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The Sellout
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Archive: Other Books > The Sellout/Beatty - 3 reluctantly bestowed stars

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Anita Pomerantz | 6276 comments So, this book is tough to review so compromising with a three star rating.

The premise is a black man (last name Me, nickname Bonbon) is being tried by the Supreme Court for owning a slave and re-segregating his hometown of Dickens. The book takes us through BonBon's unconventional childhood as the son of a sociologist, his realization that his hometown is being subsumed by surrounding vicinities, and his attempt to ensure that doesn't happen by re-segregating the town. His sidekick in this endeavor is Hominy, a child star on The Little Rascals, who pretty much acted out every racial stereotype as a child, and has shackled himself to Bonbon as his "slave".

Yeah.

So, I give Mr. Beatty an "A" for originality and fearlessness, and I liked his protagonist. But overall, I didn't feel like I really "got" the book with a few exceptional spots. Two chapters to be exact.

Clearly it is satire, and Beatty touches on many, many racial issues throughout, but for me, the humor was lacking. Maybe because Beatty uses SO MANY cultural references, and while I think I'm pretty up on popular culture, some of them escaped me. Even when they didn't, I didn't necessarily find them terribly funny.

My feeling was the book was trying too hard. The brilliance of it escaped me because I was so busy looking to understand the trees, that I really never saw the forest. Even though the story is very readable, I had a lot of trouble wrapping my mind around the implications of the various digs, jabs, exaggerations, ironic asides, etc.

I am fully willing to admit that maybe I just wasn't smart enough for this book. Or maybe I'm not the target audience. Regardless, definitely not my cup of tea. Suggest to Kindle readers that you download a sample to try before you buy. The beginning of the book gives you a very good idea of the entirety of the book, though my favorite chapter was by far Chapter 24 where the commentary is less woven into a story and more straightforward. And in my mind, a lot more humorous.

I wonder if I just don't like satirical novels in general. I looked up a list of popular satirical novels, and I gave unusually low ratings or poor reviews each to Infinite Jest, A Confederacy of Dunces, and the much beloved Pride and Prejudice. That saddens me because I think of satire as something that bright people appreciate. I wanted to like this book too, but I just didn't.


message 2: by Karin (new)

Karin | 6919 comments I am rarely a fan of satires, but Pride and Prejudice was actually witty and funny, at least to me. A good audiobook reader might make all the difference, but the last audibook I listened to of this had someone far too old (the protagonist is "not yet one and twenty") and simple had no great feel for the book.

If you don't mind watching things from c. 1980, try the miniseries starring David Rintoul and Elizabeth Garvy. Not quite as funny as the book, but well don.

That said, you might NEVER, EVER like this book.


JoLene (trvl2mtns) | 1532 comments Humor is such a subjective thing. I am not a huge fan of satire --- and this book was particularly hard because it is such a tinged subject at the moment. I did find parts of it funny, but felt bad that I did so. Perhaps that is the point.

I also don't like absurdist fiction --- lots of people do, but for the most part, it's not my cup of tea. I think that absurdist and satire may be closely related :-D


Anita Pomerantz | 6276 comments JoLene wrote: "Humor is such a subjective thing. I am not a huge fan of satire --- and this book was particularly hard because it is such a tinged subject at the moment. I did find parts of it funny, but felt bad..."

So interesting, JoLene. I won't say I didn't find any of it funny, but definitely not enough to like the book. Not nearly enough. Can you share an example or two of absurdist fiction. I feel like I've heard of it, but can't come up with anything. Definitely doesn't sound like something I would like either, lol.

Do agree that humor is subjective, but I tend to find sarcasm funny, so not sure why satire escapes me.


Anita Pomerantz | 6276 comments Karin wrote: "I am rarely a fan of satires, but Pride and Prejudice was actually witty and funny, at least to me. A good audiobook reader might make all the difference, but the last audibook I listened to of thi..."

Yeah, I'm the only person who didn't like Pride and Prejudice, but I keep telling myself I must watch the movie which I'm sure I'll enjoy more. I did see the wit of Pride and Prejudice though . . .even though it didn't make me love the book any more . . .and in this book, I honestly had a hard time making sense of the message.


message 6: by JoLene (last edited Oct 01, 2016 11:32AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

JoLene (trvl2mtns) | 1532 comments Anita wrote: "JoLene wrote: "Humor is such a subjective thing. I am not a huge fan of satire --- and this book was particularly hard because it is such a tinged subject at the moment. I did find parts of it funn..."

