfully skewers it. Goodreaders especially will appreciate his extended riff on the liberal white-washing of literature. Thus, Mark Twain’s classic gets renamed The Pejorative Free Adventures and Intellectual and Spiritual Journeys of African-American Jim and His Young Protégé, White Brother Huckleberry Finn, as They Go in Search of the Lost Black Family Unit. Some stand-alone sections are brilliant, savage little poetic salvos whose targets are worthy of sending up. (Beatty started out as a poet.) But as much as I enjoyed the book, and appreciated the ideas Beatty raised, I think I like my anger and injustice served up a bit more directly.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    As an urban commuter I felt that pulling a book out with lawn jockeys on the cover should come with a disclaimer. Hey everybody, it’s meant to be – you know – ironic. It’s written by a black guy; it’s satire. And just so you know, my iPhone doesn’t have one word of Breitbart News on it. Satires, to me, are like hoppy craft beers. The natural skew to the bitter side should be balanced out for optimal flavor. Paul Beatty’s deft touch with a joke made the astringency you’d expect from charges of rac As an urban commuter I felt that pulling a book out with lawn jockeys on the cover should come with a disclaimer. Hey everybody, it’s meant to be – you know – ironic. It’s written by a black guy; it’s satire. And just so you know, my iPhone doesn’t have one word of Breitbart News on it. Satires, to me, are like hoppy craft beers. The natural skew to the bitter side should be balanced out for optimal flavor. Paul Beatty’s deft touch with a joke made the astringency you’d expect from charges of racism something other than a straight diatribe. Smiles open more minds than they close. The premise of the book is actually sort of absurd. Bonbon, the narrator, farms the land in the “agrarian ghetto” neighborhood of LA called Dickens. His father was a sociologist who performed half-crazy, race-centric experiments on him when he was young that never amounted to meaningful research, but did mess with his mind a bit. When his father died (shot in a police snafu), the son inherited the farm, a funeral bill, and a legacy of racial awareness. Then, since it was an embarrassment to the city of LA, Dickens just disappeared from the map. At that point our narrator mounts an informal campaign to bring Dickens back. He makes signs announcing that a driver is entering, draws lines surrounding the area, then hits on the idea of segregating it to really stand out. He had an accomplice named Hominy Jenkins, a celebrity of sorts, known for being the last surviving cast member from The Little Rascals. Hominy, like the more famous Buckwheat, was a "pickaninny" who could “black it up” with bug eyes and electrified hair on cue. Somehow Hominy had it in his increasingly senile head that race had more meaning to him then and that a way to recapture this feeling was to offer himself up as a slave doing light labor (he was old) on the farm. The book opens out of order, with this voluntary slavery case being heard by the Supreme Court. Like I said, it’s kind of ridiculous, but it does allow a very full discussion of race – the stereotypes, the archetypes, and a panoply of attitudes from subtle to extreme. What the book lacked in plausibility it made up for in presentation. It’s like a serious essay on black consciousness as presented by Dave Chappelle at his edgy, observational best. Let my try to convince you by way of example. § As Bonbon’s court case was making its way up the judicial ladder, he said: “In neighborhoods like the one I grew up in, places that are poor in praxis but rich in rhetoric, the homies have a saying -- I'd rather be judged by twelve than carried by six. [...] I'm not all that streetwise, but to my knowledge there's no appellate court corollary. I've never heard a corner store roughneck take a sip of malt liquor and say, ‘I'd rather be reviewed by nine than arbitrated by one.’" § He wondered why a certain successful type would mostly “talk black,” dropping g’s in their gerunds, but when it came to their public television appearances, they’d sound like “Kelsey Grammer with a stick up his ass.” § Opining about another black intellectual: “Come on, he cares about black people like a seven-footer cares about basketball. He has to care because what else would he be good at.” § Foy Cheshire was a prominent archetype who hosted a dying cable show focusing on black issues, had become successful stealing ideas from the narrator’s father, and had no original thoughts of his own. Foy was the one who had dubbed Bonbon ‘the sellout’ for not buying into a very particular brand of racial animosity. Someone speculated that “If he (Foy) was indeed an ‘autodidact,’ there's no doubt he had the world's shittiest teacher.” § In one of the few non-race-related comments, Bonbon said: “I've always liked rote. The formulaic repetitiveness of filing and stuffing envelopes appeals to me in some fundamental life-affirming way. I would've made a good factory worker, supply-room clerk, or Hollywood scriptwriter.” § Hominy was actually pretty lucid for someone who sought beatings and servitude. One example: “You know, massa, Bugs Bunny wasn't nothing but Br'er Rabbit with a better agent.” § Here’s a great rejoinder to all who suggest, “You'd rather be here than in Africa. The trump card all narrow-minded nativists play. [...] I seriously doubt that some slave ship ancestor, in those idle moments between being raped and beaten, was standing knee-deep in their own feces rationalizing that, in the end, the generations of murder, unbearable pain and suffering, mental anguish, and rampant disease will all be worth it because someday my great-great-great-great-grandson will have Wi-Fi.” § I also liked the name that Bonbon imagined for the white-only school in his planned segregation – Wheaton Academy. In contrast, nonwhites had Chaff Middle School. The Wheaton/Chaff distinction was a big one. I laughed every time I picked this book up. And I’m certainly sympathetic to the essential plight, despite the anaesthetizing humor. In addition, though I didn’t catch every reference, my street smart IQ is now at least a little closer to triple digits. Plus, its recognition in winning the National Book Critics Circle award for fiction as well as the Booker Prize speaks to the quality of the writing. Beatty’s background in poetry comes through with great word choices and cadences. Even so, I had to dock one star. While it’s easy enough to see the satirical poke at wrong-headedness, it was harder to figure the purpose of Bonbon’s ironic prescription. I wouldn’t presume that the segregation was meant to provide more motivation for Blacks and Latinos, though the Chaff School’s rising performance numbers were cited as though they were a consequence of having been separated. (The fact is, though, there weren’t any white kids there to begin with.) Was it more like the arguments you sometimes hear about the advantages of an education at a traditionally black university? I couldn’t say. Nor do I think the counterintuitive premise was meant just for a laugh. My best guess is that the extreme actions – slavery and segregation orchestrated by a black man – were meant to draw attention to the still existing, more subtle forms of racism. There was a line in the book about how it’s illegal to shout fire in a crowded theater. Bonbon went on to say that he whispered ‘Racism’ in a post-racial world. Beatty himself, in interviews, is tight-lipped when asked what he thinks it all means. Maybe the discussions the book inspires are what matter most.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sean Barrs

    The Sellout is a fun novel full of humour and many moments of bitter irony. The tone is angry, full of frustration and seething with sarcasm, but it is also repetitive to a fault. After around thirty pages I felt like I’d read everything this novel had to offer. It was abundantly clear that the remainder would be pretty much the same thing, an author satirising the realities of Black American life through using several clever and creative narrative devices. After a while it began to grow so very The Sellout is a fun novel full of humour and many moments of bitter irony. The tone is angry, full of frustration and seething with sarcasm, but it is also repetitive to a fault. After around thirty pages I felt like I’d read everything this novel had to offer. It was abundantly clear that the remainder would be pretty much the same thing, an author satirising the realities of Black American life through using several clever and creative narrative devices. After a while it began to grow so very tiresome to the point of utter annoyingness. It lacked direction and a sense of purpose beyond what was established very early on. At times it even felt like a series of loosely connected rants and personal grievances in the form of chapters. It was a very taxing read. The writing did begin with undeniable power and authority; it was compelling and convincing though as the narrative progressed it did not pick up any momentum but lingered on similar ideas and stayed very stationary. I found myself yawning at the forced comic moments as this narrator circulated around the same themes yet again. By the end of the book it was a relief to finish; it was a relief not to hear the voice of the narrator ever again. For me, the style in which it was told offset much of what the book did successfully do. The Sellout won The Man Booker Prize in 2016 and despite my despondency with the book I can see why. It is a very timely piece, addressing many of the problem blacks face in a country that has supposedly moved on from its original sin of slavery. Segregation has ended, racism is officially at an all-time low, but the issues remain. Society does not change overnight, or, as it may seem, over many decades. More time is needed. Scratch but the surface, as Paul Beaty has done here, and you will see how not so far in the past some of these ideas are. It is still very much recent history. This is undoubtedly highly intelligent writing, but the style, receptiveness and general lacklustre the narrator portrayed was not to my liking. The first hundred pages or so ought to have been followed by a story of growth of some sort or, at the very least, an explanation or perhaps a suggestion why there wasn’t one from a narrator who at times appeared to be moving in a new direction but never seemed to fully commit beyond the first few steps he took. Perhaps I lacked the patience for this one. Perhaps my Englishness meant that some of the subtle nuances within the writing were wasted on me from a cultural standpoint. Whatever the reason, I can see why this book won but I don’t necessarily like it personally. This is pretty much sums up my response to the winner of the 2015 Man Booker as well. The Sellout, like A Brief History of Seven Killings, is a creative piece rich in originality, but not one I can engage with.

