Paul Beatty’s The Sellout begins with the titular character, a young black man from an “agrarian ghetto” near LA, on trial before the US Supreme Court for reinstating slavery and segregation in his community. What ensues is the story of how he got there.
Wow. Just wow. Why hadn’t I heard of Paul Beatty before? This might not only be my favourite Booker winner of the past few years but one of my favourite of all time. Insanely intellectual and uproariously funny. Seriously guys, I lol’ed, several times. See below:
“...no one knows anything definitive about Hitler other than he was the quintessential asshole, humourless, and a frustrated artist, though you could say that about almost anyone.” (pg. 148)
This is hard and fast satire right off the bat – immensely topical so even if you’ve never been to the States you can recognise the caricatured world that Beatty brings into being. I’m not surprised to see this as the first Booker winner from the US.
This is by no means an easy read – and I’m not just talking about subject matter. I was barely able to process one idea before Beatty moved on to the next. You have to stay sharp to get the most out of this one. I’ll probably need to re-read it at least one more time to get the whole picture. But don’t let that turn you off. Please please please read this one.