OK -- here's the definition on a listopia list:
Absurdist fiction uses satire, dark humor, irrationality, and agnostic or nihilistic themes to explore the human experience of incompleteness or meaninglessness. It also looks at the range of human responses to meaninglessness, including escapism, religiosity, and the conscious construction of a personal purpose.

In philosophy, absurdism is a form existentialism that views the human search for inherent meaning in the world as absurd. The absurdist view is that such a search must ultimately fail because the world is beyond our understanding.

So they are really related. The one author that I think of is Gary Shteyngart who wrote Absurdistan. I would actually include A Confederacy of Dunces in that category as well. Kurt Vonnegut, who is hit or miss with me, is also typically in this category.


Nicole D. | 1476 comments I found it laugh out loud funny


message 8: by Jen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jen | 1545 comments Like Nicole, I too found it laugh out loud funny. I normally don't love satire but I did think this book was brilliant. That said, it's a book that I think will be pretty polarizing.

I hated Confederacy of Dunces.


message 9: by Susie (new) - added it

Susie | 4488 comments I'm scared now! I think I'm going to go with Anita's suggestion. If I don't like it after a chapter or two I'll move on.


message 10: by Jen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jen | 1545 comments I will say this is the sort of book that is well suited to reading and analysis inside a classroom setting. I found it to be very dense and academic.


message 11: by Susie (new) - added it

Susie | 4488 comments I quite like dense and academic, but satire in writing, not so much. I love satire on screen though, particularly political satire.


message 12: by Denizen (new)

Denizen (den13) | 1138 comments Here's a GR list of absurdist fiction. https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/.... I'm not a big fan either looking at this list. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy just passed me by and it's #1 on this list. I'm not a fan of Tom Robbins books either although I read 2-3 back in the day.

I may just remove The Sellout from my TBR. More rave reviews may put it back on but my gut reaction is it's one that will just take up space on my virtual shelf.


Nicole D. | 1476 comments OMG Tom Robbins is my all time favorite. I kind of think Susie will like this book.


message 14: by Jen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jen | 1545 comments I love Tom Robbins too. I do think that this is a book that is worth reading although as i've said I don't think it will appeal to everyone.


Anita Pomerantz | 6276 comments Nicole wrote: "I found it laugh out loud funny"

You find the Sellout laugh out loud funny.
I find you laugh out loud funny.
Ergo, I should find the Sellout laugh out loud funny.

Sadly, the logic didn't hold true. What's with that?


Anita Pomerantz | 6276 comments Susie wrote: "I'm scared now! I think I'm going to go with Anita's suggestion. If I don't like it after a chapter or two I'll move on."

I personally think you can quickly tell if it will be your thing because I found the initial chapters and the final ones to be among the most humorous, but maybe check with Nicole and Jen to be sure they agree . . .I would hate for you to give it up prematurely because of me.

Maybe my sense of humor is broken.


message 17: by Anita (last edited Oct 02, 2016 03:16PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Anita Pomerantz | 6276 comments Denizen wrote: "Here's a GR list of absurdist fiction. https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/.... I'm not a big fan either looking at this list. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy just pas..."

Hmm. I haven't read many on this list nor am I drawn to many of the titles. I did read Lamb on Nicole's recommendation and that one, I did find funny. But Pale King . . .AWFUL AWFUL book.

I definitely would keep an eye on the reviews . . .some readers will probably love this, but I think it is going to be a pretty self selecting audience.


Anita Pomerantz | 6276 comments Jen wrote: "Like Nicole, I too found it laugh out loud funny. I normally don't love satire but I did think this book was brilliant. That said, it's a book that I think will be pretty polarizing.

I hated Confe..."


LOL on Confederacy of Dunces. Among my least favorite books.


message 19: by Sara (new) - added it

Sara (mootastic1) | 770 comments I seriously hated Confederacy of Dunces. It ranks right up there with Life of Pi. I am on the fence about The Sellout. Normally I am on board with Jen and Nicole, but I am not sure about this one.


message 20: by Susie (new) - added it

Susie | 4488 comments I simply must read it now to find out where I sit!


Anita Pomerantz | 6276 comments Sara wrote: "I seriously hated Confederacy of Dunces. It ranks right up there with Life of Pi. I am on the fence about The Sellout. Normally I am on board with Jen and Nicole, but I am not sure about this one."

I won't lie - - I'm kinda hoping you read it so you can either a) validate my thinking or b) explain the whole book to me. Either one works. The latter might actually be better ;).


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