  5. 4 out of 5

    BlackOxford

    Creating History Whatever your conscious attitude toward race, and whatever your race, your self-image will be shaken by Paul Beatty's work. And whatever criticism that could be offered about the work has already been addressed within it. To coin a phrase: this changes everything. It cuts through everybody's bunk - white people's, black people's, sociologists', politicians', journalists', not forgetting novelists' major bunk-lode. Beatty's point is clear: the world of race in America is a lot mor Creating History Whatever your conscious attitude toward race, and whatever your race, your self-image will be shaken by Paul Beatty's work. And whatever criticism that could be offered about the work has already been addressed within it. To coin a phrase: this changes everything. It cuts through everybody's bunk - white people's, black people's, sociologists', politicians', journalists', not forgetting novelists' major bunk-lode. Beatty's point is clear: the world of race in America is a lot more complex than can be expressed by anyone involved in it. In comparison, quantum physics is kindergarten stuff. By exposing just about every academic and cultural shibboleth available in this tragi-comic masterpiece, Beatty clears the deck for something else. For my money that something else might well be grounded in just one of his prescient observations, "...history isn’t the paper it’s printed on. It’s memory, and memory is time, emotions, and song. History is the things that stay with you." As far as I am concerned, Beatty has created history.

  6. 4 out of 5

    emma

    I bought a copy of this book in great condition for 35 cents, and somehow that wasn't even in the top 5 best parts of my reading experience. Thankful for library sales and thankful for Paul Beatty. This book is whip-smart, hilarious, and unlike anything I've ever read or ever will read again. It's a literary satire that manages to achieve the trifecta: well-written and genuinely funny, with something brilliant to say. I don't want to write anymore. Why waste time reading my words about Paul Beatty I bought a copy of this book in great condition for 35 cents, and somehow that wasn't even in the top 5 best parts of my reading experience. Thankful for library sales and thankful for Paul Beatty. This book is whip-smart, hilarious, and unlike anything I've ever read or ever will read again. It's a literary satire that manages to achieve the trifecta: well-written and genuinely funny, with something brilliant to say. I don't want to write anymore. Why waste time reading my words about Paul Beatty's words when you could just cut to the chase and treat yourself to the real thing? Bottom line: Read this book. 4.5 stars --- i am spending this month reading books by Black authors. please join me! book 1: The Stars and the Blackness Between Them book 2: Homegoing book 3: Let's Talk about Love book 4: Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People about Race book 5: The Sellout

  7. 4 out of 5

    Felice Laverne

    DNF This entire novel, especially the prologue, reminded me of the ramblings of someone’s old grandpa rocking on the front porch of his clapboard home. I can only assume this is exactly what Beatty was going for, by the direction the novel ended up taking, but I felt like I was reading—no, sifting through—a bunch of nonsense I just wanted to be done with. And a lot of this read like an ultra-liberal excuse to spout out the n-word (hard er, mind you) as both a starting point, comma and full stop t DNF This entire novel, especially the prologue, reminded me of the ramblings of someone’s old grandpa rocking on the front porch of his clapboard home. I can only assume this is exactly what Beatty was going for, by the direction the novel ended up taking, but I felt like I was reading—no, sifting through—a bunch of nonsense I just wanted to be done with. And a lot of this read like an ultra-liberal excuse to spout out the n-word (hard er, mind you) as both a starting point, comma and full stop to every paragraph. It was absolutely exhausting. I was looking forward to a good satire, but I don’t think I ever laughed once, because I was too distracted by trying to figure out what the hell he was even rambling about and how it fit into any possible plot line, ironic device, literary direction--hell, even a Katt Williams-like satirical skit--anything! I wanted to like this one – the first time non-Commonwealthers are allowed to be considered for the Man Booker Prize and an American—I’d be lying if I didn’t go ahead and point out—and African American wins it. I HAVE to read it; I’m so excited…I’m so confused…I’m so let down. I don’t want to take away from the win at all. Have it; keep it, Paul Beatty. But I’m not on the bandwagon. Not even a little bit. DNF. FOLLOW ME HERE: Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram | Get a Copy of My Book | Book Editing, Author Coaching, Submit Your Book to Me

  8. 5 out of 5

    Hugh

    Satire is a difficult genre to assess and review, particularly when it is so tightly bound to a culture one does not share. On the positive side, this book is often very funny, and is full of ideas and snipes at deserving targets. Over the length of a novel, though, the tone is somewhat relentless, and the story does not seem to have enough weight to sustain the interest - it seems more like a series of set pieces. Not a book to read if you are easily offended either, but the issues Beatty addre Satire is a difficult genre to assess and review, particularly when it is so tightly bound to a culture one does not share. On the positive side, this book is often very funny, and is full of ideas and snipes at deserving targets. Over the length of a novel, though, the tone is somewhat relentless, and the story does not seem to have enough weight to sustain the interest - it seems more like a series of set pieces. Not a book to read if you are easily offended either, but the issues Beatty addresses about the state of race relations in America 50 years after Martin Luther King cannot be faced without such boldness. So an interesting book to have read, but maybe not quite the stuff of Booker winners, and I hope there are better ones on the longlist.

  9. 5 out of 5

    John Pappas

    Imagine Nina Simone singing "Mississippi Goddam" reincarnated as an atomic bomb that explodes high enough for all of America to see, while Mark Twain chuckles and says "I told ya so," from the relative safety of a bunker deep in the canon of American literature. That's nowhere near how incendiary, biting, acerbic, witty, smart, funny, explosive, hard-hitting and revelatory Beatty's satire is. The first 50 pages had me wondering if he could sustain this voice, this force for another page...the nex Imagine Nina Simone singing "Mississippi Goddam" reincarnated as an atomic bomb that explodes high enough for all of America to see, while Mark Twain chuckles and says "I told ya so," from the relative safety of a bunker deep in the canon of American literature. That's nowhere near how incendiary, biting, acerbic, witty, smart, funny, explosive, hard-hitting and revelatory Beatty's satire is. The first 50 pages had me wondering if he could sustain this voice, this force for another page...the next 250 pages had me wondering how he succeeded and kept succeeding. Make no mistake, reading this book is like getting into the ring with the son of Richard Pryor and Dave Chappelle if that son was given at birth to Muhammed Ali to raise. This book's language burns bright and showed up to fight hard. This is a book made for our times, one that is willing to ask difficult questions about 21st century identity, place and politics, and one that is not for the faint of heart.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Joachim Stoop

