Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Paul Beatty Wins Man Booker Prize

(Photo by John Phillips/Pool photo via AP)
Congratulations to Paul Beatty, winner of the 2016 Man Booker Prize, for his novel The Sellout! Paul is the first Americanever to receive this prize, which the Booker Prize organization opened up in 2014 to all novelists writing in English, and is the second black writer in a row to receive the award, after Marlon James, who received it for his volume A Brief History of Seven Killings, and the third over all, with Ben Okri, the first black writer to receive the Booker back in 1991 for The Famished Road. Paul's novel is a hard-hitting, sometimes harsh satire about the United States, American history, slavery, segregation, and racism, and hardly relents from its blistering opening pages to its conclusion. 

I first met Paul over 25 years ago when he was among the initial readers at the Dark Room Writers Collective. He had just published his first book of poems, Big Bank Take Little Bank, and had recently won the Nuyorican Poets Cafe poetry slam. Each of the poems in that has narrative force, but it wasn't until Paul published his acclaimed novel White Boy Shuffle (1996) that the world, I included, realized he was not only a poet of originality and talent but a fiction writer to reckon with. He has since published another volume of poetry, Joker Joker Deuce (1994), as well as two more novels, Tuff  (2000) and Slumberland (2008), and as befits a master of satire, he edited Hokum: An Anthology of African-American Humor, in 2006. 

Congratulations again to Paul, and a hat tip to the Man Booker Prize jury for its excellent and unanimous decision!

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