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Paul Beatty

Author of The Sellout

11+ Works 4,481 Members 161 Reviews 11 Favorited

About the Author

Paul Beatty was born in Los Angeles, California in 1962. He received an MFA in creative writing from Brooklyn College and an MA in psychology from Boston University. In 1990, he became the first Grand Poetry Slam Champion of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. One of the prizes for winning was the book deal, show more which resulted in his first collection of poetry, Big Bank Takes Little Bank. His novels include The White Boy Shuffle, Tuff, and Slumberland. The Sellout won the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award in Fiction and the 2016 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: www.dentontaylor.com Brooklyn Lit Festival 2008

Works by Paul Beatty

The Sellout (2015) 3,132 copies
The White Boy Shuffle (1996) 706 copies
Tuff (2000) 241 copies
Slumberland (2009) 220 copies
Joker, Joker, Deuce (1994) 68 copies
Hokum: An Anthology of African-American Humor (2006) — Editor — 64 copies
Heron Fleet (2013) 3 copies
O Vendido (2017) 2 copies
Children of Fire (2017) 1 copy

Associated Works

African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle and Song (2020) — Contributor — 162 copies
Granta 53: News (1996) — Contributor — 124 copies
California Uncovered: Stories For The 21st Century (2005) — Contributor — 32 copies


Common Knowledge



A wild ride, demolishing racist tropes and stereotypes and attitudes, often by inflating them until they explode. Hilarious at times. It starts off a little angular & uninviting. But it quickly presents a layer of humanity for the vulnerable, kinda passive, somewhat defeated, protagonist. Ultimately it is rich, funny and a little uncomfortable.
thisisstephenbetts | 126 other reviews | Nov 25, 2023 |
I think this is probably quite a good book. I think satire is also quite hit-and-miss. It's especially tough if one is from a different culture entirely than the satirist! So, while I think I appreciate Beatty's highly-acclaimed book, I didn't understand a lot of it. Perhaps one day I shall. But seems pretty cool overall.
therebelprince | 126 other reviews | Oct 24, 2023 |
I sampled this on Kindle and it's clearly a deftly written satire. As a white chick from the suburbs I feel like reading the whole thing and waxing poetic about its brilliance would be another form of condescension or appropriation. Disrespectful, somehow. At the very least, it would be like laughing at jokes I don't truly understand and partly suspect - or know full well - are making fun of me. I feel pretty well-aware of how fucked up things are in this country; my time is better spent trying to understand how I can help change them, not merely commiserating and pretending I "get it."… (more)
Kim.Sasso | 126 other reviews | Aug 27, 2023 |
Yeah, nah, sorry. This book just didn't do it for me. I guess that's maybe since I'm not black or American and I have recently become really fed up with American politics. So the satire didn't really resonate with me because it seemed that it was saying stuff that was either obvious, or that just passed me by. Maybe if I was up to my neck in all that stuff it would have been more engaging.

There are also a number of technical flaws. Although the one liners are good, structurally the plot just feels like it's there to set up those gags. None of the characters seem to grow or develop, there is no dramatic tension and it's not clear what the characters want, or how they're unsatisfied with what they have. And when they do want something, they seem to get hold of it by chance as much as by effort. They're also not likeable. The protagonist and narrator lacks warmth and the characters around him aren't so much larger-than-life as overdrawn.

I found the writing pretty ugly. I shall give three examples, with commentary, to illustrate my point:

"On the wall behind him were two framed, poster-size photos, one of a variety box of insanely puffy and succulent-looking donuts that looked nothing like the shrivelled-up lumps, so-called fresh pastries hardening before my eyes in the display case behind me."
Ignore the fact that shop-bought donuts are not shrivelled up lumps, and the ugliness of "so-called" there, and the fact that fresh pastries do, in fact, harden. The real question is how can something happen before your eyes in a display case behind you. I really wondered if this was part of the satire, but I can't see how it's deliberate. I think it's just a laughably bad description. Presumably it was impatiently typed out on the way to the next joke.

"For black people 'too many Mexicans' is the excuse we, the historically most documented workers in history, give ourselves for attending racist rallies protesting the undocumented workers..."
I mean, sure, maybe this doubling up of "history" is deliberate, but a) it's a very bad sign that a reader could suspect that it's not, because the writing is so consistently sloppy and b) if it's deliberate, what is it there for? There doesn't seem to be an interpretation where it's deliberate other than just because repetition is sometimes funny.

"She should've known that while 250 poor colored kids getting inferior education will never be front-page news, the denial of even one white student access to a decent education would create a media shit storm"
OK, I find "shit storm" as two words ugly - especially in the same sentence as "should've" - but that's probably just a matter of personal preference. The real problem here is the sentiment. Firstly, it's almost certainly wrong - new data about poor school performance for minorities could certainly make the front page - but secondly, even as hyperbole it doesn't especially work because the sentiment is so obvious. It's really only one step away from "why don't the media ever report good news?" In this regard it's not reflective of the book as a whole in that some ideas put forward are quite sophisticated, but it is reflective of its inconsistency. There is a sense that the writer didn't leave any jokes out, no matter whether he even agreed with the sentiment or if it changes the tone or derails the narrative thread of a scene.

There's no doubt that this book has quality. It wouldn't have won the Booker Prize if it didn't, but I'm afraid it was mostly lost on me.
… (more)
robfwalter | 126 other reviews | Jul 31, 2023 |



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