    I don't recall reading a book which I loved so much in the beginning and was soooo fed up with in the end. It's too much of too much. There are about zero normal sentences and that was very tiring. It reminded me of Steve Toltz' Quicksand. I couldn't keep up with avalanches and avalanches of wit & satire. It's a damn shame, 'cuz I laughed out loud the first chapters. I also think the book is better for native speakers (lots of linguistic humor) and if you live in the States (lots of inside jokes, I don't recall reading a book which I loved so much in the beginning and was soooo fed up with in the end. It's too much of too much. There are about zero normal sentences and that was very tiring. It reminded me of Steve Toltz' Quicksand. I couldn't keep up with avalanches and avalanches of wit & satire. It's a damn shame, 'cuz I laughed out loud the first chapters. I also think the book is better for native speakers (lots of linguistic humor) and if you live in the States (lots of inside jokes, historical/commercial/pop cultural references). I would give it a try and maybe read it slow and in several sittings.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    One star for creativity, another for brilliant, innovative, hysterical prose, and a third for waking America up with a slap upside our "post-racial" national head. Every sentence in this novel is a combination of "Um, YES, that is so true!!" and "I can't believe I've never thought of it that way before!" Minus a star for lack of compelling plot. Beatty gets so lost in his ridiculous subplots that I stopped caring what happened next. Will Dickens be saved from obsolescence? Will the Dum Dum Intell One star for creativity, another for brilliant, innovative, hysterical prose, and a third for waking America up with a slap upside our "post-racial" national head. Every sentence in this novel is a combination of "Um, YES, that is so true!!" and "I can't believe I've never thought of it that way before!" Minus a star for lack of compelling plot. Beatty gets so lost in his ridiculous subplots that I stopped caring what happened next. Will Dickens be saved from obsolescence? Will the Dum Dum Intellectuals be vindicated? Will Marpessa love our narrator again? What will Justice Thomas decide? These threads are lost in (hilarious) philosophizing about the racial implications of psychology/1950s television/marijuana/surfing. This is definitely an unprecedented, one-of-a-kind novel, but with underdeveloped characters and a nonlinear narration, at times humor is the only thing keeping it afloat.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Trish

    ”…when I did what I did, I wasn’t thinking about inalienable rights, the proud history of our people. I did what worked, and since when did a little slavery and segregation ever hurt anybody, and if so, so fucking be it.”My copy of this novel is spiked with tabs marking something deeply insightful, stabbingly funny, or needing revisiting. There is simply too much to point to: Beatty must have been saving up observations about race relations in America to get so much into this relatively short no ”…when I did what I did, I wasn’t thinking about inalienable rights, the proud history of our people. I did what worked, and since when did a little slavery and segregation ever hurt anybody, and if so, so fucking be it.”My copy of this novel is spiked with tabs marking something deeply insightful, stabbingly funny, or needing revisiting. There is simply too much to point to: Beatty must have been saving up observations about race relations in America to get so much into this relatively short novel. He never tells us why his fictional California town is named Dickens—it can’t be about the author—but I think it has to do with a classic American imprecation “Go to [the] Dickens!” though I am certainly willing to be challenged on this supposition. Dickens is also used as an exclamatory “What the dickens!” standing in for “What the [email protected]*k!” in marginally polite white dialogue, and perhaps even in the L’il Rascals film archives, though I am going to have to check on that.”They won’t admit it, but every black person thinks they’re better than every other black person.”Beatty’s narrator, Bonbon Me, is the sellout. He just doesn’t seem to get the “black” thing. He identifies as human first, black second. Beatty doesn’t target black folk alone. Everyone is skewered in this wild ride through a Los Angeles southwest suburb that still has farm zoning, allowing families to live among livestock, chickens, cotton, watermelon, and weed. A proud descendant of the Kentucky family called Mee and one whose forefather subsequently dropped the extraneous “e,” our narrator Bonbon Me has a case before the Supreme Court, a “screw-faced” black Justice, about his ownership of a slave in the present day. That alleged slave, Hominy Jenkins, literally declaimed his status one day to our narrator as a result of Me still having agricultural interests and therefore probably needing a slave. Hominy moved in. What could Me do? Well, shortly after rapacious real estate developers convinced officials to remove signs demarking the township of Dickens, Me made and put up new signs and drew a white line around the streets and houses comprising Dickens and re-segregated: “No Whites Allowed.” One may be curious why he would do this, since the town was already black, but he felt he was saving something, making a point. They can’t just muscle in and erase a town…a culture…a people. That’s not fairness. People actually do care if you are white, brown, black or yellow. Sellout Bonbon had mused for some that if the black community in Dickens just took “their racial blinders off for one second, they’d realize [Dickens] was no longer black but predominantly Latino.” So he was just making Dickens “equal” by excluding whites. It’s not discrimination exactly. It’s equality. ”The Supreme Court is where the country takes out its dick and tits and decides who’s going to get fucked and who’s getting a taste of mother’s milk. It’s constitutional pornography in there…and what…about obscenity? I know it when I see it…Me vs. the United States of America demands a more fundamental examination of what we mean by ‘separate,’ by ‘equal,’ by ‘black.’"Beatty demurs when critics point out his work as a satire. It isn’t, he says. It’s reportage. The material in this book is, in fact, observable in everyday America. ”Black people don’t even talk about race. Nothing’s attributable to color anymore. It’s all ‘mitigating circumstances.’ The only people discussing ‘race’ with any insight and courage are loud middle-aged white men…well-read open-minded white kids…a few freelance journalists in Detroit…”Author interviews with Beatty are some of the most uncomfortable I have ever heard or read. Beatty stutters and avoids, sometimes flat out refuses to entertain a question. (Examples: Boston NPR Onpoint, and Ebony.) He clearly doesn’t like talking about “what his book means.” He wants his book to start the conversation. We’re supposed to be telling him what it means…to us…as individuals rather than as a class. He says often in interviews, “I am uncomfortable talking about this.” He does not appear to be uncomfortable writing about what he sees and what he thinks about what he sees, so folks interested in making him a spokesperson for black people will have to turn to his writing. But there aren’t answers there, either, really. It is just raw material for the discussion we are all meant to have. In a reading Beatty gave at Politics & Prose, the Washington, D.C. bookstore, Beatty told the audience that he teaches a writing course at Columbia University and one of his students said to him, “I feel sorry for you guys” as though the race issue were finished, and is nothing now compared with yesterday. Beatty was shocked. It reminded me of young, upwardly mobile women saying they don’t experience sexism today. Me, I incline towards Ta-Nehisi Coates’ June 2014 Atlantic article, “The Case for Reparations.” Not that money will fix anything. It is the discussion about reparations that might fix something. Nigerian novelist Chris Abani, in a riveting conversation with American novelist Walter Mosley, says "America has had a unique relationship with blackness that, say, Europe really hasn’t had. As much as people like to pretend, slavery isn’t really over."

