THE WHITE BOY SHUFFLE by Paul Beatty

THE WHITE BOY SHUFFLE

Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Hip-hop poet Beatty delivers a first novel that almost lives up to its hype. His manic energy and nothing-sacred sensibility add up to some inspired irreverence in a book mocking every sacred cow of Afro-American history. Beatty smartly mythologizes street culture even as he demythologizes so much of official black experience. His narrator, Gunnar Kaufmann, a self-described demagogue and messiah, preaches a nihilistic credo of mass suicide for blacks, an ``Emancipation Disintegration.'' The novel is Gunnar's Monty Pythonish rewrite of Afro-American history, including tales of ancestors who escaped into slavery and leading up to the relative who set up Malcolm X. Gunnar's early years in Santa Monica are a p.c. joke, with everyone massaging his ``tragic negro'' status. When his mom decides to move him to the 'hood, the street-stupid Gunnar learns how to talk black and get down with the homeys. In high school, he becomes a basketball superstar and an aspiring poet with his own posse of like-minded ghetto geeks, including Nicholas Scoby, a fellow basketball star and ace student. When these bros' get down, it means a drive-by arrow-shooting with an operatic soundtrack. Eventually, Nick and Gunnar land scholarships to Boston University, where Gunnar publishes his first book, Watermelanin, which sells millions of copies and makes Gunnar a reluctant spokesman for black America. His message, though, is a Mishima-inspired call for mass suicide and an end to all African-Americans. Along the way in this crazy romp, Beatty mocks Afrocentrism, concerned white liberals, the idea of black leadership, the poetry scene in America, and every iconic figure of Black History month. A wildly inventive debut that veers between spirited brilliance and Def Comedy Jam vulgarity. (Author tour)

Pub Date: June 12th, 1996
ISBN: 0-395-74280-3
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1996




MORE BY PAUL BEATTY

FictionTHE SELLOUT by Paul Beatty
by Paul Beatty
FictionSLUMBERLAND by Paul Beatty
by Paul Beatty
FictionTUFF by Paul Beatty
by Paul Beatty

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

IndieVan Ripplewink by Paul Clayton
by Paul Clayton
FictionGRAFFITI PALACE by A.G. Lombardo
by A.G. Lombardo
FictionFIVE-CARAT SOUL by James McBride
by James McBride