Slumberland
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Slumberland

4.7 4
by Paul Beatty
     
 

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The breakout novel from a literary virtuoso about a disaffected Los Angeles DJ who travels to post-Wall Berlin in search of his transatlantic doppelganger.

Hailed by the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times as one of the best writers of his generation, Paul Beatty turns his incisive eye to man's search for meaning and identity in an increasingly

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Overview

The breakout novel from a literary virtuoso about a disaffected Los Angeles DJ who travels to post-Wall Berlin in search of his transatlantic doppelganger.

Hailed by the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times as one of the best writers of his generation, Paul Beatty turns his incisive eye to man's search for meaning and identity in an increasingly chaotic world.

After creating the perfect beat, DJ Darky goes in search of Charles Stone, a little-known avant-garde jazzman, to play over his sonic masterpiece. His quest brings him to a recently unified Berlin, where he stumbles through the city's dreamy streets ruminating about race, sex, love, Teutonic gods, the preventdefense, and Wynton Marsalis in search of his artistic—and spiritual—other.

Ferocious, bombastic, and laugh-out-loud funny, Slumberland is vintage Paul Beatty and belongs on the shelf next to Jonathan Lethem, Colson Whitehead, and Junot Diaz.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The narrator of Beatty's late '80s picaresque, Ferguson W. Sowell-aka DJ Darky-is so attuned to sound that he claims to have a "phonographic memory." Ferguson, who does porno film scores for the money in L.A., has a cognoscenti's delight in jazz, and he's close to obsessed with Charles Stone, aka "the Schwa," a musician who apparently disappeared into East Germany in the '60s. Ferguson receives an already-scored tape whose soundtrack is so rich and strange and "transformative" that it must be by Schwa. Ferguson is soon on his way to Slumberland, a bar in West Berlin to which he sources the tape. He arrives just in time to experience the sexual allure black men exercise on Cold War Berliners, and stays long enough to watch the city's culture fall apart after the fall of the Wall. With its acerbic running commentary on race, sex and Cold War culture, the latest from Beatty, author of Tuffand editor of The Anthology of African American Humor, contains flashes of absurdist brilliance in the tradition of William Burroughs and Ishmael Reed. But the plot seems little more than an excuse to set up a number of comic routines, denying the story a driving, unifying plot. (July)

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Library Journal

In his third novel (after Tuff and The White Boy Shuffle), Beatty creates a story from music. DJ Darky, a Los Angeles musician who, like a modernist jazzman, creates beats from found sounds, travels to Berlin, Germany, in search of his avant-garde idol, Charles Stone, aka the Schwa. Shortly after discovering the Schwa's beat in a mysterious envelope, DJ Darky sends a demo with his own infallible sound to the Slumberland Bar in Berlin as an application for the position of "jukebox sommelier," for which he's immediately accepted. Beatty takes us into pre-Wall Berlin and finishes just after liberation, ending in a crescendo of incomprehensible rhythm from DJ Darky and the Schwa's collaboration that re-creates a metaphorical wall. The narrative touches on oppression and the inexplicable, transcendent power of music, both of which translate to the American race struggle. Beatty's rolling Faulknerian prose has been praised for its "dazzling linguistic flights" (Salon), and this newest novel is no different; the dense imagery and sound create a synesthesia carnival. Recommended for all libraries.
—Stephen Morrow

Kirkus Reviews
Beatty's ferociously witty and original third novel (Tuff, 2000, etc.) follows a Los Angeles DJ called Darky, who, having created a revolutionary "perfect beat," heads to late-1980s Berlin to find the obscure, incomparable jazzman known as the Schwa and get him to lay down a track over it. If that sounds preposterous, it is-gloriously so. Helped by a mysterious call from a Berlin bar called Slumberland and by the near-simultaneous arrival from Germany of a man-on-chicken sex film scored by someone who can only be the Schwa, DJ Darky leaves California for a job as Slumberland's "jukebox-sommelier," a position he's invented and quickly perfects. He earns a living and a reputation (and the erotic adventures that come with said reputation) by way of his encyclopedic knowledge of music, especially African-American music. Mostly what he finds in Germany, though, is the time and distance required to ruminate, with a scabrous wit that spares nothing and no one, about blackness (his own and that of others), about music, about the United States and Germany, about sex, about language. This is a book made almost entirely of riffs and harangues, but the riffs are so virtuosic and so hilarious that the reader is hard-pressed to take note of, much less to lament, minor omissions like plot or character development. Whether he's warning against the "cutie-pie cabal" of The All-New Mickey Mouse Club; spinning a track for a philosopher skinhead; hypothesizing about Harriet Tubman or Nabokov or Big Daddy Kane; rhapsodizing about every sound he's ever heard (he has a "phonographic memory"); or brilliantly spinning an analogy between East Germans after reunification and African-Americans during Reconstruction,DJ Darky brings the full funk. He's not a man for half-measures, especially not for half-measures of rhetoric, and he loves nothing more than turning some anodyne myth or ill-considered conventional wisdom inside out and stomping on it for a while. Rhythmically. Marvelous. Agent: Sarah Chalfant/The Wylie Agency
From the Publisher