  13. 5 out of 5

    fourtriplezed

    How does a white, late 50’s, Australian come to read a satire on race relations in the USA, an area he has little knowledge about in said subject? I had recently read the brilliant A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James and was telling “all and sundry” what a superb read it was. I could recall a fair bit of the heady days of Marley and the powerful political fallout in Jamaica back in the late 70’s. I had got Exodus on release so was not in new territory subject wise. The writing and How does a white, late 50’s, Australian come to read a satire on race relations in the USA, an area he has little knowledge about in said subject? I had recently read the brilliant A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James and was telling “all and sundry” what a superb read it was. I could recall a fair bit of the heady days of Marley and the powerful political fallout in Jamaica back in the late 70’s. I had got Exodus on release so was not in new territory subject wise. The writing and presentation was so powerful as to be mesmerising and I was hooked. But in conversation “all and sundry” began to tell me about this book by Paul Beatty called The Sellout. “All and sundry” finally became the final push to read The Sellout in the shape of a new dad at a suburban one year old’s birthday party, you know the type of event, the mums all go gah gah at the kids and the dads talk about other things while their kids gorge themselves on cake. The “all and sundry” new dad, I am not a new dad by the way, just kept shaking his head about this book The Sellout. He had various ways of saying read it:- “you have to read it” “by the sound of it if you liked that Marley book you have to read this” “if you like satire you have to read this” “sounds like a little bit of humour in that Marley book but this is entirely satirical humour so you have to read it” “I did not understand a lot of the references but I got the gist to the point that you have to read it” and so on and so forth. And so I did. About 70 pages in, I discovered a few things. As mentioned above I knew little of US race relations and a fair few of the references towards that thorny subject were beyond me. So with that I started afresh and while reading marked each not or little understood reference and referred back to them with an internet search after each chapter. With that all I can say is “what a journey”. The journey has been a slow read as the enormity of my lack of knowledge loomed large. I read each wiki (or other) link as I went on a weird and wonderful journey into both a political, cultural, and most of all, satirical look at the subject at hand. My copy says that one review said the “……longer I stared at the pages…” the smarter I would get. Nice! And with that new intelligence all I can say is what a book, what a hilarious learning curve it all was for this little white boy. What more can I add? I mean there are more meaningful dissertations on The Sellout than the drivel I am writing but just maybe anyone from a non US background, who is white and sheltered from US race issues can use the links I used to assist them along in this riveting read. And my apologies for missing any. I put in what I did not know, know little about or just did not recall. Enjoy. Prologue https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scopes_... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hammurabi https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottsb... Supreme court "Courtroom friezes: The South Wall Frieze includes figures of lawgivers from the ancient world and includes Menes, Hammurabi, Moses, Solomon, Lycurgus, Solon, Draco, Confucius, and Augustus." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laozi The Shit You Shovel https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piaget&... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dred_Scott https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plessy_... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luther_... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MEChA https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-F... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bystand... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bandwag... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enter_t... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harriet... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hor... https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_the_... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_f... http://blog.press.princeton.edu/2016/... http://www.urbandictionary.com/define... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oedipus... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salton_Sea https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Student... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Ru... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Gab... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phaseol... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregor_... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chia_Pet https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Captain... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Br... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjKtP... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ataxia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosopa... Page 66. My best effort at translation of the following:- yo soy el gran pinche mayate! julio cesar chavez es un puto I think it means "I am the great dung beetle servant. Julio Cesar Chavez is a fucker" See comment 20 below. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Gang https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Sw... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billie_... ol' Remus http://www.woodpilereport.com/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darla_Hood http://ourgang.wikia.com/wiki/He-Man_... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betsy_R... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nancy_C... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermene... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electra https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFnJa... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B%C3%A9... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shonen_... https://teikokublog.com/2014/05/14/tr... Hambone? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juba_dance https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amos_&#... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Ch... http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-du... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Yor... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Amistad https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Str... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5150_(i... http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0032774/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willie_... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beulah_... http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/ref... libidinal dyslexia. https://www.appi.org/products/dsm-man... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Ber... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pha... Postbellum https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reconst... http://www.urbandictionary.com/define... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scotty_... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mulatto https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernie_M... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vin_Scully https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacagawea https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sure%C3... The Dum Dum Donut Intellectuals https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Califor... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Califor... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crash_(... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Eg... Exact Change, or Zen and the Art of Bus Riding and Relationship Repair. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy_L... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drakkar... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilming... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masterp... http://www.urbandictionary.com/define... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In-N-Ou... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laugh_F... http://florentinehollywood.com/ I Threes. Marleys back up singers. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kristy_... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coconut... I never knew Prince was called His Royal Badness before. https://www.dennys.com/food/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerhard... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_H... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabe... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Mi... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amoeba_... I need to read Kafka as I never have. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omphalo... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gwendol... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sergei_... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bikram_... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tchotchke and how to pronounce Tchotchke https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xd5ij... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodney_... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attack_... I admit to never having heard of this book. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giovann... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cigar_s... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stand_i... George Wallace was a sanga short of a picnic http://www.urbandictionary.com/define... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_in... In 1981, horse meat labelled as beef was discovered at a Foodmaker plant that supplied hamburger and taco meat to Jack in the Box. The meat was originally from Profreeze of Australia, and during their checks on location, the food inspectors discovered other shipments destined for the United States which included kangaroo meat.[23][24] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3w8-l... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leo_Car... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chakra http://asia.christianlouboutin.com/au... The Color Of Burnt Toast. page 142. ????? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederi... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ten... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guadalu... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D%C3%B6... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Varosha... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bokor_H... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oradour... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ouham-P... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roberto... Too Many Mexicans https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Cami... http://www.urbandictionary.com/define... https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fas... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charro! http://www.themijachronicles.com/2010... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iqvr... 101 muertes del jaripeo (The 101 deaths of jaripeo) 1,000 litros de sangre (a thousand litres of blood.) si chingas el toro, te llevas los cuernos ( If you fuck the bull, you get the horns) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milk_Duds https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sing_Sing http://www.dict.cc/german-english/Fli... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trail_o... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1994_No... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kick_th... http://www.gameskidsplay.net/games/se... Horchata complexion. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define... Page 165. Spanish translates to:- "Every day of my professional career I think the same thing. Of these two hundred and fifty children, how many will finish high school? Forty percent? Orale, and of that lucky hundred, how many will go to college? Online, junior, clown college, or whatever? About five, more or less. And how many will graduate? Two, maybe. What a pity. We're nuts." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%93rale My thanks to Antonomasia from https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/... for that translation. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_He... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheezer ??? I see Paris I see France. ???? https://www.goodreads.com/author/show... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dale_Ea... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eli_Whi... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uno_(ca... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chitlin... Apples and Oranges https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_H... http://www.sunnylevine.com/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_b... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuskege... https://www.google.com.au/#q=arschloc...* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wannsee... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V8_(bev... http://www.lowrider.com/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patek_P.... http://www.ticker.com/ МОИ ТРУСИКИ МОКЫЕ (Translates as My panties are wet) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crip_Walk https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Ba... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nichola... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles... http://www.streetswing.com/histmai2/d... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_W.... un millar de muchachos mexicanos (translates as a 1000 mexican boys) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eduardo... http://www.nevadawolfpack.com/sports/... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earl_Wa... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoni_S... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orlando... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_R... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marco_P... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle_... https://www.holtsauto.com/simoniz/sup... Polynesian gardens https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawaiia... https://unitedgangs.com/2014/12/22/va... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bessie_Sm https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kara_Wa... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kathlee... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killer_... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Morgan https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fran_Ross https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuart_T... nu iota gamma ??? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stepin_... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betty_Boop https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Fle... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackie_... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Gro... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sec... Tambo and bones. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christy... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercede... https://newrepublic.com/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Los... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laurel_... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orval_F... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yasunar... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yukio_M... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladimi... DFW ??? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_F... ??? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sag_Har... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeopard... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theresi... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vibe_(m... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_R... covers the lot. Unmitigated Blackness https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/12_Angr... https://www.google.com.au/#q=to+kill+...* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Few_G... the overacting of Cruise made this a difficult watch https://www.google.com.au/#q=co%C3%B1...* chupa mi verga, carbon (suck my dick) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plymout... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blacula https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boba_Fett https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hikikomori https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rick_Rubin https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Atl... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_U... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Genet https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_B... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rea... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coral_S... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tur... The Skreeches. ???? ("It's the Turtles, the Skreetches, the David Schwimmers and the George Costanzas of the Group" refers to the meek / lovable losers / good guy characters from the following TV shows: 1. "Entourage", in the case of Turtle https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turtle_... ; 2. "Saved by the Bell", in the case of Screech (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...) ; 3. "Friends", in the case of Ross (David Schwimmer); and 4. "Seinfeld", in the case of George Costanza. ) as per comment posted Chivdog 20/6/17 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_S... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_La... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sojourn... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moms_Ma... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chester... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abbey_L... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcus_... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfre_W... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiparillo https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chitter... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarenc... the judge or the author? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_Deren https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun_Ra https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenji_M... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frida_K... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Lu... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gong_Li https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bir... Hip Hop Cop. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/200... ???? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roslag Vara Modig (Be Brave in Swedish) When I translate this later and reread the context it adds to my consideration that this is one very witty book. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amandla... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonatha... Acknowledgements The negro to black conversion experience https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William.... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jibran

    Subtitle: A mini dictionary of the oddities and eccentricities of Black America mixed in with a bevy of pop culture obscurities interspersed with some brilliant flashes of satire by Paul Beatty. For the sake modesty, let me say that I'm in two minds whether the special outweighs the ordinary and vice versa. But there's no doubt that the book is designed as a commercial product for timely consumption given the rise in racial tensions in the US in the last few years. But this alone has never been a Subtitle: A mini dictionary of the oddities and eccentricities of Black America mixed in with a bevy of pop culture obscurities interspersed with some brilliant flashes of satire by Paul Beatty. For the sake modesty, let me say that I'm in two minds whether the special outweighs the ordinary and vice versa. But there's no doubt that the book is designed as a commercial product for timely consumption given the rise in racial tensions in the US in the last few years. But this alone has never been a good reason for me to give passing marks to a book, because fictionalisation of contemporary events, dramatisation of social/political issues and suchlike require something more than what is apparent on the surface. Like others, I love the idea of employing humour to deal with serious subjects. Recently I read Tram 83, a breath-of-fresh-air which uses satire to produce a stable and effective metaphor of the struggles of the post-colonial Africa, without weighing us down with the uselessness of recording real historical-political events to make it more "credible." The contrast with The Sellout couldn't be more obvious. It is not essential that an event be sketched out in exact detail for literature to be believable. Sometimes the exact sketch of reality is not as powerful as one portrayed with the help of imagination. Real facts and references help up to a point, but beyond that they become obstacles to the evolution of a work. The Sellout, gets mired in its own mass when it offers unfettered social commentary about everything that concerns Black America, Imperial America, Provincial America.... I am about halfway through and pausing it for the time being. August '16

