Our congratulations to Paul Beatty, whose novel The Sellout won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction yesterday. The New York Times calls The Sellout “a scorching satire that wrenches humor out of painful subjects like slavery, police violence, and segregation”—it was one of our favorite novels of 2015. Last May, the Daily published a conversation between Beatty and Chris Jackson. “I’m surprised that everybody keeps calling this a comic novel,” Beatty said of The Sellout:
I mean, I get it. But it’s an easy way not to talk about anything else. I would better understand it if they talked about it in a hyphenated way, to talk about it as a tragicomic novel, even. There’s comedy in the book, but there’s a bunch of other stuff in there, too. It’s easy just to hide behind the humor, and then you don’t have to talk about anything else. But I definitely don’t think of myself as a satirist. I mean, what is satire? Do you remember that New Yorker cover that everyone was saying was satire? Barack and Michelle fist-bumping? That’s not satire to me. It was just a commentary. Just poking fun at somebody doesn’t make something satire. It’s a word everyone throws around a lot. I’m not sure how I define it … I was talking to a friend and she said, Your audience is just a bunch of weirdos. But she meant it in a very positive way. There’s a special kind of weirdo who’s going to appreciate it. At least, I think that’s what she was saying.
Read the whole interview here. Congratulations to Paul Beatty and all the NBCC award winners from all of us at the Review.