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The Sellout

af Paul Beatty

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"Raised in the "agrarian ghetto" of Dickens--improbably smack in the middle of downtown L.A.--the narrator of The Sellout resigned himself to the fate of all other middle-class Californians: "to die in the same bedroom you'd grown up in, looking up at the crack in the stucco ceiling that had been there since '68 quake." Raised by a single father, a controversial sociologist at Riverside Community College, he spent his childhood as the subject in psychological studies, classic experiments revised to include a racially-charged twist. He also grew up believing this pioneering work might result in a memoir that would solve their financial woes. But when his father is killed in a shoot out with the police, he realizes there never was a memoir. All that's left is the bill for a drive-thru funeral and some maudlin what-ifs. Fuelled by this injustice and the general disrepair of his down-trodden hometown, he sets out to right another wrong: Dickens has literally been removed from the map to save California further embarrassment. Enlisting the help of the town's most famous resident--the last surviving Little Rascal, Hominy Jenkins, our narrator initiates a course of action--one that includes reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school--destined to bring national attention. These outrageous events land him with a law suit heard by the Supreme Court, the latest in a series of cases revolving around the thorny issue of race in America. The Sellout showcases a comic genius at the top of his game. It challenges the most sacred tenets of the U.S. Constitution, urban life, the civil rights movement, the father-son relationship, and the holy grail of racial equality--the black Chinese restaurant"-- "A biting satire about a young man's isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court"--… (mere)
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I've finished The Sellout by Paul Beatty, Man Booker winner this year, which is like Dave Chappelle (SNL) on steroids. The story of a "nigger-whisperer" and farmer from a small black enclave in LA called Dickens. As a "crisis negotiator, "I found myself in my pajamas, at least once a week, standing barefoot in an apartment complex courtyard, bullhorn in hand, staring up at some distraught, partially hotcombed-headed mother dangling her baby over a second-floor balcony ledge. When my father did the whispering...every payday he'd be inundated by teeming hordes of the bipolar poor, who having spent it all in one place, and grown tired and unsated from the night's notoriously shitty prime-time television lineup, would unwedge themselves from between the couch-bound obese family members and the boxes of unsold Avon beauty products, turn off the kitchen radio pumping song after song extolling the virtues of Friday nights living it up at the club, popping bottles, niggers and cherries in that order, then having canceled the next day's appointment with their mental health care professional, the chatterbox cosmetologist, who after years doing heads, still knows only one hairstyle--fried, dyed and laid to the wide--they'd choose that Friday, 'day of Venus,' goddess of love, beauty and unpaid bills, to commit suicide, murder, or both. But under my watch people tended to snap on Wednesday. Hump day."

This book took me a long time to get into, to get used to his language and craziness and a feeling of not wanting to be there at all, but now I look up at my favorite quotes and marvel at Beatty's creativity and smack-on descriptions and realize he is a winner. At times, I was thinking of Tom Robbins or J. P. Donleavy - you can see I don't keep up with today's comic writers much - because his plots and situations seemed so outlandish and out-of-my-world and they may be, but his is a formidable talent for writing. I am with him. The book club was not, only one other liked it. More favorite quotes:

"Most times there's so much Nina Simone 'Mississippi Goddam' despondency in the night air it becomes hard to focus. The deep purple contusions about the face and arms...And invariably, softly in the background, billowing the curtains through the parted sliding glass doors, there's always Nina Simone. These are the women my father warned me about. The drug-and-asshole-addled women who sit in the dark, hard up and lovesick, chain-smoking cigarettes, phones pressed to their ear, speed-dialing K-Earth 101 FM, the oldies station, so they can request Nina Simone or the Shirelles' 'This is Dedicated to the One I Love' aka 'This is Dedicated to Niggers That Beat Me Senseless and Leave.' Stay away from bitches who love Nina Simone and have faggots for best friends,' he'd say, 'They hate men.' "

"That's the problem with history, we like to think it's a book--that we can turn the page and move the fuck on. But history isn't the paper it's printed on. It's memory, and memory is time, emotions, and song. History is the things that stay with you." p.115

"You never see people in commercials that look 'Jewish,' just as you never see black people that come off as 'urban' and hence 'scary,' or handsome Asian men, or dark-skinned Latinos.. you see more ads featuring unicorns and leprechauns than you do gay men and women...But if you really think about it, the only thing you absolutely never see in car commercials isn't Jewish people, homosexuals or urban Negroes, it's traffic." p. 139

Sister Cities. "Some unions, like that of Tel Aviv and Berlin, Paris and Algiers, Honolulu and Hiroshima, are designed to signal an end to hostilities and the beginning of peace and prosperity. Others are shotgun marriages because one city (e.g.,Atlanta) impregnated another (e.g., Lagos) on a first date...Some cities marry up for money and prestige; others marry down to piss off their mother countries, Guess who's coming for dinner? Kabul! Every now and then, two cities meet and fall in love out of mutual respect and a love for hiking, thunderstorms and classic rock 'n' roll. Think Amsterdam and Istanbul. Buenos Aires and Seoul." p.145

