Book Review: “The Sellout” By Paul Beatty

The Sellout

Man Booker Prize Winner 2016

By Paul Beatty

the-sellout

Sometimes you know a book is good when you can’t stop thinking about it because you were so drawn into its world. Sometimes you know a book is good because it made you feel empowered. Sometimes you know a book is good because you really have very little notion what’s going on half the time. That’s how I felt when I was reading The Sellout by Paul Beatty. But in the best way possible.

There are ideas at work in this novel that are constantly clashing and rehashing the world it is creating and the world it is ripping off. This is an attack on American culture and racism and the page is his battlefield and the words are his foot soldiers. And the ideas are packed together so densely as to make resistance futile.

There were times when the sheer ridiculous made me laugh out loud. Other passages would glide over the surface of my consciousness, looking for in but finding none. Most of the time, I felt like I wasn’t, couldn’t “get” the joke. There is so much represented here that is completely alien to me. I have no idea what life is like in the poverty stricken regions of American ghetto towns. (I don’t think watching The Wire counts.) I’m a privileged white women living just down the road from Windsor Castle, for goodness sake. And reading this book doesn’t exactly make me feel ashamed of my ignorance, more curious about what I have unconsciously accepted about race perception in my own culture. The ingrained racism that is everywhere and that most millennials fail to see or understand is both evidence of society trying to move forward by “not seeing colour” and also a complete lack of real world understanding – of course we’re different colours. Equality: a pure idea; really fucking difficult to implement.

“In attempting to restore his community through reintroducing precepts, namely segregation and slavery, that, given his cultural history, have come to define his community despite the supposed unconstitutionality and nonexistence of these concepts, he’s pointed out  a fundamental flaw in how we as Americans claim we see equality. ‘I don’t care if you’re black, white, brown, yellow, red, green or purple.’ We’ve all said it. Posited as proof of our nonprejudicial ways, but if you painted any of us purple or green, we’d be mad as hell.”

I honestly feel like I have neither the life experience nor the intelligence to understand the incredibly complex and challenging ideas playing out in this novel. I feel like a 5-year-old trying to read To Kill a Mockingbird without the aid of a secondary school teacher to explain what an extended metaphor or a microcosm is. But this is so much more than microcosm and far more complicated.

I know that this book deserves at least your first reading … and my second reading.

“Unmitigated Blackness is essays passing for fiction. It’s the realization that there are no absolutes, except when there are. It’s the acceptance of contradiction not being a sin and a crime but a human frailty like split ends and libertarianism. Unmitigated Blackness is coming to the realization that as fucked up and meaningless as it all is, sometimes it’s the nihilism that makes life worth living.”

And if Beatty wrote this before Trump came to power, just think what he’ll have in the tank next.


For all those fearing for the safety of yourself and those you love, I stand with you.

#nomuslimban


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The F Word & The F Word

“I’m sorry, which one?”

It is a strange thing that modern vernacular now has two possible answers to this question: Feminism or Fuck.

“The F word” is a phrase born of censorship. Keep the nasty words out of the earshot of innocent minds and out of polite conversation. The notion of contracting a word to its first initial and a series of asterisks as a means of hiding it’s meaning, is itself a ridiculous notion. We all know what it means. Children know what it means. That cannot be avoided. The word is still there, you’re fooling no one with your asterisks.

But censorship is its own debate. What is relevant here is that another word is apparently now worthy of being censored to the same level as “Fuck”. And that word is “Feminism”.

How has that happened? How has Feminism become a nasty word to be half-hidden and whispered in conversation for fear of reproach? Feminism is being treated like a dirty word and that is unacceptable. I know that I have personally felt like I need to mumble it under my breath with a tone of apology, to ward off anyone who might roll their eyes and lean back in their chairs wishing they hadn’t started the conversation. People are afraid of arousing debate. And, really, why is that? Why are people scared of talking about important issues, as though it is going to ruin their evening? “I just wanted to have a quiet drink in the pub. I wasn’t looking for an intellectual debate at this time of night!”

Political debate does not equal argument. Sharing opposing ideas can be a passionate experience, yes. But passion, when exhibited by generally reasonable persons, should not lead to negative results. Especially, a word like Feminism – a word that means equality for everyone, everywhere. There is too much misunderstood about this word, but in the words of Caitlin Moran, Feminism is: “Not all the penises being burned in a Penis Bonfire. Just women being equal to men.” And everyone else in between.