  15. 5 out of 5

    Maxwell

    2019 review: Still not my jam. I gave it a 2nd shot and actually finished this time, but just didn't connect with this style. Satire is very hit or miss, and this was a miss for me. ___ 2016 review: DNF'd it. Not in the mood for this right now. Will hopefully return to it in the future. 2019 review: Still not my jam. I gave it a 2nd shot and actually finished this time, but just didn't connect with this style. Satire is very hit or miss, and this was a miss for me. ___ 2016 review: DNF'd it. Not in the mood for this right now. Will hopefully return to it in the future.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Antonomasia

    This isn't literary fiction so much as extended stand-up comedy. The sort that happens when Stewart Lee spins one of his crazed, spiralling stories that lasts half the set; yes it's political, but also surreal and vicious and somehow sympathetic, and just too fucking funny to dismiss as worthy or heavy-handed. The Sellout is not your negative-stereotype dreary litfic Booker winner. Those people who normally see a "Winner of the Man Booker Prize" sticker as a radioactivity hazard label? Plenty of This isn't literary fiction so much as extended stand-up comedy. The sort that happens when Stewart Lee spins one of his crazed, spiralling stories that lasts half the set; yes it's political, but also surreal and vicious and somehow sympathetic, and just too fucking funny to dismiss as worthy or heavy-handed. The Sellout is not your negative-stereotype dreary litfic Booker winner. Those people who normally see a "Winner of the Man Booker Prize" sticker as a radioactivity hazard label? Plenty of them would love this novel. Shame on me that whilst I was vaguely interested in The Sellout (after seeing a review describing it as "Pynchon lite"... because sometimes you want all the fun without all the looking-stuff-up) before the 2016 longlist announcement, I'm not sure I'd have necessarily got round to reading it otherwise... the cover doesn't look a quarter as much fun as what's inside and the blurb is waaaaay too serious. I read the beginnings of all the longlisted books around the end of July and from this one got that same buzz, "wow!... wow!....wow!" that I swear hadn't felt since I read the start of The Luminaries three years earlier; felt instinctively that this should/could be the winner. Then not long afters got one of my occasional weird OCD block things that happens with a few books, and couldn't read it. I was kind of frustrated I hadn't put money on it to win, but Monday gone, I kind of forgot about that when Casey Affleck's Oscar made up for it. Some people had said The Sellout wasn't as good in the second half, but for me pretty much all of it lived up to the promise of those early pages. Politics on both sides of the Atlantic has moved at lightning speed in the two years (coincidentally to the day!) since The Sellout was published. One of the top GR reviews of the novel introduces it as a satire about the fallacy of a post-racial America. No-one needs that idea pointed out in Trump's banana republic. But thankfully, this is an overly simplistic characterisation of the book, which is in any case still too line-by-line funny to be a mere mayfly. I don't get why some people don't like that much humour in a novel, but they don't... After reading some comments during Booker season, I had been expecting the book to start feeling like an exhausting 300-page onslaught of one-liners: it never did though, it's just the right amount. Prety thick and fast in the early pages, then maybe slightly further between, with more story in place, but Beatty never runs out of comedy, and it's never too much. Dude knows what he's doing. And he did used to to standup and slam poetry. Someone keeps saying how funny a book is, they should provide quotes, right? With this one, where to start? Can I be lazy and link the GR quotes page for the book? Even if a lot of the top ones are all the near-cheesily serious lines, a bit further down there is ample evidence of wit Other thing I don't get... I am really not a Yankophile. I've even gone out of my way to avoid American lit some years, and all yr fave box sets of the decade, The Wire, Mad Men, that one with the drug lab and the sequel with the lawyer (quite seriously couldn't recall the titles at first there), Orange Is the New Black, never seen 'em, or not more than a couple of episodes. Okay, I read a few anti-racism / critical race theory blogs a few years ago, cos I wanted to understand the premise behind SJW culture, but those don't give you pop culture that's a decade or two or three old. And I didn't know about lawn jockeys (the garden ornaments on the cover) before. When I saw some reviews from fellow Brits saying they didn't get lots of the references in The Sellout, I was like, but this is common general knowledge and has been for ages... huh? Felt the same through the book. And most of the locally-specific is phrased in such a way that it's obviously a characterisation of how things are in a certain place, put in such a way that it's still recognisably very funny as well as telling you something kind of new. I think the UK has had more than enough US culture imports for the book to be gettable for people here; however, it makes sense that it may be impenetrable for those in non-Anglosphere countries who don't take an especial interest in America. But yeah, people who know their [US] pop culture, and/or who've spent a fair bit of time reading pre-Trump online American opinion articles about race, may be most at ease with this book. I don't think this is a book with a single clearcut message; it's more of an "it's not like that [i.e. not a post-racial idyll], it's hella complicated". I always felt that The Sellout was having as much of a dig at the new wave of separatism fuelled by radicals (alongside awareness of its advantages and disadvantages) as at those who naively thought it was all fine once Obama was elected, at old-timey overt racism, at hipsters, at black conservatives and academics, at everybody, really. Lately I've been hearing of friends-of-friends-of-friends, people I used to know and the like, who've been falling into partly-rightward leaning politics and conspiracy theories, which some of them apparently started on because they, like me, had issues with the extremes of the SJW tendency, no-platforming etc. But unlike me, they seem not to have been lucky enough to spend time with, and be guided in their perspective by, friends who think these things are a bit much, but who are also essentially kind and decent and have empathy for the underlying problems behind these humourless, censorious agendas. Reading The Sellout, I started wishing some of these individuals who've veered partially rightwing had been recommended this book a year or two ago, so they might have understood that humour can have a place in race politics too, and got some idea of why Black Lives Matter is valid, told in a way that they'd be on board with. The narrator's upbringing may be an allegory of how racism affects the psyche of minorities, or is it also saying that some people overemphasise the negatives - or both, the latter being something that would occur for complex and individually-variable reasons anyway... (Plenty of other features are similarly prismatic, like Marpessa's fondness for a selection of highbrow and classic literature and films by white men, which could be a way of playing up the character as a fictional post-racial male fantasy, not a real working-class black woman - but among them are works that Zadie Smith likes.) As I've always felt that contemporary feminism blows certain problems out of proportion, I found aspects of the narrator's view of race politics, and his sometimes contradictory, experience-fuelled perspective, understandable; and I think it's all presented in such a way that the book could speak to those who felt things weren't that bad and tell them "hang on a minute..." - as well as to those who'll see him as a straight-up satire with opinions quite unlike any they would entertain. The lack of definite conclusion is arguably a copout in pure storytelling terms, but it's essential in preserving the complexity of the book as political commentary, and to retaining its status as humour and entertainment, not preaching. As with much political comedy, if one boiled certain storylines or paragraphs down to their underlying meaning, it could sound didactic; but the skill is in the presentation, where it very rarely does. I think this is a fantastic book with an ideal blend of maximum on-the-ground relevance and maximum humour, and I want to recommend it to loads of people. However, the GR ratings, including a few from people I know - who liked it but not quite as much as I did - suggest a tad more caution. But if you like savagely topical comedy and have some knowledge of American & African-American pop culture (and maybe an academic background with psychology helps a little bit too) then it may be a whole lot more fun than you'd think from the jacket. This extract of Beatty's first novel in Granta - with an unwittingly prescient first line - shows that his style has been sharp for a long time, the sort that can really interest me, for one, in an unfamiliar milieu, and I hope to be able to read more of his work. It's what awards should do, turn people on to great authors they hadn't otherwise read. And in this particular case, break their own mould from time to time.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    (3.5) This is such an outrageous racial satire that I kept asking myself how Beatty got away with it. Not only did he get away with it, he won a National Book Critics Circle Award, and now the Booker Prize. The novel opens at the U.S. Supreme Court, where the narrator has been summoned to defend himself against a grievous but entirely true accusation: he has reinstituted slavery and segregation in his hometown of Dickens, California. All the old stereotypes of African Americans are here, many of (3.5) This is such an outrageous racial satire that I kept asking myself how Beatty got away with it. Not only did he get away with it, he won a National Book Critics Circle Award, and now the Booker Prize. The novel opens at the U.S. Supreme Court, where the narrator has been summoned to defend himself against a grievous but entirely true accusation: he has reinstituted slavery and segregation in his hometown of Dickens, California. All the old stereotypes of African Americans are here, many of them represented by Hominy Jenkins. This reminded me most of Ishmael Reed’s satires and, oddly enough, Julian Barnes’s England, England, which similarly attempts to distill an entire culture and history into a limited space and time. The plot is downright silly in places, but the shock value keeps you reading. Even so, after the incendiary humor of the first third, the satire wears a bit thin. I yearned for more of an introspective Bildungsroman, which there are indeed hints of. See my full review at Shiny New Books.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Michael Ferro