"For the most part in L.A. County you can gauge the threat level of a community by the color of its street signs. In Los Angeles proper the signs are a hollowed-out metallic midnight blue. If a bird's nest constructed of pine needles was tucked inside the sign, it meant evergreen trees and a nearby golf course. Mostly white public-school kids whose parents lived above their means in upper-middle-class neighborhoods like Cheviot Hills, Silver Lake and the Palisades. Bullet holes and a stolen car wrapped around the post signified kids about my hair texture, allowance level, and clothing syle in neighborhoods like Watts, Boyle Heights, and Highland Park. Sky blue signified kick back cool bedroom communities like Santa Monica, Rancho Palos Verdes, and Manhattan Beach. Chill dudes commuting to school by any means necessary from skateboard to hang glider, the good-bye lipstick prints from their trophy-wife mothers still on their cheeks. Carson, Hawthorne, Culver City, South Gate and Torrance are all designated by a working-class cactus green; there the little homies are independent, familiar and multilingual. Fluent in Hispanic, black, and Samoan gang signs. In Hermosa Beach, La Mirada and Duarte the street signs are the bland brown of cheap blended malt whiskey. The boys and girls mope their way to school, depressed and drowsy, past the hacienda-style tract housing. The sparkling white signs denote Beverly Hills, of course. Exceedingly wide hilly streets lined with rich kids unthreatened by my appearance. Assuming that if I was there I belonged. Asking me about the tension of my tennis racquets. Schooling me on the blues, the history of hip-hop, Rastafarianism, the Coptic Church, jazz, gospel, and the myriad of ways in which a sweet potato can be prepared." p. 191

"Daddy never believed in closure. He said it was a false psychological concept. Something invented by therapists to assuage white Western guilt. In all his years of study and practice, he'd never heard a patient of color talk of needing 'closure.' They needed revenge. They needed distance. Forgiveness and a good lawyer, maybe, but never closure. He said people mistake suicide, murder, lap band surgery, interracial marriage, and overtipping for closure, when in reality what they've achieved is erasure." p. 261

( )
  featherbooks | May 7, 2024 |
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 | Apr 21, 2024 |
It's a smart book, but novel-length satire just isn't my bag. You know, it's enough already. ( )
  lelandleslie | Feb 24, 2024 |
This is a tragicomic tour-de-force. ( )
  ben_r47 | Feb 22, 2024 |
The opening of Paul Beatty's "The Sellout" could be the most shocking beginning for a novel I have ever read, or am likely to read. I started laughing -- out-loud --from the get-go and didn't finish until 288 pages later. He gives me passages as funny as some of the best in John Barth's "The Sot-Weed Factor," Sterne's "Tristram Shandy," "Candide," "The Yawning Heights" by Alexander Zinoviev, even the greatest of them all, Cervantes' "Don Quixote."

It is so shocking partially because of the language, as bald and brash as the toughest rap, and flying across conventions of polite society like black fly season in Northern Ontario. It stings and it really hurts.

Beatty's anti-hero, variously called Bon-Bon, Me, and "The Sellout" is like a blackface Thomas Jefferson in modern-day Los Angeles: a farmer, a slave-owner, and an erudite provocateur. A true Californian proud of his sweet fruit. And hilariously proud of his genetically-modified watermellons. I told you it stings!

Angry that the County of Los Angeles has amalgamated his neighbourhood, Dickens, he sets on a path of renewal by reintroducing segregation into the American way of life. Really apartheid. And his plans succeed when poor black youth show growing school test scores and neighbourhood institutions show a revival.

I can tell you from first hand experience that Americans do not like to think of their great political experiment as a failure. Beatty shoves it in their faces.

Given the current turn of events in the US Government, Beatty's contention that integration doesn't work, that white Americans don't like Mexicans, Asians, Aboriginal Americans any more than black Americans rings true. Especially that so many white Americans count themselves at the bottom of the body politic.

Integration never sufficiently answered the biggest questions asked of a contemporary black American: who am I? How do I become myself?

Not just questions for black Americans, or Angelenos. Great questions for us all.

If a certain sadness pervades the novel, it could almost be read as a requiem for the Obama years where so much anticipation was built up only to be deflated by an intransigent Republican Congress. ( )
  MylesKesten | Jan 23, 2024 |
Viser 1-5 af 131 (næste | vis alle)
tilføjet af sgw160 | RedigerNew York Review of Books, Darryl Pinckney (Dec 22, 2016)
 
But somehow, 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.
 

» Tilføj andre forfattere (5 mulige)

Forfatter navnRolleHvilken slags forfatterVærk?Status
Paul Beattyprimær forfatteralle udgaverberegnet
Bruce, ElizabethRedaktørmedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Onayemi, PrenticeFortællermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
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"Raised in the "agrarian ghetto" of Dickens--improbably smack in the middle of downtown L.A.--the narrator of The Sellout resigned himself to the fate of all other middle-class Californians: "to die in the same bedroom you'd grown up in, looking up at the crack in the stucco ceiling that had been there since '68 quake." Raised by a single father, a controversial sociologist at Riverside Community College, he spent his childhood as the subject in psychological studies, classic experiments revised to include a racially-charged twist. He also grew up believing this pioneering work might result in a memoir that would solve their financial woes. But when his father is killed in a shoot out with the police, he realizes there never was a memoir. All that's left is the bill for a drive-thru funeral and some maudlin what-ifs. Fuelled by this injustice and the general disrepair of his down-trodden hometown, he sets out to right another wrong: Dickens has literally been removed from the map to save California further embarrassment. Enlisting the help of the town's most famous resident--the last surviving Little Rascal, Hominy Jenkins, our narrator initiates a course of action--one that includes reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school--destined to bring national attention. These outrageous events land him with a law suit heard by the Supreme Court, the latest in a series of cases revolving around the thorny issue of race in America. The Sellout showcases a comic genius at the top of his game. It challenges the most sacred tenets of the U.S. Constitution, urban life, the civil rights movement, the father-son relationship, and the holy grail of racial equality--the black Chinese restaurant"-- "A biting satire about a young man's isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court"--

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