Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Slumberland by Paul Beatty

Paul Beatty
Available Now

I first read Paul Beatty in college when my African American lit professor assigned The White Boy Shuffle. Everything about Beatty's writing was unlike I'd ever read before. It was edgy and rhythmic. Powerful and hilarious. It was in-your-face and I loved every minute of it. Since then, I've read his two books of poetry and both of his novels (Tuff being the second). One time, I even drove four hours just to see him give a reading. I remember driving down to the event and seeing one of the most amazing sunsets I'd ever seen. Something about that event etched itself in my mind. So it is not surprising that when I saw an advanced copy of his latest book arrive in the mail, I greedily took it home to read.

DJ Darky has created a near-perfect beat. All that's missing from perfection is for legendary jazz master, Charles Stone, to add his own track. The only thing is that Charles Stone hasn't been seen in ages. But when DJ Darky hears a song on a snuff film that is unmistakably Charles Stone, DJ Darky journeys to a still Berlin Wall-split Germany to find his musical hero. It is here that DJ Darky takes a job as a juke-box sommelier at the Slumberland Bar (where white German women seduce black men with the help of DJ Darky's music).

Beatty returns to familiar themes in his latest novel--black identity, music, and urban sub/counter-culture. It starts a bit rough and feels a little too over-stylized in places, but once DJ Darky gets into his quest, the story really picks up. Be aware that the novel is at times filthy, but somehow Beatty's writing makes you fall in love with the language. While not his strongest novel, Slumberland is still a good book and worth reading.

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