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Hokum: An Anthology of African-American Humor Hardcover – January 10, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Acclaimed novelist Beatty (Tuff; White Boy Shuffle) models this controversial anthology on a "mix-tape narrative dubbed by a trusted... friend." Like a mix-tape, the collection is intensely personal: its encompassing feature is the bright, plaintive, scathingly ironic voice that introduces the volume and its various sections. Beatty, who "was the butt of the first joke [he'd] ever heard," mines two centuries of African-American culture for speeches, poems, fiction, comics and screenplays that mirror his own glass-cutting wit and satisfy, in places, his taste for "unintentional comedy." (To wit, "The Wit and Wisdom of Mike Tyson.") Apart from usual suspects like Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, a Norton anthology this is not. Selections from Fran Ross and Prophet Omega dizzy readers in their logical funhouses. Hattie Gossett's "80s Version of the Dozens" leads them through sewer pipes of lyrical imagination. The volume's general tenor is wild, winking and explosive. As such, it picks up where Chappelle's Show left off—gouging the government, lampooning cultures black and white, leaving no sacred cow unslaughtered. Even the smiling watermelon on the book's front cover has been retained despite sniffs by national media outlets. "This is black humor," Beatty writes, "and I don't mean African-American black." Indeed, at times—as when John Farris's schoolchildren blithely gun down pedestrians—you may need night-vision goggles to find the joke. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Paul Beatty is the author of two novels, Tuff and The White Boy Shuffle, and two books of poetry, Big Bank Take Little Bank and Joker, Joker, Deuce. He lives in New York City.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1St Edition edition (January 10, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582344345
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582344348
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.7 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #919,789 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Frank Clover on April 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Just wondering. As a (typically?) paranoid Anglo-American, I may not "get" the secret messages in many of the selections that may or may not be there for an African-American reader, but I found most of the selections in this anthology hilarious. If it inspires anyone of any hyphenation to read complete works by Ishmael Reed or Chester Himes, it will have more than served its purpose.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By M. H. DAWKINS-ROSE on July 16, 2009
Format: Paperback
the anthology;s breadth is stunning, insofar as what counts as black, what counts as funny. in the forward Beatty says, if memory is true, that it's like a mixtape--reading the bits compiled on the 'playlist' give you a feeling of what informs Beatty's writing. Another bonus is almost none of this stuff is canonical; this publication is a treasure--from negritude to you!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. Loh on April 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Paul Beatty is one of my favorite writers. The intro is hilarious & thoughtful. The short pieces in this book are also very funny. You will enjoy this.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Steve Kohn on July 11, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
Another 1-star review said "451 pages, no laughs. Not one."

Well, there were a few, but so very few, it makes me wonder at the book's title.

Signed out of our public library after reading "The Sellout," a book I admired a lot, written by the same Paul Beatty, I am unable to see what he was attempting to give us with "Hokum." It certainly wasn't to make us laugh.

He does succeed in making me think American blacks are filled with self-hatred, and obsessed with skin color far more than us whites. Verbal cleverness seems to be highly prized. (The abominable rap comes to mind.) Morals seem not to be, nor much respect for the law.

American blacks simply confound me. They include more great musicians than should be possible considering their numbers, and have given us jazz and the blues. They're our best athletes. Their men are manly, their women sexy. In my decades in the Army, blacks I served with were among the best soldiers in our unit...and the worst, and everything in between, of course.

Yet they -- again, as a GROUP, with countless individual exceptions -- are more likely to be scofflaws, bullies, rapists, murderers, more likely to grow up in single-parent families.

Yes, I know: slavery, then Jim Crow.

Was it the length of time these awful conditions existed that's at the root of the problem? Because other people who came to America also had terrible suffering in their history -- arguably worse than slavery -- without becoming so broken. We look at that peculiar game, the dozens, where one's mothers are obscenely insulted (mothers!), and wonder why this "game" doesn't exist among any other group.

Blacks are a mystery, at least to this white man.
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1 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Constant Reader on March 11, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
451 pages, no laughs. Not one.
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