Thursday, October 27, 2016

American Paul Beatty's The Sellout Wins the Booker Prize

Paul Beatty
(photo: Hanna Assouline)
Paul Beatty's wickedly funny and thoughtful novel The Sellout -- first published by FSG in the US in 2015, but issued in the UK by independent Oneworld in 2016 -- won the Booker Prize. Oneworld also published last year's winner, Marlon James's A Brief History In Seven Killings. That makes the 54-year-old New Yorker the first American to ever win the prize, which opened to American contestants in 2014.

An emotional Beatty told the crowd at the awards ceremony, "I wasn't expecting this I have to say.... I can't tell you guys how long the journey this has been for me." He added, "I don't want tp get all dramatic - [that] writing saved my life or anything -- but writing's given me a life."

Chair of judges Amanda Foreman commented: "The Sellout is a novel for our times. A tirelessly inventive modern satire, its humor 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."

The book won the NBCC award for fiction in March shortly after the trade paperback was released, but the Booker win should give Sellout its deserved lift well above the approximately 25,000 trade paperback units sold so far this year as tracked by Nielsen Bookscan. Oneworld has already announced plans to reprint 120,000 copies for the UK, and another 40,000 copies for Australia, while Picador has gone back to press already for 50,000 paperback copies (and an additional 10,000 hardcover copies from FSG) since Tuesday night's announcement and expects to reprint "multiple times through the end of the year" to the order of "many tens of thousands" of copies."

It's worth noting for the record that the standard Booker rule of thumb -- the favorite never wins -- held true again. Madeleine Thien's Do Not Say We Have Nothing had led the betting books.

In other awards news, the ALA announced shortlists for their Carnegie Medals:

Moonglow, by Michael Chabon
Swing Time, by Zadie Smith
The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
The Firebrand and the First Lady: Portrait of a Friendship, by Patricia Bell-Scott,
Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America, by Patrick Phillips

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