    As good a satire as satires get. THE SELLOUT is simply one of the best books I've read in years. Hilarious, thoughtful, and necessary, it's a novel that gets better and sharper with each turn of the page. Beatty's wit and wry acumen makes his prose a delight to read and his critical eye for our insular American condition highlights the many problems involving race in our society. Make 'em laugh and make 'em think, then you got 'em. Required reading for 2018 and beyond. As good a satire as satires get. THE SELLOUT is simply one of the best books I've read in years. Hilarious, thoughtful, and necessary, it's a novel that gets better and sharper with each turn of the page. Beatty's wit and wry acumen makes his prose a delight to read and his critical eye for our insular American condition highlights the many problems involving race in our society. Make 'em laugh and make 'em think, then you got 'em. Required reading for 2018 and beyond.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lee Klein

    Audacity, execution, authority, oomph, heft, humor -- the most enjoyable, truly enlightened, contemporary novel originally written in the English language I've read in a long, long time. I read some of the author's first novel after it came out back when I lived in Brooklyn and a friend recommended it but I didn't make my way too far through it, thinking it too derivative of Ishmael Reed, whose Flight to Canada and Mumbo Jumbo I read in college and loved. Now, the influence still seems there, th Audacity, execution, authority, oomph, heft, humor -- the most enjoyable, truly enlightened, contemporary novel originally written in the English language I've read in a long, long time. I read some of the author's first novel after it came out back when I lived in Brooklyn and a friend recommended it but I didn't make my way too far through it, thinking it too derivative of Ishmael Reed, whose Flight to Canada and Mumbo Jumbo I read in college and loved. Now, the influence still seems there, the hyperbolic po-mo humor, at times like Mark Leyner walking the satirical high wire of serious sociological significance, but the overall world of the novel, delineated by Dickens LA with a DC frame, plus the wholly characterized characters and the inside jokes and the little pokes at Dave Eggers, Bret Easton Ellis, and the like, the obscure side-references loaded up in the last slot of a sentence's comic series, the clarity of every sentence and paragraph and the macro-level audacity, the old-fashioned yet not at all sentimental father/son story, I feel like it's safe to say that he's successfully integrated the Ishmael Reed, who's name-checked at one point, and individuated. Reading this every day on the Philly subway, wondering what the primarily black passengers think of this white guy reading a book with lawn jockeys on the cover, and wondering more so what someone might think when they read over my shoulder, was probably one of the best possible places to read this, especially when the story gave way to racism-related essayistic stretches. Nothing is necessarily unknown that he says but the total package delivered with such humor, energy, authentic intelligence (no Wittgenstein quotations!), with such alacrity and pizzazz (as an old prep-school football coach I had used to say about how we should execute drills), with insider info on the LA surf scene to boot and references to Sun Ra and Lee Morgan, and Adam Youch I guess, the total package hangs together so well and articulates the complexity of everything in the most effective possible way. The writing, the language, always guns it, veering around corners to find unexpected obstacles it blows right through -- one of the most exciting, refreshing, funny novels I've read, as soon as I'm done writing this I'll find a home for it on the bookshelf I reserve for major favorites.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Cecile

    Outrageously irreverent, quirky, challenging and profound! An amazingly imaginative racial parody!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Peter Boyle

    "This may be hard to believe, coming from a black man, but I've never stolen anything." So begins the first page in this scathing satire of race in America. Our narrator is up before the Supreme Court, charged with attempting to reinstate slavery and segregation in his hometown of Dickens, a rundown neighborhood of Los Angeles. His accomplices are Hominy Jenkins, a former child star of the Little Rascals, and Marpessa Dawson, a foul-mouthed bus driver and the object of our hero's affections. But "This may be hard to believe, coming from a black man, but I've never stolen anything." So begins the first page in this scathing satire of race in America. Our narrator is up before the Supreme Court, charged with attempting to reinstate slavery and segregation in his hometown of Dickens, a rundown neighborhood of Los Angeles. His accomplices are Hominy Jenkins, a former child star of the Little Rascals, and Marpessa Dawson, a foul-mouthed bus driver and the object of our hero's affections. But what really drives this thoughtful, intelligent character is his relationship with his dead father - a tough and imposing psychologist who performed all manner of social experiments on his son. His authoritative presence in the black community looms over the narrator's life. But it also drives him to shake up his crumbling hometown by outrageous and controversial means. I can certainly see why this novel has been showered with praise - it is a timely and fearless examination of race relations in present day America. In fact it may cut a little too close to the bone for some - there were several times when I thought to myself: Woah, did he actually just say that? Politics, pop culture, the media's portrayal of African-Americans - so many aspects of US life are targeted and turned upside-down by Beatty's razor-sharp musings. I'll admit that several references went over my head but that's the beauty of this book - it's so bursting with ideas that you really feel like you've learned something by the time you reach the end. As a story, I don't think it works so well - the pace is uneven and Beatty too often meanders with monologues to show off his admittedly large brain. But as a demented and daring satire, it deserves every accolade. An enlightening and thought-provoking read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    "Unmitigated Blackness is coming to the realization that as fucked up and meaningless as it all is, sometimes it's the nihilism that makes life worth living." - Paul Beautty, The Sellout THIS novel. THIS one. It snuck up on my white ass and turned everything inside out. It is easily one of my favorite books I've read the last couple years. Funny. Sad. Touching. Radical. Poetic. I will actually frame this all into a real review soon, but for now, just know this novel seems to combine the go-for-bro "Unmitigated Blackness is coming to the realization that as fucked up and meaningless as it all is, sometimes it's the nihilism that makes life worth living." - Paul Beautty, The Sellout THIS novel. THIS one. It snuck up on my white ass and turned everything inside out. It is easily one of my favorite books I've read the last couple years. Funny. Sad. Touching. Radical. Poetic. I will actually frame this all into a real review soon, but for now, just know this novel seems to combine the go-for-broke comedy of Dave Chappelle with the bitch-slap lyricism of James Baldwin, the funky regionalism of Marlon James, and the subversive satire of Ishamel Reed. If you start this book, step into its neighborhood, just know it will OWN you by the end.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Betsy Robinson

