The First American Author To Win The Man Booker Prize Is From L.A.
The Man Booker Prize, which has been around since 1969, is regarded as one of the most revered literary awards in the world. Past winners include modern luminaries such as V. S. Naipaul, Salman Rushdie, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Margaret Atwood. Up until 2013, however, the award was only open to writers hailing from territories of the former British Empire. This changed when the rules were revised to allow consideration for any book written in the English language.
If there were any suspicions that the British-based award would be biased against American writers, they were dashed when it was announced Tuesday that American author Paul Beatty won the 2016 prize for his novel The Sellout. What's more, Beatty is a native Angeleno. He was born here, and much of his novel takes place in South L.A. Check out Beatty as he reps the Southland out in London:
Even Camilla Parker Bowles came out to celebrate with him.
According to the New York Times, the five judges were unanimous in selecting The Sellout as the winner. "The truth is rarely pretty, and this is a book that nails the reader to the cross with cheerful abandon," Amanda Foreman, the head of the judging panel, said to reporters in London before the winner was named. "It plunges into the heart of contemporary American society."
To call The Sellout a work of satire is to make an understatement. The premise of it is entirely ridiculous. In the book, a black male earns a living by selling marijuana and watermelons on horseback. When his father is killed by the police during a traffic stop, he embarks on a social experiment to see what it's like to be a slave owner. He ends up getting his personal slave in a man who used to work as Buckwheat's understudy on The Little Rascals. Did we mention that he also tries to reinstate segregation in L.A.? And that he gets called up to the Supreme Court?
So, yes, it's satirical. And it seems that, in times like these—when the absurd is almost inseparable from reality—we need works like The Sellout to drive us out to the far end of absurdism, so that we may be reminded that there'd once existed a former world of reason.
Beatty, 54, currently teaches writing at Columbia University in New York. The Sellout is his fourth book. He once told Rolling Stone that he wrote it because he "was broke." He'll receive about $66,000 as part of his Man Booker Prize.