The sellout by Paul Beatty
Published: March 3rd 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Genre: Fiction, Humor, Race, Satire
“In neighborhoods like the one I grew up in, places that are poor in praxis but rich in rhetoric, the homies have a saying – I’d rather be judged by twelve than carried by six. It’s a maxim, an oft-repeated rap lyric, a last-ditch rock and hard place algorithm that on the surface is about faith in the system but in reality means shoot first, put your trust in the public defender, and be thankful you still have your health. I’m not all that streetwise, but to my knowledge there’s no appellate court corollary. I’ve never heard a corner store roughneck take a sip of malt liquor and say, “I’d rather be reviewed by nine than arbitrated by one.”
Why does it feel like I’m reading a never ending monologue?
It’s like a narrated movie where the narrator never stops talking or allows the story tell itself. Every detail is being heavily described from all angles in every possible way. It rambles and uses a massive amounts of metaphors and analogies.
During the first chapter I found it so interesting and charming in a way. My thought process was: “Oh wow, this is going to be so good! I can’t wait for this story!”
After the fifth chapter I started realizing that the story had already begun and it was going to go on like this throughout. I put it down for a few days, picked it back up, put it down again, picked it back up. It was soooo hard to stick to!
Eventually I just stopped trying. I really wanted to finish this one, I got pretty far too, but then I got distracted and put it down and I just didn’t have it in me to pick it up again.
It has some AMAZING passages and I could without a doubt quote the shit out of this book! I laughed and oohhhed and aaahhheed many times, but it was just.so.hard.to.follow.
“I used to think all of black America’s problems could be solved if we only had a motto. A pithy Liberté, egalité, fraternité we could post over squeaky wrought-iron gateways, embroider onto kitchen wall hangings and ceremonial buntin. It, like the best of African-American folklore and hairstyles, would have to be simple, yet profound. Noble, and yet somehow egalitarian. A calling card for an entire race that was raceless on the surface, but quietly understood by those in the know to be very very black.”
If you don’t already know it, the book is a satire, and a very clever one at that. I understood why it won, I loved so many parts of it, I just go so bored with reading it. Maybe if I slow read a chapter a day, but that would take me all year, the chapters are short and many. Maybe I’ll finish it with time, because it really is good. But it’s like too much ice cream in one gulp, it gives you a sort of brain freeze.
“When a white bitch got problems, she’s a damsel in distress! WHen a black bitch got problems, she’s a welfare cheat and burden on society. How come you never see any black damsels? Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your weave!”
The problem for me may actually be that the story drowns in the telling of it, and the telling is far greater than the showing. And let’s face it, when our friends tell us stories, we want them to get to the point, no matter how patient we are or how good they are at telling stories.
But I’ll say this: If you have the patience and persistence to hack your way through this word jungle and stick it through to the end, I envy you greatly. I just know there must be something great there.
“…I’m bilingual only to the extent that I can sexually harass women of all ethnicities in their native languages…”