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The Sellout: A Novel Paperback – March 1, 2016
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“The first 100 pages of [Paul Beatty's] new novel, The Sellout, are the most caustic and the most badass first 100 pages of an American novel I've read in at least a decade. I gave up underlining the killer bits because my arm began to hurt . . . [They] read like the most concussive monologues and interviews of Chris Rock, Richard Pryor and Dave Chappelle wrapped in a satirical yet surprisingly delicate literary and historical sensibility . . . The jokes come up through your spleen . . . The riffs don't stop coming in this landmark and deeply aware comic novel . . . [It] puts you down in a place that's miles from where it picked you up.” ―Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“[The Sellout] is among the most important and difficult American novels written in the 21st century . . . It is a bruising novel that readers will likely never forget.” ―Kiese Laymon, Los Angeles Times
“Swiftian satire of the highest order . . . Giddy, scathing and dazzling.” ―Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
“The Sellout isn't just one of the most hilarious American novels in years, it also might be the first truly great satirical novel of the century . . . [It] is a comic masterpiece, but it's much more than just that-it's one of the smartest and most honest reflections on race and identity in America in a very long time.” ―Michael Schaub, NPR.org
“Beatty, author of the deservedly highly praised The White Boy Shuffle (1996), here outdoes himself and possibly everybody else in a send-up of race, popular culture, and politics in today's America . . . Beatty hits on all cylinders in a darkly funny, dead-on-target, elegantly written satire . . . [The Sellout] is frequently laugh-out-loud funny and, in the way of the great ones, profoundly thought provoking. A major contribution.” ―Mark Levin, Booklist (starred review)
“The Sellout is brilliant. Amazing. Like demented angels wrote it.” ―Sarah Silverman
“I am glad that I read this insane book alone, with no one watching, because I fell apart with envy, hysterics, and flat-out awe. Is there a more fiercely brilliant and scathingly hilarious American novelist than Paul Beatty?” ―Ben Marcus
“Paul Beatty has always been one of smartest, funniest, gutsiest writers in America, but The Sellout sets a new standard. It's a spectacular explosion of comic daring, cultural provocation, brilliant, hilarious prose, and genuine heart.” ―Sam Lipsyte
About the Author
Paul Beatty is the author of three novels―Slumberland, Tuff, and The White Boy Shuffle―and two books of poetry: Big Bank Take Little Bank and Joker, Joker, Deuce. He is the editor of Hokum: An Anthology of African-American Humor. In 2016, he became the first American to win the Man Booker Prize. He lives in New York City.
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Top Customer Reviews
1) It's not a page-turning, finish-in-one-night kind of book. If you try, you'll miss out. I had to read it over several days, each session giving me a hundred things to think about.
2) When you get anxious for the plot to pick up, think of it as satirical standup, and read it like you'd listen to the comics to which Beatty's compared, namely Dave Chapelle. (If you're thinking of it as a novel instead of as satire, you can lose the thread of hilarity) When you're overwhelmed by the satire, think of it as a novel and try to piece together the experiences that make up Bonbon's character. It's hard to get hold of his character at times, and trying to summarize Bonbon Me's character is a (rewarding) reading experience in and of itself.
3) You may want to have google at hand so you don't miss out on the plethora (this word is on my mind after one particularly funny bit near the end), of cultural and historical references. You might know Plessy v. Ferguson and the scopes trial, but it would be hard, I think, to catch every reference, and the satire depends on them.
4) Yes, it's funny, but not in the LOL way as often as 'that so true it's painful' way. Reading the reviews, I expected to be chuckling every few pages. Instead I had a wry grin every few sentences. Don't let this deter you. The verbs come at the end of sentences so often that you really have to read it at a run if you don't want to lose the thread of what's going on, but I can guarantee the thread is worth catching. In the last few pages of the book, Beatty comes as close to speaking to you plainly as the author as he does in the entire novel, and what he had to say tied the its many disparate observations together perfectly.
But by page 227 his comic inventions were still going strong. Here the protagonist converts the "long out-of-business brushless car wash" in his L.A. ghetto into a "tunnel of whiteness" for the local children, with "several race wash options:"
Benefit of the Doubt
Higher Life Expectancy
Lower Insurance Premiums
Regular Whiteness Plus
Warnings instead of Arrests from the Police
Decent Seats at Concerts and Sporting Events
World Revolves Around You and Your Concerns
Super Deluxe Whiteness:
Deluxe Whiteness Plus Jobs with Annual Bonuses
Military Service Is for Suckers
Legacy Admission to College of Your Choice
Therapists That Listen
Boats That You Never Use
All Vices and Bad Habits Referred to as "Phases"
Not Responsible for Scratches, Dents, and Items Left in the Subconscious
By "dense," I mean that almost every sentence contains a comic explosion, a twist, something that leaves you breathless or laughing out loud. Who does that? I thought of Barry Hannah, a Southern writer now gone. I think Hannah would have admired Beatty and recognized a literary kinsman. Also, something about Beatty's writing seemed to come from African-American oratory, its ornateness maybe, like Stanley Crouch's writing about jazz, but it wasn't self-conscious. Certainly the point of view was uniquely African-American, and I'm sure as a white reader I missed some of the inside humor. But plenty hit home with me, and would with almost any other half-alert citizen of this great land.
Speaking of which: this is a horrible time in our culture—with everyone's cell phones recording the underbelly of brutal racist policing, with political reactionaries running amok—to be attempting satire. It damn well better be funny. Beatty succeeds with a scenario that's not only side-splitting but right up to the minute. (I'm tempted to give more examples but will forbear) He's brilliant. (He's also profane and vulgar, as how could he not be? The n-word alone is used probably 1000 times)
Chris Rock can be devastatingly funny sometimes. Key & Peele can be outrageously funny sometimes. Making a barb leap off the written page is harder. As one critic said: Beatty can reduce a sacred cow to hamburger with one sentence.