First edition cover
|Cover artist||Rodrigo Corral|
|Publisher||Farrar, Straus and Giroux|
|March 3, 2015|
|Media type||Print (Hardback)|
The Sellout is a 2015 novel by Paul Beatty published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and in the UK by Oneworld Publications in 2016. The novel takes place in and around Los Angeles, California, and concerns a protagonist who grows artisanal marijuana and watermelons. Beatty has stated his motivation for writing the novel was that "[he] was broke".
"The Sellout is one of those very rare books that is able to take satire, which is in itself a very difficult subject and not always done well, and it plunges into the heart of contemporary American society and, with absolutely savage wit, of the kind I haven't seen since Swift or Twain, both manages to eviscerate every social taboo and politically correct, nuanced, every sacred cow, and while both making us laugh, making us wince. It is both funny and painful at the same time and it is really a novel of our times."
The novel concerns a narrator, referred to only by his last name, "Me", or “Bon bon” who attempts to reintroduce segregation and keep a slave named Hominy in Dickens, his Los Angeles neighborhood. This attempt leads to a Supreme Court case, Me Vs. The United States of America.
The novel was well received by critics who praised its humor and ostensibly satirical content. In The Guardian, Elisabeth Donnelly described it as "a masterful work that establishes Beatty as the funniest writer in America", while reviewer Reni Eddo-Lodge called it a "whirlwind of a satire", going on to say: "Everything about The Sellout’s plot is contradictory. The devices are real enough to be believable, yet surreal enough to raise your eyebrows."
Beatty has indicated surprise that critics refer to the novel as a comic one, indicating his belief that discussing the comic aspects of the novel prevents critics from having to discuss its more serious themes. He has also stated that he does not think of himself as a satirist.