Summary and book reviews of Slumberland by Paul Beatty

Slumberland

A Novel

By Paul Beatty

Slumberland
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: Jun 2008,
    256 pages.
    Paperback: Aug 2009,
    256 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Amy Reading

Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

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 man’s 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 city’s dreamy streets ruminating about race, sex, love, Teutonic gods, the prevent defense, and Wynton Marsalis in search of his artistic—and spiritual—other. 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.

PART 1
THE BEARD SCRATCHERS
CHAPTER 1

You would think they’d be used to me by now. I mean, don’t 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 doesn’t 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 ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About This Guide

These discussion questions are designed to enhance your group's conversation about Slumberland, a jazzy novel about one DJ's quest for the perfect beat in post–Cold War Berlin.


About this book

Ferguson Sowell, aka DJ Darky, wants to create the sonic Mona Lisa: a song that will bring together every partygoer with an irresistible toe-tapping beat. He debuts his near-perfect beat to his music collective, the Beard Scratchers, and they all agree that the song is only missing one thing: a guest appearance by a man they call "the Schwa"—Charles Stone, a legendary jazz player who disappeared to Europe decades ago. DJ Darky has one clue to finding Stone: a pornographic videotape with...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse

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 Members Only (992 words).

Media Reviews
Los Angeles Times - Chris Abani

At its core, Slumberland's sadness is that of a black man cast loose in a universe of whiteness, carrying the pure sorrow of never being seen, and an even deeper sorrow of not being able to see himself. Perhaps this is the point of the glib tone -- that one can never truly get to the heart of a difficult question by using tropes and ideas that, while ringing of personal truth, are riddled with cultural sentimentality.

NPR - Troy Patterson

There are very few novelists with Beatty's swinging sense of play, and none — except maybe fellow freakazoid Thomas Pynchon — with the knowledge and nerve to sample John Keats, Afrika Bambaataa, and From Here to Eternity as he does in this sui generis piece of heartfelt absurdism. Give it a spin.

Washington Post - Kevin Allman

With its dictionary delight mixed with cheerfully raunchy, tossed-off outrageousness, Slumberland is like a trip-hop Myra Breckinridge. (If Myra were plying her libidinous philosophy in contemporary America, it's easy to imagine her, like Sowell, dreaming of a "ménage a noir.") What Gore Vidal did for sex and gender constructs, though, Beatty does for race and prominent black Americans, with sacred cow-tipping on nearly every page.

Publishers Weekly

With its acerbic running commentary on race, sex and Cold War culture, the latest from Beatty,...contains flashes of absurdist brilliance..but the plot seems little more than an excuse to set up a number of comic routines, denying the story a driving, unifying plot.

Library Journal

Beatty's rolling Faulknerian prose has been praised for its "dazzling linguistic flights" (Salon), and this newest novel is no different; the dense imagery and sound create a synesthesia carnival.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. [Beatty is] not a man for half-measures, especially not for half-measures of rhetoric, and he loves nothing more than turning some anodyne myth or ill-considered conventional wisdom inside out and stomping on it for a while. Rhythmically. Marvelous.

Author Blurb Junot Diaz
Furiously written…another bravura performance from the searingly talented Paul Beatty. A no-holds-barred comedic romp that crushes through the Fulda Gap of Black/White, East/West relationships like an M1 tank.

Reader Reviews
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

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 ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Slumberland, try these:

  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao jacket

    The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

    by Junot Diaz

    Published Feb 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight, lovesick Dominican ghetto nerd. Oscar dreams of becoming the Dominican J. R. R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the Fukœ - the curse that has haunted Oscar's family for generations.

  • The Fortress of Solitude jacket

    The Fortress of Solitude

    by Jonathan Lethem

    Published Feb 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    'A vibrant, sometimes heartbreaking ballad of Brooklyn...prose as supple as silk and as bright, explosive and illuminating as fireworks.'

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    The Stranger on the Train
    by Abbie Taylor
    The opening chapter of Abbie Taylor's debut novel, The Stranger on the Train, took me right back to ...
  • Book Jacket
    Night Film
    by Marisha Pessl
    One of the central tenets of Hinduism states that the world as we know it is just an illusion –...
  • Book Jacket: Complicit
    Complicit
    by Stephanie Kuehn
    When seventeen year-old Jamie Henry receives word that his older sister Cate, is being released from...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The City
by Dean Koontz

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  27Tomlinson Hill:
    Chris Tomlinson

All Discussions

Who Said...

The less we know, the longer our explanations

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

O O T F P, Into T F

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.