So don’t be afraid of this F word. Don’t mumble it under your breath, but say it proudly, with the appropriate decibel level. Of course if you want to go shouting it from the rooftops, then be my guest. You won’t be arrested for public indecency or disturbing the peace, because Feminism is NOT a dirty word. Feminism is a fucking beautiful word.

 

(Quote from Caitlin Moran found here: http://www.esquire.co.uk/culture/advice/a9641/things-men-dont-know-about-women-caitlin-moran/)

Don’t Forget to Vote!

 

Voting Time.

People who have registered to vote but are planning not to.

Russell Brand is lobbying against voting. Ed Miliband met with him to discuss this issue, amongst others. One thing all politicians should be united on is encouraging everyone over 18 to vote. There is not enough of this.  Politicians are too busy saying “Vote for me,” when they should be saying “Vote.”

Vote. Full Stop.

There are thousands of people who are making the deliberate decision not to vote in this year’s election. Thousands of people saying “What’s the point? It doesn’t make a difference anyway.” Thousands of people feel powerless in the face of politics – disillusioned by bureaucracy, false promises, the same old faces.

I disagree with them.

I do not feel powerless.

I am instead daunted by the power my vote will have. When I began this project to educate myself in politics, I had no idea who I was going to vote for.  I knew very little about the party leaders I could vote for. Making an informed decision is something I decided to take seriously.

People who are still undecided this morning, you are taking this vote seriously. Why haven’t you decided yet unless you consider it to be an important decision? Take you time, consider your options, yes. But just make sure you vote today.

This year’s election may well make history. No one can really predict the outcome and that means that EVERY VOTE COUNTS.

Don’t forget to vote today.

 

Impolitic 4: News Vs Twitter

 

A discovery: politics is everywhere. Not ground-breaking as discoveries go, I grant you. But I suppose what I’ve really discovered, is that I must have been squandering huge amounts of energy avoiding politics before now. Across every radio and TV channel, the bonging of Big Ben was the signal to channel hop. So as soon as I decided to take an interest in politics, the veil was lifted and news appeared to spout from every screen and speaker within earshot.

The chiming of Big Ben is in many ways a sound comparable to the sounds and rhythms of every news bulletin. The perfect middle-class monotone of the newscaster. The well-rehearsed words of a speech. It’s emphasis practised and predictable.

One could hardly describe the average news segment as charismatic. But of course the general flatness in delivery, archetypal of the newscaster, is intentional. Their job is to remain impartial. Objectivity over subjectivity. The complete removal of emotive responsibility. It is the unwritten contract held between public and newscaster. Let the stories speak for themselves so that the audience may draw their own conclusions. Yet, despite this intentional removal of personality, we are still obliged to sit through the casual adlibbing of co-anchors, usually with little success at achieving nonchalance.

Twitter Vs. News

This impersonal approach hardly makes one enthused about watching the news either. No wonder the viewings are going down. You know what young people are like. Give us bright colours, made up words and sound effects. That’ll get the young’uns involved! Patronisation of my own age bracket aside, Twitter is the news channel for the younger generations.

TV is attempting to assimilate with the new media, displaying Twitter feeds alongside live coverage. The effect is somewhat confusing, and many viewers agree.

“Dave from Tumbleridge says, ‘Why is the Chancellor sharing half the screen with the thoughts of @iLivThruTwitter and #tags about his unkempt nose hair? It is distracting and inane.’ Thank you for your thoughts Dave…”

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Impolitic 3: “It’s not Dinner Party Conversation”

Dinner Party Battle Edit

(For those who are unfamiliar with my earlier posts: I am 21 and until recently, I made no effort to engage with politics. I recently made the decision to change that.)

The way the media and indeed the parties themselves perpetuate the hype and tit-for-tat style of campaigning, it is difficult to know what and who you are really voting for. It’s so easy to vote for the person rather than the policies, the Figurehead rather than the Party. What’s more, it is not uncommon for someone to align with one party, but fail to relate to that party’s leader.

“I vote for The Whatsit Enthusiasts, but Mr Thing-a-me Bob is a nincompoop.”

Why is it so common for the general public to find themselves backing a leader they think incompetent? Political leanings can flip-flop dramatically when a new Party Leader is elected. And, come the general election, you might find yourself voting for who you want to be PM as opposed to what party you want in charge.

