Funny Books are not exactly my strong point as you might have noticed before. Our December Bookclub book seemed to belong to this scary category that I usually try avoid like the plague.
“This may be hard to believe, coming from a black man, but I’ve never stolen anything. Never cheated on my taxes or at cards. Never snuck into the movies or failed to give back the extra change to a drugstore cashier indifferent to the ways of mercantilism and minimum-wage expectations. I’ve never burgled a house. Held up a liquor store. Never boarded a crowded bus or subway car, sat in a seat reserved for the elderly, pulled out my gigantic penis and masturbated to satisfaction with a perverted, yet somehow crestfallen, look on my face. But here I am, in the cavernous chambers of the Supreme Court of the United States of America, my car illegally and somewhat ironically parked on Constitution Avenue, my hands cuffed and crossed behind my back, my right to remain silent long since waived and said goodbye to as I sit in a thickly padded chair that, much like this country, isn’t quite as comfortable as it looks.”
It won the Booker Prize in 2016 and one of the Booker judges, Olivia Williams claims on the back of the novel that she was banned in bed, because she was laughing so much. So I had hopes and prepared myself to have my underdeveloped laughing muscles ticled.
“Silence can be either protest or consent, but most times it’s fear.”
„The Sellout“ is about a young man’s isolated upbringing by his single father , a controversial psychologist who administered racially charged experiments on him. His dad made him believe that this work will result in a memoir that will resolve the family’s financial troubles. When his father is killed in a police shooting it turns out there never was a memoir all that is left for him is the bill for a drive-thru funeral. (The idea of a drive-thru funeral made me actually laugh) and I had to google to find out if that part was satire of if that really does exist in the US.
Fun fact: the do seem to exist:
“I’m so fucking tired of black women always being described by their skin tones! Honey-colored this! Dark-chocolate that! My paternal grandmother was mocha-tinged, café-au-lait, graham-fucking-cracker brown! How come they never describe the white characters in relation to foodstuffs and hot liquids? Why aren’t there any yogurt-colored, egg-shell-toned, string-cheese-skinned, low-fat-milk white protagonists in these racist, no-third-act-having books? That’s why black literature sucks!”
But back to the story. In his angry state of mind and the general despair of his hometown the protagonist aims to right another wrong. His hometown Dickens has literally been removed from the map to save California from embarassment. He enlists the help of some friends and initiates the most bizarre idea: reintating slavery and segregating the local high school which lands him in front of the Surpreme court.
To be clear – there were funny bits in the book and the main reason the book didn’t really work for me was less the humor than the missing context. I had a hard time getting into the book and often wasn’t really sure what he was talking about.
So far the book has not been translated into German, I wonder if it had worked for me better in this case. I really wanted to like it but just as an example, one of the questions that come for the book is about the cover art where you see an illustration of a lawn jockey and the question is how the cover art summarizes the narrator’s core conflict.
I didn’t even know what a lawn jockey is, so I didn’t pay particularly attention to the cover. To truly enjoy the book I probably should have googled a lot more of the references in the book to get the subtle ironies so my not taking to the book very much is more my fault than the author’s.
What was the last funny book you read and did you like it?