In a black tie dinner at London’s Guildhall on Tuesday, Paul Beatty’s fourth novel, The Sellout, was named 2016’s Man Booker Prize winner.
Mr. Beatty was born in Los Angeles in 1962, and received an MFA in creative writing from Brooklyn College and an MA in psychology from Boston University. It was after winning the inaugural Grand Poetry Slam in 2000 at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe – along with its prize of a book deal – that he produced his first volume of poetry. Another book of poetry followed, along with three novels in 1996, 2000 and 2008.
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The Sellout chronicles an urban farmer who tries to spearhead a revitalization of slavery and segregation in a fictional Los Angeles neighborhood. Here’s what the Man Booker website had to say about its winner:
The book is narrated by African-American ‘Bonbon’, a resident of the run-down town of Dickens in Los Angeles county, which has been removed from the map to save California from embarrassment. Bonbon is being tried in the Supreme Court for attempting to reinstitute slavery and segregation in the local high school as means of bringing about civic order. What follows is a retrospective of this whirlwind scheme, populated by cartoonish characters who serve to parody racial stereotypes. The framework of institutional racism and the unjust shooting of Bonbon’s father at the hands of police are particularly topical.
Amanda Foreman, 2016 Chair of judges, comments: ‘The Sellout is a novel for our times. A tirelessly inventive modern satire, its humour disguises a radical seriousness. Paul Beatty slays sacred cows with abandon and takes aim at racial and political taboos with wit, verve and a snarl.’
For winning the Prize, Mr. Beatty receives a £50,000 cash award (close to $61,000) and a trophy on top of winning £2,500 ($3,000) for being shortlisted, and a leather bound edition of his book. Additionally, the fame of winning the award will not only add to his professional reputation, but no doubt greatly boost sales of the book. (In a fun side “benefit”, the Royal Mail will be issuing a congratulatory postmark, which will be applied to millions of items of stamped mail nationwide in Britain from October 26 to 29, proclaiming “Congratulations to Paul Beatty, winner of the 2016 Man Booker Prize”.)
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The Man Booker Prize, which is generally recognized as one of the leading literary awards for works published in English, was first awarded in 1969. Past winners include Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, Kazuo Ishiguro, Hilary Mantel (who has won the award twice) and last year’s winner, Marlon James.
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Congratulations to Paul Beatty and The Sellout, for winning this year’s Man Booker Prize!