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.)
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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.