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The Sellout

by Paul Beatty

The Sellout by Paul Beatty X
The Sellout by Paul Beatty
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2015, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2016, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

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Phyllis from Michigan

Satire or tragicomedy?
As a white reader I do not feel adequate to review the satire, wit, humor, and irony displayed in this novel or the stereotypical behavior of black culture, politics, and entertainment which are all tackled by the author in flashbacks, other than the Prologue and Closure. I read this during MLK weekend and during the appearance of The Slants before the Supreme Court which in turn influenced my review. The setting is the "agrarian ghetto" in Dickens, CA supposedly based on actual documents from Compton, CA in which the narrator (Me or Bonbon) tries to reestablish slavery and segregated schools and buses. This white reader in Trump Nation has decided to be more open to racial references and their needs, but post- racial America is a distant dream.
raj

supz
Superb.
Cloggie Downunder

Very entertaining.
The Sellout is the fourth novel by award-winning American author, Paul Beatty. It won the Man Booker Prize in 2016. Our narrator is the son of a psychologist by the name of Mee (who has dropped the second “e”). Until his untimely and unfortunate death at the hands of the Los Angeles Police, his father was known as the Nigger Whisper for his ability to talk down coloured folk attempting suicide, a role that has been thrust upon the narrator by default.

Since his father’s death, he manages their farm in a suburban area of LA once known as the City of Dickens. A talented farmer, he grows, among other cash crops, square watermelons and pot, and his uniquely delicious produce is very popular locally. In the prologue, we find him summoned to appear before the Supreme Court of USA on charges of racial segregation and slavery.

Although our narrator’s name is never mentioned, he is referred to by one character as The Sellout, and bears the nickname Bonbon from his performance in a school spelling bee. Beatty gives the reader a cast of quirky characters that includes a former child-actor, the Assistant Principal of the Chaff Middle School, a female bus driver and a has-been TV personality who rewrites classic texts into blackly correct books.

A former city is re-established via Freeway signs and a three-inch-wide white painted border. Meetings of the Dum Dum Donuts Intellectuals are the forum for black ideas and our protagonist employs a sort of reverse psychology that ends up in a resegregation push. He also provides novel take on blackface entertainment.

One World have produced editions of Beatty’s four novel with themed covers and this one has a lawn jockey with a gas lamp on the cover, the significance of which becomes clear in the text. This satire has been described as brilliant, outrageous, demented, hilarious and profound, all succinct and accurate descriptors. Very entertaining.
Tired Bookreader

Exhausting
This book did contain an interesting story; however, it was exhausting to read Paul's ramblings and run-on sentences that seemed to continue for days. Many times I realized I was seeing words but thinking of anything else.

I did not enjoy reading the book, but the story will stay with me.
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