The Sellout begins with the narrator/protagonist sparking a joint while on trial at the Supreme Court of the United States of America for re-instituting segregation. We then jump back in time to his childhood and learn the events that led to his arrest.
While his hometown of Dickens is a rough ghetto community on the outskirts of LA, the protagonist was raised on a farm by his single father, a psychologist who constantly performed social experiments with his son as the main subject.
While still a young man, the protagonist was personally affected by the outrageous problem of black men in the U.S. being unjustly shot to death by police. A little later in life, he becomes involved in the shameful practices of slavery and segregation, albeit in ways that are pretty hysterical.
Beatty is clearly an intelligent and talented writer. Having said that, The Sellout is less a compelling narrative and more a long essay commenting on the current plight of American blacks through humor and acerbic wit.
Beatty is funny. There are a lot of little LOL’s to enjoy and in particular, the protagonist’s attorney’s advertisements as well as the social experiments that his father puts him through are hilarious.
But the downside of Beatty’s writing style is that there are lots of unwieldy, sleep-inducing sentences that the reader has to slog through. Further, not only does Beatty know all the best words, he also knows all the mediocre and shitbox words. Before reading, make sure to familiarize yourself with such shitbox words as mercurochrome, tachistoscope, hermeneutics, lycanthropic*, miasma, fakir, and lepidoptera.
While I do need to deduct points for some of the clunky, hard-to-follow sentences, one issue that I have to bring up that I won’t deduct points for is the fact that this book is packed with the n-word. It’s written on pretty much every page. I am a white dude and saying the n-word over and over, even if it was only in my head while reading, was not only psychologically discomforting, but it also gave me the distinct sense that I was in imminent danger of an ass-kicking.
But again, I don’t wanna start no trouble, so I won’t hold this against Beatty rating-wise.
To sum up, while The Sellout lacks a compelling narrative and the writing style is not really my cup of tea, it is worth a read to get Beatty’s unique commentary on the situation that black people currently face in the U.S. Also, there are a good amount of little LOL’s to be had.
As such, I’m pleased to award it 3.5 pearls, rounded down to 3 to show just how non-racist I am. Most white liberals would do everything in their power to inflate the book rating of a black author. That’s patronizing and racist. Just to prove that I’m not like those pukes, I’m rounding this shit down.
But if you’re desperate for something more tangible and/or unhappy with my use of the n-word in this review (I’m profusely sorry about that), the unjust ribbing of Banksy and the bullshit rip-off of William Fuckner with that horsecrap 6-word chapter are more than enough reason to round down.
Bonus quote: I understand now that the only time black people don’t feel guilty is when we’ve actually done something wrong, because that relieves us of the cognitive dissonance of being black and innocent, and in a way the prospect of going to jail becomes a relief.
* I actually knew this word.**