Winner of the 2016 Man Booker Prize for Fiction
Born in Dickens, Los Angeles, the narrator of The Sellout spent his childhood as the subject in his father's racially charged psychological studies. He is told that his father's memoir will solve their financial woes. But when his father is killed, he discovers there never was a memoir.
Fuelled by despair, he sets out to right this wrong with the most outrageous action conceivable: reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school, which lands him in the Supreme Court.
©2015 Paul Beatty (P)2015 Audible, Inc.
"Outrageous, hilarious and profound.... It takes a whole other level of sheer audacity to expose atrocious things through the play of wit.... Juiciness stains every lovely page of Beatty’s mad, marvellous, toothsome book." (Financial Times)
"There's satire and then there's satire, and without question Paul Beatty's caustic third novel, The Sellout, definitely falls into the latter category...brutally honest and very funny." (Independent)
I'm not even entirely sure what this was about in the end. It follows a guy, The Sellout, I can't remember his actual name. But I think it's essentially a novel about race in America and this guy is basically conditioned by his race-obsessed psychologist father into a certain way of thinking though it's clear to him that his father thinks the boy is an idiot. He ends up promoting segregated schooling in his once a town, not a town but now a town again home town of Dickens California. He also keeps an elderly black man as a slave of sorts, visually to the outside he is a slave, but behind closed doors, they're co-dependant friends and the old guy, Hominy, has a BDSM fetish.
I didn't like this book, it made me laugh in places which is always a plus, but it was mostly non-sensical and hard to follow. The audible audio narration by Prentice Onayemi was absolutely excellent. I only finished it because I liked the way he read it.
The prologue was a bit hard for me to grasp in audio form, as the writing was thick (albeit well written). After that it became a much easier listen which was very entertaining, interesting characters. I had to keep reminding myself this is set in current time which is challenging, it revealed a lot of my naivety about how prevalent racism still is.
"Slim pickin's Man Booker year if this won"
Boy, it must have been a rubbish year if this won the Man Booker prize. I found it a precocious, overly wordy, mish mash of thrown together ideas that goes nowhere. The kind of thing that your neighbours young daughter would bring home and you'd have to force yourself to say, "that's amazing honey", through gritted teeth. Or a first year uni students essay chock full of every idea and clever retort they'd learnt or heard. Trying too hard to impress. I got - what I thought was a third of the way through - when it suddenly ended! I thought I must have stopped the recording by mistake, but no, it just stops. Maybe Paul has been on too much of the weed he obviously thinks is so cool. Poor structure, no attempt at resolution of anything. Just a book full of oh so smart remarks.
Admittedly a difficult book to read out loud. I did find all the mofo-ing and 'attitude' got in the way of the telling. As well as the ridiculously overly wordy nature of the book. Maybe it would work better read, rather than read out loud.
Maybe it just wasn't my cup of tea, not in the US (let alone L.A.). Some people obviously like it - but not me. I found the way it was written grating.
"A clever, enjoyable satire on racism in todays USA"
To be honest, I would never have read this novel if it had not been shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker Prize. But don't, whatever you do, be put off by the curse of the 'prize-nominated 'literary fiction' moniker. This is an absolute gem, to be savoured and read slowly, for the pleasure of clever, witty, thought-provoking prose and a plethora ( a word highlighted in the novel) of bittersweet and some downright nasty characters. The narration is excellent and the plot is well developed taking the notion of post-modern slavery/racism and running with it, in all sorts of directions. I'm so glad I listened and I will listen to it again.
"Self-absorbed and rambling with no real focus"
This was a chore from start to finish. Some fascinating points about race in America were addressed but sadly in a convoluted and demented way. The absurdist / surreal approach used to tell the story was at once both unfocused and unnecessarily longwinded.
Writing is super creative and funny but story is quite boring - and yes I get that it's satire. Just not great. Couldn't wait for it to be over, but occasional hilarious lines keep it going, barely.
"Does not work too well as an audiobook"
Well, I wanted to read it and now I have. But apart from a few good laughs I cannot say it enriched me very much (but perhaps I am not the ideal audience for this book).
He has the perfect voice to be the main character: fast, witty, arrogant and careless. It just
see question 1
It somehow did not work for me as an audiobook. It is clearly very well written and perhaps with a hard copy I could have followed the storyline better, but now I felt lost quite often and at the same time had the feeling that nothing much was happening...as if it was a collection of anecdotes rather than a clear story (which I like audiobooks to be).
The narrator was excellent and some funny moments but a weak story with no sound narrative
"Racism has no humor or race it is just racist"
306 pages of racist talk and racist ideas is not my idea of humor, I know many loved this book specialty identity politics promoters that would swallow sewage to make a point that is the reverse of what they consider to be racist if said by a person of a different colour: for me that is the test if any one race and only that race can speak or write it, it is racist, language and expression belongs to all and is not to be compartmentalized by race but by humanity.
If a writer of other ethnicity had written this she or he would have been accused of all kinds of crimes. I find it uncomfortable and ugly no matter who wrote it, the funy never even touched me.
"Not exactly a page turner"
Not my thing really. Though I dare say clever, I found it hard work, slow, and the voice miserable. I was tempted to give up after an hour but for some reason I continued to the end. I had to listen in small chunks because I would often find after a while I'd realise I hadn't been listening for ages and was lost in thought.
"Well written but a little disappointing"
Before reading this book, I knew only a few things about it. I know it won the Booker prize and was the first American novel to do so. I had also been given a gist of the story that turned out to be highly misleading. The most common way I heard it described was that it was about a black man who runs a watermelon and weed farm and who brings back slavery to run it, which leads to him going to the supreme court to defend his case, and that the entire thing was a racial satire. While all of that is technically true, it's not in any way what the story is really about and is more a series of minor details.
The protagonist of the book is a black man and his occupation is being a farmer of watermelons and weed (which he is very good at) but the story is about his entire life, not about the farm. A large portion covers his childhood in the fictional town of Dickens (somewhere in the Los Angeles metropolitan area and could be considered analogous to places like Compton or Watts) with his well-educated, black supremacist father. For the most part, the plot is just the day-to-day life of the comical cast of characters. The part about the protagonist bringing back slavery isn't really true. He owns one slave, but it's a person who wants to be a slave and doesn't do any work. The Supreme Court segments are exclusively at the start and end of the book and there are no court battles or arguments on the subject.
I do think the book was funny. It's definitely got some pretty original takes on the idea of race in America that don't fall squarely into what anyone could call "liberal" or "conservative" and the lead character is quite idiosyncratic. He's also highly skeptical and cynical of pretty much everyone around him, and a lot of the humour comes from his sardonic opinions on other characters, which were always enjoyable.
I feel like I might have enjoyed this more if I had different expectations on what the story was about, so I'm hoping to dispel these common misleading descriptors for anyone else. Just be aware that there is little in the way of plot and that it's a story first and foremost about its characters and you'll probably enjoy it a lot more.
I do have to commend the reader though, who I thought did an excellent job. The narration is from the point of view of the central character and I really felt like he brought that character to life in his performance.
"Avoid this one"
Pretentious, boring and repetitive. Avoid. Trying to be clever and failing miserably. The original idea was interesting but the end result disappointing.
"interesting but meandering"
this book has a very interesting question that it forces the reader to ask.... however the narrative meanders significantly and requires one to re listen to sections as it can get confusing
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