    Holy cow! I don’t know Latin, research psychology, California, every episode of The Little Rascals, and I’m white. So I don’t pretend to understand the tsunami of references that come so fast it takes your breath away in this satire about— A brief and necessary digression: My own writing is sometimes rabidly politically incorrect and has been known to poke people who take offense at that. But I’m a neophyte compared to Paul Beatty. And although I love his kind of daring, freefalling, Macy’s Thank Holy cow! I don’t know Latin, research psychology, California, every episode of The Little Rascals, and I’m white. So I don’t pretend to understand the tsunami of references that come so fast it takes your breath away in this satire about— A brief and necessary digression: My own writing is sometimes rabidly politically incorrect and has been known to poke people who take offense at that. But I’m a neophyte compared to Paul Beatty. And although I love his kind of daring, freefalling, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day-size sacred holy cow-balloon-popping, and wildfire prose, I am not insane enough to pull anything out of context in order to say what this book is about. And even if I were willing to ponder until I were clever enough to do so—which would require substantial time that nobody is paying me for—to do so might make me a target of some people’s ire, and I only accept that role when it comes to my own work. Now back to the review. Sorry, I am not going to say the plot, why it is hysterically funny, or why its truth will be a relief to some readers and offensive secret-telling to others. (If you want to read that stuff, I suggest reviews from two Goodreader friends who are smarter than I am: Steve and Trish.) Suffice it to say that it’s rib-crackingly funny (although this does wane quite a bit at the end of the book) and the music of the writing transcends the need for educated understanding. The prologue comes at you like a breathless prose poem, and the rest follows suit with jokes, jokes, jokes! They fall out of the stratosphere and land square. If you surrender to the music of this writing, to the surprise, and the truth-telling through satire— I lied. Without revealing much about the story, I am going to say what I think this book is really about (although I may be missing a lot—see first paragraph): Although it’s mostly about the Black experience in White America, on a bigger level I think it’s about how we all participate in our own enslavement and limitation; how we collude with the outside culture to abuse us or define us (negatively or positively); and this collusion requires that we pretend we don’t know that we’re colluding. But anybody who names the limitations, admits that they are familiar, comfortable, and even possibly helpful in some backhanded way (causing some people to feel special and others enraged, denied, and self-righteous)—anyone who plays the collusion play without pretending not to is crazy and/or just not with it—a sellout with a metaphorical attachment disorder. Hell hath no fury like people who feel their secrets exposed. Once in a blue moon, I read something that decimates limiting walls I didn’t even know I had about what is possible. I thought my walls were down after reading A Confederacy of Dunces . But, as a person who writes truth through humor, I felt a whole other layer disintegrate into dust when I read this book. Paul Beatty is simply one of the smartest and fearlessly funny writers I’ve ever read—even if some of it was way over my head. *** To give you a quick taste of who this writer is, here’s a NY Times article by Beatty about Black humor. By the way, in the above-referenced comprehensive review by Trish, she gives a lot of other Paul Beatty online references and also mentions that he was lousy at interviews and didn’t seem to want to talk about this book. I can relate: I wouldn’t attempt to convey the plot, and I cannot imagine writing a holy-cow-popping book like this and then talking about it. This is the kind of book you fling from your heart like a possible truth-stink bomb and then run for cover and let people react however they do. 9/1/17 Update: NY Times columnist David Brooks just published a very good essay on how we are complicit in our own miniaturization, articulating my point about the transcendent point of this book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Esil

    I read The Sellout for a book club. I'm new to the book club, so it felt important to read The Sellout from cover to cover so that I could prove myself a worthy member of my new book club. I almost made it, but I just couldn't get past the 85% mark on my kindle. By then I had caught wind that I wasn't the only one in the book club struggling with The Sellout. So I showed up, had a lovely time, talked very little about the book, decided I would stick to the club, and also decided that I would giv I read The Sellout for a book club. I'm new to the book club, so it felt important to read The Sellout from cover to cover so that I could prove myself a worthy member of my new book club. I almost made it, but I just couldn't get past the 85% mark on my kindle. By then I had caught wind that I wasn't the only one in the book club struggling with The Sellout. So I showed up, had a lovely time, talked very little about the book, decided I would stick to the club, and also decided that I would give up on the last 15% of The Sellout and hope that our next book isn't so much of a struggle... I think I get what Beatty was doing, but, oh man, what a tortuous reading experience. Mostly, it was so incredibly dense with language, references, Latin, plot strings, random thoughts... Also, the satire seemed heavy handed, self-indulgent and meant mostly to shock and provoke discomfort. At times, I thought Beatty's approach came at the expense of what I thought could have much been a more powerful read about contemporary issues of race in the US. I've read some great books on the topic in last year or so, but this one just didn't work for me. I'm leaving this one unrated. I wouldn't have read it if it hadn't been for the new book club. And given that it won the Booker last year, maybe I'm actually missing the point...

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bookbeaver

    I certainly credit Beatty for letting the world know how bad racism is in our 'post-racism' society, but 50 or so pages of this rant was all I could take. I was looking forward to the 'comic' novel this has been praised as being, but unfortunately I found it to be trite and tiresome. Literary humor should sneak up and surprise you, even when you know it's coming, not continuously attempt to hit you over your head with itself. I understand this is a minority opinion, but it's mine and I'll stick I certainly credit Beatty for letting the world know how bad racism is in our 'post-racism' society, but 50 or so pages of this rant was all I could take. I was looking forward to the 'comic' novel this has been praised as being, but unfortunately I found it to be trite and tiresome. Literary humor should sneak up and surprise you, even when you know it's coming, not continuously attempt to hit you over your head with itself. I understand this is a minority opinion, but it's mine and I'll stick by it. The fact this novel won this year's Tournament of Books only furthers my growing dissatisfaction with that event as well. Again, my opinion, and one that I can mostly assume is built on my getting older (seemingly every year) and narrowing my appreciation to literary novels that celebrate the art of writing rather than doing nothing more than ringing the bell of popular culture, even if well-intentioned. Don't not attempt to read this book based on this, just know I, for one, didn't care for it.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    As I finish this book, I sit in an airport, with CNN muted on the television above me. Baltimore. Riots. Race. It somehow seems like a fitting pair. It is worth noting, the Baltimore riots are substantially less humorous than Beatty's book. In a time where race in America is at an absolute boiling point, Paul Beatty comes along with a book so bold and brave, people will see it as either absolutely repugnant, or undeniably brilliant. I'm in the latter group. First thing first. This book is hilario As I finish this book, I sit in an airport, with CNN muted on the television above me. Baltimore. Riots. Race. It somehow seems like a fitting pair. It is worth noting, the Baltimore riots are substantially less humorous than Beatty's book. In a time where race in America is at an absolute boiling point, Paul Beatty comes along with a book so bold and brave, people will see it as either absolutely repugnant, or undeniably brilliant. I'm in the latter group. First thing first. This book is hilarious. Outrageously so. Where you'll find yourself bursting out with laughter in public spaces, only to attract the stares of strangers. I haven't laughed this hard reading a book in a long, long time. Secondly, Beatty's like a coked up 24-hour news-cycle, recalling decades of stereotypes with rapid fire delivery. There's no filter, and no time to pause. From page one, he fires off on everything from slavery to police brutality and everything in between. It feels like a deep exhale that Beatty's been holding in for years. And all of this would be so deeply depressing if it weren't so absurdly hilarious. I loved this book. It speaks to so many taboo issues in our world today, and Beatty takes them on head on. With no apologies. Funny, raw, irreverent and unbelievably timely, I highly recommend this book. Four and a half stars.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Marchpane

    There’s nothing surprising or uncanny about this novel from 2015 being a timely read. That’s the ‘systemic’ part of systemic racism: it’s always there, even if it manifests in different ways. Five years ago, the manifestations led to The Sellout exploding the myth of a post-racial, ‘integrated’ America in the late Obama years. In that sense, The Sellout is a product of its time, as Beatty uses his considerable wit to skewer ideas that are in no need of confutation today. It is a comic novel, ofte There’s nothing surprising or uncanny about this novel from 2015 being a timely read. That’s the ‘systemic’ part of systemic racism: it’s always there, even if it manifests in different ways. Five years ago, the manifestations led to The Sellout exploding the myth of a post-racial, ‘integrated’ America in the late Obama years. In that sense, The Sellout is a product of its time, as Beatty uses his considerable wit to skewer ideas that are in no need of confutation today. It is a comic novel, often wickedly funny, and uncomfortably truthful. Bonbon’s spree of subversive, non-violent protest seems at face value, absurd. But Beatty’s skill is showing us how entirely logical Bonbon is—it is the system, the context within which Bonbon exists, that is broken to the point of senselessness. As story it is propulsive, surprising at every turn; as polemic it is incendiary and incredibly smart; as comedy it is provocative; on the whole, it is astonishingly good.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Perry

