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The Sellout
The first book by an American author to win the prestigious Man Booker Prize.
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How does Paul Beatty use tragicomedy to bring reality and absurdity into focus?

Created: 01/24/17

Replies: 7

Posted Jan. 24, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
renem

Join Date: 12/01/16

Posts: 88

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How does Paul Beatty use tragicomedy to bring reality and absurdity into focus?

Paul Beatty said that he isn't comfortable with labeling THE SELLOUT a satire; many of the novel's cartoonish elements are stuped in realism.


Posted Jan. 25, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
poornimaa

Join Date: 05/16/12

Posts: 52

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RE: How does Paul Beatty use tragicomedy to bring reality and absurdity into focus?

Hi everyone,

I confess I wasn't entirely sure what tragicomedy meant but it is exactly as written, elements of both tragedy and comedy. So I am not sure if this means these are elements within the satire because the novel seemed like satire to me (at least I hope it was). At the same time, the use of satire distanced me from becoming a part of the narrative. I felt like it was someone else's bizarre story unfolding, not my own. Which was different from the prologue which pulled me into the narrative better, in my opinion.

Did you all find yourselves at a remove from the story as well? I suspect it's not just my skin color but also the use of satire that made me feel this way...


Posted Jan. 25, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
renem

Join Date: 12/01/16

Posts: 88

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RE: How does Paul Beatty use tragicomedy to bring reality and absurdity into focus?

I honestly didn't know what to expect from this book. The comedy was what allowed the absurdity to be accepted as part of the story and frankly was what kept me reading. Without the comedy, the reality would have been too harsh.


Posted Feb. 02, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
jww

Join Date: 05/31/11

Posts: 138

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RE: How does Paul Beatty use tragicomedy to bring reality and absurdity into focus?

He uses tragicomedy to make the unpalatable palatable. When tragedy is wrapped in satire or humor, you can swallow easier.


Posted Feb. 14, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
beckys

Join Date: 08/12/16

Posts: 6

RE: How does Paul Beatty use tragicomedy to bring reality and absurdity into focus?

It's a good way to make us look at ourselves a little more closely.. yes, we laugh, but if it doesn't make us feel a little uncomfortable, then it hasn't done it's job.


Posted Feb. 14, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
N*Starr

Join Date: 03/13/14

Posts: 35

RE: How does Paul Beatty use tragicomedy to bring reality and absurdity into focus?

I like the idea of tragicomedy, because that seems to help me understand the book. It is sold as a comedy, but I didn't find myself laughing out loud but I did find myself wondering about the absurdity of it all. I must admit that I felt like much of what the author was trying to say went over my head. But I did find myself wondering how the heck did we get here? A black man owning an older black man as a slave, but the slave cost him money... it had a feeling of complete absurdity and yet also felt real?


Posted Feb. 14, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
poornimaa

Join Date: 05/16/12

Posts: 52

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RE: How does Paul Beatty use tragicomedy to bring reality and absurdity into focus?

This is a great point. I too wondered about the long arc of history that drives this novel: how did we get here? Why does this seem even remotely plausible?


Posted Feb. 16, 2017 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
MattGrant

Join Date: 12/06/16

Posts: 4

RE: How does Paul Beatty use tragicomedy to bring reality and absurdity into focus?

I think it's definitely a satire, but that doesn't mean that it can't still be stuped in realism. Saturday Night Live is satirizing the Trump administration every week but many of their jokes and sketches are just repeating exactly what political characters have said, verbatim. That's sort of what satire is; cartoonish elements that have realistic grounding.

In the same way as SNAL, The Sellout uses actual issues and events, often through the lens of comedy, to highlight problems of race in America. I'm surprised Beatty doesn't want it to be called satire, because I think it's one of the best.


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