Literary fiction and I don’t tend to get on. This is mainly due to my uni lecturers from the School of English having a major love affair with the genre, yet denouncing every other genre that exists because if it’s not literary, it’s not worth reading. I have MAJOR issues with that rubbish statement, but that would be another long ranting blog post that I’m sure no one really wants to read. However I had heard such rave reviews of Paul Beatty’s ‘The Sellout’, that I was naturally curious as to what the fuss was all about.
‘The Sellout’ was quite a difficult read and took me a while to get through it, and after having read it I have some mixed feelings about it. It is undeniably good, and undeniably a novel that needed to be written – especially with what’s going on in America today towards black people. I find it so hard to hear about these things still happening in 2017, especially over something so stupid as what someone’s skin colour just so happens to be. The novel was hard work, but Beatty painted the issues black people face in such an innovating way.
Beatty seemed to have gone for the most drastic descriptions and images that he could – everything seemed to be an extreme caricature of stereotypical people and situations. Parts of the narrative were so cleverly done – especially when the protagonist’s father died at the hands of the police. There were so many clever satirical passages like this to highlight how black people are still treated as inferior in America by some.
I really liked this clever angle to Beatty’s novel, however parts of the narrative were so hard to read. This was mainly due to some parts appearing really nonsensical – though I think this was all a part of creating the larger picture of the stereotypical caricature. Plus the constant use of the word ‘nigger’ – a horrific word which due to the constant repitition almost desentised the reader to its use through out the narrative. Perhaps as a way to highlight how the constant horrific happenings in America are desensitising the general public as to what is happening to its black people? Perhaps the protagonist trying to get the city of Dickens put back on the map represents black history, and how all of the suffering is a part of their history – especially with what is still happening in America.
Most importantly, this was definitely a story that needed to be told by a black man. It’s not something that a middle class white person could tell – despite having the best of intentions – as we have not suffered as they have. Despite being hard work to read, this was an immensely clever story that really makes you think. It has such a powerful message behind it, but I don’t think literary fiction and I will be getting on well any time soon. I would give it a 4/5 because of its powerful message, but it wasn’t the easiest of books to dive into and wouldn’t have been my favourite of novels.