    Rhapsodical Reflections and Uproarious Ramblings on Racism in "Post-Racial" America 3.4/5 Re: Man Booker Prize, 2016 Consuetus Lector: "Blimey! In a manner of speaking, unbloodybelievable. This busts belief's bollocks, lampoons logic, cold-cocks common sense. Need I go on?" This novel mostly reads like the rhapsodical ramblings and reflections of a racially righteous rebel challenging the status quo. With mordant wit, incisive satirical spins and terrific comic timing, Paul Beatty ingeniously unmask Rhapsodical Reflections and Uproarious Ramblings on Racism in "Post-Racial" America 3.4/5 Re: Man Booker Prize, 2016 Consuetus Lector: "Blimey! In a manner of speaking, unbloodybelievable. This busts belief's bollocks, lampoons logic, cold-cocks common sense. Need I go on?" This novel mostly reads like the rhapsodical ramblings and reflections of a racially righteous rebel challenging the status quo. With mordant wit, incisive satirical spins and terrific comic timing, Paul Beatty ingeniously unmasks racism, both the blatant kind disguised and the kind idling in unheeded places, camouflaged by rules and regulations or concealed in societal customs. The book was a real eye-opener in several ways. For much of it, the novel is laugh-out-loud funny, but the story staggered home from around page 200 of a 300-page book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    PattyMacDotComma

    4.5★ While I was mulling this one over, and its satirical suggestion that a kind of apartheid might be the way to address American racism, I was reading J.M. Coetzee's book which touches on a similar subject in Africa, Summertime. Quite a pair of prize-winning books! ---- Clever, witty, American but universal satire. I started this, got annoyed because I was bored, so I read something else. When I came back to it, I started over and enjoyed the ride. I just immersed myself in Beatty’s unbelievable 4.5★ While I was mulling this one over, and its satirical suggestion that a kind of apartheid might be the way to address American racism, I was reading J.M. Coetzee's book which touches on a similar subject in Africa, Summertime. Quite a pair of prize-winning books! ---- Clever, witty, American but universal satire. I started this, got annoyed because I was bored, so I read something else. When I came back to it, I started over and enjoyed the ride. I just immersed myself in Beatty’s unbelievable story, and while I don’t pretend I got it all, I did grow up in the States, so I may have recognised some of the references that other Booker Prize readers say they didn’t. But it doesn’t matter, because I don’t think it’s limited to the American experience. You don’t need to know all the language references. That’s kind of the point. The cultures are varied. I heard Beatty say in an interview that he used to want a book that included all the cultures but now he realises we just need a bigger shelf to encompass all the stories. He’s hoping this will be one of them. This is about targets. Not only America has targets. You know them – the newest newcomers, generally of a different colour from those who consider themselves the ‘mainstream’. The same is true of livestock and pecking orders. The weakest is bullied (literally, in a mob of bulls, if you’ve ever seen the poor, dung-covered runt) while chooks will peck some miserable creature to death. In horses, and I think the same is true of migrants, the last one introduced to the paddock seems to be ostracised until a new one comes in. Then the newcomer is ostracised and the previous outcast is accepted. Colour does sometimes come into it with animals as well as people, and people aren't as accepting, either, but I digress. OK – here’s Dickens, California, formerly rural, soon to be suburbia. The story opens with Bonbon, our black tour guide, currently sitting precariously in the Supreme Court on charges of racism. Well, he has a slave, so that’s understandable. He’s uncomfortable, not about the slave, but about how to appear cool and smart yet respectful, but he ends up in the popular school bully I-don’t-give-a-damn slouch. All he needs is a cigarette hanging from his lips. “between the handcuffs and the slipperiness of this chair’s leather upholstery, the only way I can keep from spilling my ass ignominiously onto the goddamn floor is to lean back until I’m reclined at an angle just short of detention-room nonchalance, but definitely well past courtroom contempt.” But that’s not Bonbon, not in the slightest. He’s a sensitive boy brought up by a sociologist father, who decides to toughen up his son to face the harsh world of prejudice. You know, like the boy in the Johnny Cash song, ‘A Boy Named Sue’, except, this isn’t in name only. In the process, Dad nearly kills his son. No, that’s not right. He makes the boy nearly kill himself by plugging him into electrodes, telling him to look in the mirror and shock ‘the boy in the mirror’ when he gets an answer wrong. Then Dad asks impossible questions and Bonbon zaps himself senseless. Dad beats the boy to show him the mindset he will be up against - police, guards, who knows what Dad’s thinking? “Dissociative reaction is like a psychic circuit breaker. When the mind experiences a power surge of stress and bullshit, it switches off, just shuts your cognition down and you blank out. You act but are unaware of your actions. So you see, even though I don’t remember dislocating your jaw . . .” See that last line? Mercifully for us and Bonbon, Dad is shot dead by police, and with the compensation money, Bonbon buys up a tract of land in Dickens to recreate the rural scene. It’s a poor area outside of Los Angeles, but the name is erased from maps and from memories to make way for suburbia, and Bonbon is determined to rectify this. People should know where they belong. Then there’s, Hominy, an old, addle-brained black man, last of the Our Gang child actors, who lives in his glory day memories of film fame. Of course, he was the token black Sambo, monkey, butt of all jokes that involved covering him with flour and anything white, like reverse blackface. Hominy is like the women (usually women) who justify staying with abusive boyfriends by saying ‘At least he chose me over everybody else’. At least Hominy felt like part of the Gang. He insists he’s a slave, calls Bonbon “Massa”, and what’s more, wants to be whipped. “ ‘. . . true freedom is having the right to be a slave.’ He hiked up his pants and slipped into his Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer plantationese. ‘I know taint nobody forcin’ me, but dis here one slave you ain’t never gwine be rid of. Freedom can kiss my postbellum black ass.’ ” Rather than Freedom (or anyone) kissing it, Bonbon finds an accommodating S&M brothel to meet Hominy’s weekly request to whip it. Meanwhile, Bonbon grows such stupendous fruit and vegetables that the neighbourhood children sit under his trees to escape the stink everywhere else. And he feeds the multitude and tries to put Dickens back on the map by putting up his own road signs. Agreeing to Hominy’s slavery and watching the neighbourhood change, he decides the key to harmony is segregation. People are comfortable when they know their place. It may be satire, but it bites for real. Bonbon thinks: “I understand now that the only time black people don’t feel guilty is when we’ve actually done something wrong, because that relieves us of the cognitive dissonance of being black and innocent, and in a way the prospect of going to jail becomes a relief.” I said universal, because I recently read The Last Time We Spoke by Fiona Sussman, (from South Africa but now a New Zealander) about a Maori boy who feels much like this when he ends up in prison, recognising his destiny (he assumes). We are losing generations of kids everywhere - people need a belonging place. Bonbon's joke of the Whites Only sign on a bus, ends up making the passengers surprisingly content. I said it was satire. Bonbon wonders. “Growing up, I used to think all of black America’s problems could be solved if we only had a motto. A pithy Liberté, egalité, fraternité . . . simple, yet profound. Noble, and yet somehow egalitarian. A calling card for an entire race that was raceless on the surface, but quietly understood by those in the know to be very, very black. . . . Other ethnicities have mottos. 'Unconquered and unconquerable' is the calling card of the Chickasaw nation” There are some wonderful characters and absurd situations, and Bonbon tries his darndest to meet everybody’s needs and expectations. An impossible task, but fun to read about. The quotations are from my NetGalley review copy, so may be different in the final publication.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nnenna

    Get ready to go for a wild ride when you read this book! It’s irreverent and incisive from the first few pages and it doesn’t really slow down. The narrator, whose first name we never learn, is a black man living in Dickens, California. He describes Dickens as the original ghetto and is distressed when Dickens is literally erased from the map. The narrator comes up with a plan to get Dickens noticed and put it back on the map- bring back segregation. This novel is as wacky as that plot descriptio Get ready to go for a wild ride when you read this book! It’s irreverent and incisive from the first few pages and it doesn’t really slow down. The narrator, whose first name we never learn, is a black man living in Dickens, California. He describes Dickens as the original ghetto and is distressed when Dickens is literally erased from the map. The narrator comes up with a plan to get Dickens noticed and put it back on the map- bring back segregation. This novel is as wacky as that plot description sounds and it’s a satire on race relations in America. Beatty is not afraid to go there, and several times I was wincing at his accurate observations about race. The plot can be unbelievable, until you remind yourself of the current political climate. There’s a lot of truth in this book and a lot to digest. It’s certainly left me reevaluating and taking a hard look at the current state of affairs. I’m really glad I got around to this one in February. As with all of my Black History Month reads, this story feels even more timely and necessary than ever.

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