The Sellout was our book club pick in May and a challenging but very interesting read. We discussed how it sometimes made us uncomfortable to read, how insane it is that the Little Rascals really was a thing and if we could really think of this book as a satire or if we should take it more seriously. It was fruitful discussion and do really recommend you read it as well!
The Sellout isn’t Paul Beatty’s first novel. Before this he wrote a bunch of other works among which The White Boy Shuffle is probably the most popular. This debut novel is about a black surfer bum who’s mother moves him from the coast to urban West L.A. Here he starts out as an outcast, but grows into a basketball superstar and eventually a reluctant messiah of a divided, downtrodden people.
Beatty often mentions Vonnegut and Heller as his influences. Especially Joseph Heller’s novel Catch-22 was very important to him and as it is one of my own favorite novels, I’d definitely wanted to recommend it. Catch-22 is the story of Yossarian, a bombardier who desperately wants to get out of war but can’t because of the impossibly bureaucratic rule that gives the book it’s title.
Another recent publication with a strange premise concerning racial issues is Blackass by A. Igoni Barrett. In his novel a Nigerian man wakes us one day and finds out that he has turned white overnight, except for his ass. The book is being compared to Kafka, so prepare to be in for some strangeness.
– Why was the prologue written in a different style than the rest of the novel?
– How did reading the book made you feel? Did you ever feel uncomfortable about the racial jokes Beatty makes? Did the book offend you in any way?
– Do you agree that the book is a satire?
– What’s going on with these black Chinese restaurants?