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Slumberland : a novel by Paul Beatty
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Slumberland : a novel (edition 2008)

by Paul Beatty

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11619103,358 (3.4)16
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Title:Slumberland : a novel
Authors:Paul Beatty
Info:New York : Distributed to the trade by Macmillan, 2008.
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Slumberland by Paul Beatty

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Like his jazz-cat heroes whose names pop up throughout "Slumberland," Paul Beatty doesn't write as much as riff. "Slumberland" is a story about a Los Angeles hip-hop dweeb and turntablist savant who decamps to Berlin in the late eighties in search of a phenomenally talented, long-missing jazzman named Charles Stone. If you'll read it, though, you'll also get acquainted with what might be Beatty's opinions of Tom Cruise, Wynton Marsalis, techno music, and the hygienic habits of modern Germans. Like a talented soloist, Beatty somehow manages to keep it all together; "Slumberland" is messy, hyperactive, and playful, but it never comes off as sloppy. Beatty's kinetic, often uproariously funny prose – keeps "Slumberland" from becoming a long series of pointless digressions.

Beatty's trying to make his readers laugh,of course, but there's a lot of serious stuff in "Slumberland," too. Beatty's fascinated by American blackness and his decision to situate his story in Berlin lets him play with this theme in some interesting and unexpected ways. Offhand, I can't think of another novel with a beautiful, biracial East German dancer in it. Situating his novel in this world-altering time and space lets both Beatty and his characters consider whether race, which is to say, blackness, is still a useful category in a constantly transforming world. The answer they come up with is "yes," and much of that has to do with black music. It's not surprising, then, that Beatty also nails the mania that drives DJs and music nerds in general to find the coolest, most obscure sounds they can find, and even manages to even write about the experience of listening to music without resorting to journalistic cliché or vague superlatives, and that's a lot harder than it sounds. I can't imagine that "Slumberland" will be everyone's thing, but it's fierce, funny, and a whole lot more profound than you'd figure. Recommended. ( )
  TheAmpersand | Mar 31, 2012 |
I sipped my beer, the second-best beer I'd ever had,* and asked the question I imagined all great artists ask themselves before engaging in the creative process: "Is there a God?" I weighed the arguments pro (Hawaiian surf, Welch's grape juice, koala bears, worn-in Levi's, the northern lights, the Volvo station wagon, women with braces, the Canadian Rockies, Godard, Nerf footballs, Shirley Chisholm's smile, free checking, and Woody Allen) and con (flies, Alabama, religion, chihuahuas, chihuahua owners, my mother's cooking, airplane turbulence, LL Cool J, Mondays how boring heaven must fucking be, and Woody Allen), not so much to prove or disprove the existence of a powerless almighty, but to engage my increasingly tipsy thought process with so much conscious prattle that an idea might strike me when I wasn't looking*The first being a Budweiser tall boy I'd snuck into the Mothers Against Drunk Driving fundraiser. (p79) ( )
  lieslmayerson | Jan 31, 2010 |
I sipped my beer, the second-best beer I'd ever had,* and asked the question I imagined all great artists ask themselves before engaging in the creative process: "Is there a God?" I weighed the arguments pro (Hawaiian surf, Welch's grape juice, koala bears, worn-in Levi's, the northern lights, the Volvo station wagon, women with braces, the Canadian Rockies, Godard, Nerf footballs, Shirley Chisholm's smile, free checking, and Woody Allen) and con (flies, Alabama, religion, chihuahuas, chihuahua owners, my mother's cooking, airplane turbulence, LL Cool J, Mondays how boring heaven must fucking be, and Woody Allen), not so much to prove or disprove the existence of a powerless almighty, but to engage my increasingly tipsy thought process with so much conscious prattle that an idea might strike me when I wasn't looking*The first being a Budweiser tall boy I'd snuck into the Mothers Against Drunk Driving fundraiser. (p79) ( )
  lieslmayerson | Jan 31, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Not quite finished with this book yet, but I'm liking it so far. Falls into the trap of being a bit of narcissistic self-loathing narrator who-is-relentlessly-clever, which I feel like I've read over and over again, but at least this book is full of charm and hilarity to compensate. Beatty writes fantastically well about hip-hop and jazz and music in general: the enthusiasm just jumps off the page. The music is elusive but palatable in the text, and totally in a good way. I may end up bumping up my review to four stars if the book keeps up the, well, beats. ( )
  gwalklin | Nov 21, 2009 |
A funny, smart and oftimes outlandish satire of African-American culture. Beatty skewers artistic snobbery while having a lark with American style, even though the story takes place in Berlin during the Wall collapse. Happily surprised by this book. ( )
  jwcooper3 | Nov 15, 2009 |
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"DJ Darky has created the perfect beat. But his sonic Mona Lisa needs one last touch of genius, and only one man can provide it: Charles Stone, an avant garde jazzman nicknamed the Schwa because his sound, like the indeterminate vowel, is unstressed, upside down, and backward." "There's only one problem: nobody knows where the reclusive Schwa is hiding out. This is, until a porn producer hands Darky the most beautiful, transformative score he's ever heard. The return address is simply "Slumberland Bar, Berlin." Convinced the music couldn't have been created by anyone but the Schwa, Darky sets off to Germany to search of his artistic - and spiritual - other. Before long, he loses himself in the dreamy streets of Berlin in the period surrounding the fall of the Wall, ruminating about race, sex, love, Teutonic gods, the prevent defense, and the rise and fall of the black man, while trying to locate the Schwa and make sense of the changing world around him."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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