Every critic in America seems to be raving about Paul Beatty’s novel, “The Sellout”. I wish I knew why. My review in The Times:
“Swiftian satire of the highest order,” declared The Wall Street Journal. “Among the most important and difficult American novels written in the 21st century,” gasped the Los Angeles Times. Not to be outdone, the San Francisco Chronicle anointed Beatty — poet, author of three previous novels and editor of an anthology of African-American humour — as today’s Mark Twain. In Britain, Simon Schama has joined in too, acclaiming a “howl-a-page assault on the pieties of race debates in America”.
Really? Beatty is an original and irreverent talent, but his hallucinogenic morality tale, conveyed in cheerfully profane language, is a slender novella, with slender characters to match, pumped up to grandiose proportions. By the time you reach the end you are left feeling you have been pummelled into a state of exhaustion by a storyteller who lurches from one improbable excess to another. Beatty doesn’t so much throw bombs as launch an entire squadron of B-52s. The noise is intoxicating at first; before long it just becomes deadening.