Hailed by the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times as one of the best writers of his generation, Paul Beatty turns his incisive eye to mans search for meaning and identity in an increasingly chaotic world. After creating the perfect beat, DJ Darky goes in search of Charles Stone, a little-known avant-garde jazzman, to play over his sonic masterpiece. His quest brings him to a recently unified Berlin, where he stumbles through the citys dreamy streets ruminating about race, sex, love, Teutonic gods, the prevent defense, and Wynton Marsalis in search of his artisticand spiritualother. Ferocious, bombastic, and laugh-out-loud funny, Slumberland is vintage Paul Beatty and belongs on the shelf next to Jonathan Lethem, Colson Whitehead, and Junot Diaz.
THE BEARD SCRATCHERS
You would think theyd be used to me by now. I mean, dont they know that after fourteen hundred years the charade of blackness is over? That we blacks, the once eternally hip, the people who were as right now as Greenwich Mean Time, are, as of today, as yesterday as stone tools, the velocipede, and the paper straw all rolled into one? The Negro is now officially human. Everyone, even the British, says so. It doesnt matter whether anyone truly believes it; we are as mediocre and mundane as the rest of the species. The restless souls of our dead are now free to be who they really are underneath that modern primitive patina. Josephine Baker can take the bone out of her nose, her knock-kneed skeleton back to its original allotment of 206. The lovelorn ghost of Langston Hughes can set down his Montblanc fountain pen (a gift) and open his mouth wide. Not to recite his rhyming populist verse, but to lick and suck some ...
If you prefer fleshed-out, psychologically rich characters and a gratifying plot, this is not the book for you. Slumberland is, rather, a book of ideas in fictional form. It is intensely thought-provoking and never has time to be dull as it races through itself. It makes you work to wrap your mind around racial politics in post-unification Berlin and the relationship between race and aesthetic form. And it ends on a note that even DJ Darky, with his phonographic memory, could not have anticipated.
(Reviewed by Amy Reading).
Full Review (992 words).
Unless you are exactly as hip as Paul Beatty, Slumberland is rife with
Googlable moments, as DJ Darky riffs about jazz and hip-hop and funk. Here are
some of the references that anchor the plot.
Sixteen hours into a marathon rave, DJ Darky reaches into his crate and pulls out a record that a fellow DJ fears will stir a riot among a bunch of white frat boys expecting industrial music rather than South Bronx hip-hop. The song that he plays is Stezo's "It's My Turn," which was all over the radio in the summer of 1989. It seems utterly quaint and tame in retrospect: "Extra extra, read all about it / It's me Stezo that has been doubted / I came to make you move and groove and get down / There's no way that the crowd can sit ...
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