Policies begin to take a backseat. Likeability and public presence become overriding selling points. It’s a popularity contest no one can ever truly win. We are often faced with men and women who have been coached on how to present themselves. But people are not stupid. I for one am very wary of people who try to market themselves at me – not to me, but at me. Though they were all guilty of it, the worst offender during the Leaders Debate was Ed Miliband. Miliband would periodically assume a practised posture: shifting his stance and looking directly down the camera, he would deliver what was clearly a prewritten speech, in measured, mannerly tones. Anyone I have spoken to about this has agreed with me. His attempts to stare down the camera and engage personally with his constituents was emphatically transparent and as such, ineffectual.

The Leaders Debate, while interesting, did little to help me reach a decision. As a first-time voter, I am striving to approach the election without bias or preconceptions and consider the policies for their merit, but feel inundated by bias on all sides. Whenever the P word comes up, Passion runs high, often with Prejudice not far behind.

“Politics and Religion are not Dinner Party Conversation.”

– I was told this not two days ago, after proudly sharing with the guests that I had watched the entirety of the Leaders Debate.

If talk of politics either leads to damaging statements born from preconception, or courtesy leads others to abstain from the conversation altogether, how am I supposed to gain an informed understanding of politics? How can young people find a credible, unbiased source of information that will not lead by the collar, but guide by the hand?

Answer:

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Impolitic 2: 7 Podiums

I am, as yet, an Undecided Voter.

In my last blog post, I made a promise to get involved in politics, and since then, I have been doing just that. I have just partaken in what is for me a marathon in terms of mental exercise and self-education. I watched the entirety of the two hour debate this evening on ITV. Seven party leaders failed to colour coordinated with their podiums and I attempted to keep pace with it all. The political canvas is a-flood with colour, but here is the point: never before has anyone needed more than 3 colours.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and Green Party’s Natalie Bennett celebrated this innovative move away from the “Old Boys Club” that has ruled Westminster for so long. Things are being shaken up.

Lots of people are going to make a big fuss about there being three women on the podiums, but this is an issue that is far from relevant tonight. This “Well done for holding your own in there, Love,” mentality is patronising as well as immaterial. Tonight, Sturgeon, Bennett and Wood were not women, and indeed, Cameron, Miliband, Farage and Clegg were not men: they were political leaders with arguments to present. Gender should not come into it

Of course, each leader projected a different kind of presence. As I’ve already confessed, I have only recently begun to engage in politics and watching this debate is the first time I have been able to take a comprehensive look at each leader and form an opinion. The opening statements were my first opportunity to take stock of each leader. As the ITV producers strove to introduce drama, slowly zooming in on each excessively earnest face, I was forming my first impressions:

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Impolitic

I have a confession to make: I am 21 years old and I have never voted in a general election. Or any election for that matter. I know: throw me in the stocks and pelt me with rotten vegetables. I’m one of them. That’s what many of you will be thinking. That is unless you are, like me, one of millions who have failed to cast a vote in recent years.

Why haven’t I voted? A myriad of reasons (none of which is ever good enough to excuse my continual lethargy), principle of which is this: I do not understand politics. Voting blindly based on who my parents or friends vote for is not something I see as an option. If I’m going to vote, I will do so based on what I believe in.

I can snigger half-heartedly at satirical TV panel shows, because I know that’s what we’re supposed to do. I’ve been trained to laugh at politicians from an early age. I snigger because the basics have been made plain to me: Tories are selfish, upper class twits, Labour don’t know how to look after money and the Lib Dems tried to please everyone and failed. These are the major parties as I have been given to understand them by the likes of Ian Hislop and Frankie Boyle. As for the other parties, hardly any registered on the radar until recently. The Green Party and UKIP, previously stuck in the political paddling pool, are now dipping their toes into the Olympic pool and everyone is uproar about the implications. All this I express with the utmost disassociation: these are not my opinions. This is merely what I have gleaned from my own extremely narrow experience of politics. So I can snigger at a comedian’s jibe because I know that politicians are to be laughed at. That’s what I have been taught and what the majority of popular culture perpetuates.

I have never taken the trouble to understand it and that is my own fault.

But I have made a decision: I am going to change that.

Step one:

Register to Vote

https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote (So should all of you, Follow That Link!)

In the lead up to the 2015 UK General Election, I am going to educate myself in the mysterious and confusing ways of politics. I no longer want to be in the condemned section of the pie chart labelled “Non-voters” that seems only to grown. I no longer want to be counted in one of the worst groups of offenders: Young People. My age bracket needs a kick and I’m starting with myself.