Paul Beatty || The Sellout

ManBooker 2016

Shortlist 2016

How to stress a wrong? By exaggerating and turning things around. Having said so in The Sellout the main character is charged with the possession of a slave and he is trying to improve the self esteem of the African-American inhabitants of Dickens LA by reversed discrimination. He literally brings back the boundaries of Dickens by painting it on the road, he challenges youngsters by advertising for a new private school (costing loads of money) and makes his friend Honorée, the voluntary slave, happy by placing a sign in the bus: give your seat to the disabled, the old and the white. From that moment on the customary aggression in the bus ceases to be. Turning things around and exaggerating works: Beatty leaves no doubt discrimination and racism are wrong. He also shows that there are self-proclaimed victims amongst African-Americans as well,  Beatty does not condone them breaking the law. He says things as they are (he refers to African-Americans as blacks and niggers throughout his novel). I can imagine The Sellout becoming a major novel in (African-)American literature. By taking the jiffy out of the situation he stresses the difficult position of many African-Americans. Does this make a good novel? At times. I was promised a novel that would have me laugh my head off. That never happened. I was mostly irritated by the incredible speed Beatty uses to share information with me. I can best compare it to the enormous amount of words your average stand-up comedian uses. In the prologue the overdoses of words and facts made me wonder what on earth I was reading. Later on, when Beatty slowed down slightly, I finally became involved with Dickens, LA. I am afraid I might not have finished if Beatty had kept on the speed. Nevertheless, The Sellout is a novel that confronts and does not easily go away. I would not be surprised if it were to win the Booker, though in that case it might be for its message and less for its literary merits.




About booksandliliane

I am an avid reader and love to share my love for literature. I have my own opinion on books that have been shortlisted, laureated by critics or are pushed on us by bookstores. I will try and explain why I like or do not like a book. Hopefully influencing you in your choice of books to read.
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