8 Paul Beatty Quotes on Race, Art, and Life

Author Paul Beatty has a voice and a mind unlike any other, brilliantly twisting humor with profound insight to bring the world into sharp, unrelenting focus. Beatty's latest novel, The Sellout, has already won the 2016 National Book Critics Circle Award and now it has been shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker Prize. We're all on the edge of our seats to see if this phenomenal book will take the win.

A "racial satire," The Sellout is about a young black man whose South Californian town, Dickens, has been erased from the map. In a desperate move, he segregates the local high school and reinstates slavery, which ultimately lands him in the Supreme Court.

Beatty's previous books (which include Slumberland, The White Boy Shuffle, and Tuff) have dealt with fascinating (and pressing) themes, such as race, national identity, art, class, and young people finding their place in the world. He has a knack for nailing down the truths of our world, and making his readers pay attention.

With these quotes, you'll get a taste of Beatty's fresh style and keen perspective. No matter who you're pulling for to win the 2016 Man Booker, his books will definitely rock your world.

1. “That’s the problem with history, we like to think it’s a book—that we can turn the page and move the fuck on. But history isn’t the paper it’s printed on. It’s memory, and memory is time, emotions, and song. History is the things that stay with you.”

The Sellout

2. “Silence can be either protest or consent, but most times it’s fear.”

The Sellout

3. “If all the world's a stage, I want to operate the trap door.”

4. “Heroes. Idols. They're never who you think they are. Shorter. Nastier. Smellier. And when you finally meet them, there's something that makes you want to choke the shit out of them.”

Slumberland

5. “If New York is the City That Never Sleeps, then Los Angeles is the City That’s Always Passed Out on the Couch.”

Slumberland

6. “Dumbfounded, I stood before the court, trying to figure out if there was a state of being between 'guilty' and 'innocent.' Why were those my only alternatives? I thought. Why couldn’t I be 'neither' or 'both'? After a long pause, I finally faced the bench and said, 'Your Honor, I plead human.'"

The Sellout

7. “That's why your poems can never be no more than a description of life. The page is finite. Once you put the words down on paper, you've fossilized your thought. Bugs in amber, nigger. But music is life itself. Music is time. Played live, played at seventy-eight rpms, thirty-three and a third, backwards, looped, whatever. There's no need for translation. You understand or you don't.”

Slumberland

8. “It’s illegal to yell ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater, right?...Well, I’ve whispered ‘Racism’ in a post-racial world.”

The Sellout

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