“With laugh-out-loud parodies of everything from the SAT's cultural bias to neo-Nazi musical tastes, Slumberland shows that Beatty can still crank out the acerbic riffs...as inimitable as ever. Beatty's outrageous novel aims to provoke, and it succeeds.” —Time Out New York

“With its dictionary delight mixed with cheerfully raunchy, tossed-off outrageousness, Slumberland is like a trip-hop Myra Breckinridge. (If Myra were plying her libidinous philosophy in contemporary America, it's easy to imagine her, like Sowell, dreaming of a "ménage a noir.") . What Gore Vidal did for sex and gender constructs, though, Beatty does for race and prominent black Americans, with sacred cow-tipping on nearly every page. Waterfalls of wordplay that pool and merge like acid jazz on the page...well worth checking out for any language lover with a wicked sense of humor. When Beatty is beating out his linguistic arpeggios, I could listen all day.” —Washington Post

“A remarkably strange and funny meditation...revelatory and mind-blowing. From its opening pages, Beatty's powerhouse novel leaves no doubt about the topsy-turvy narrative road ahead, one that destroys conventional notions of black identity and white oppression while finding perverse humor in verbal salvos flung at and over the wall of race.” —Seattle Times

“One of the hip hop generation's most lyrical writers spins a tale that traces an introspective DJ from his Los Angeles home to Berlin in search of a sublime sax player he hopes will bless his latest sonic sculpture.” —Vibe

“Slumberland" is laugh-out-loud funny and its wit and satire can be burning, regardless of where they are pointed: blackness or whiteness. The book places Beatty somewhere among Ishmael Reed, Dany Laferrière and William S. Burroughs, and it is rife with sex (particularly interracial sex as weapon, as guilt and celebration, but never as love), music (it is, in fact, a love poem to music as identity, as savior, as self, as the perfect language) and religion, whatever mask it wears. There are incredible moments of tenderness... Beatty is kind of symphonic W.E.B. Du Bois.” —Los Angeles Times

“The final message, romantic but deeply felt, is crystal clear -- music might not pave the way for reunification, but in many ways it's the best possible option.” —Chicago Sun Times

“Ferociously witty and original...virtuosic and hilarious. Whether he's warning against the 'cutie-pie cabal' of The All-New Mickey Mouse Club; spinning a track for a philosopher skinhead; hypothesizing about Harriet Tubman or Nabokov or Big Daddy Kane; rhapsodizing about every sound he's ever heard (he has a "phonographic memory"); or brilliantly spinning an analogy between East Germans after reunification and African-Americans during Reconstruction, DJ Darky brings the full funk. Marvelous.” —Kirkus

“The narrative touches on oppression and the inexplicable, transcendent power of music, both of which translate to the American race struggle. Beatty's rolling Faulknerian prose has been praised for its "dazzling linguistic flights" (Salon), and this newest novel is no different; the dense imagery and sound create a synesthesia carnival.” —Library Journal

“With its acerbic running commentary on race, sex, and Cold War culture, the latest from Beatty contains flashes of absurdist brilliance in the tradition of William Burroughs and Ishmael Reed.” —Publishers Weekly

“Nobody riffs like Paul Beatty. Uproarious, incisive and thrillingly original, Slumberland is a masterful journey into sound, a diatonic/Teutonic search for love, identity, the perfect beat and the perfect beatdown. Like any great soloist, Beatty reveals entire worlds with each note, some of them heartbreakingly familiar and others heretofore unknown. This is an epic mash-up of race, music, culture, history, and everything else worth throwing on a turntable.” —Adam Mansbach, author of The End of the Jews

“In Paul Beatty's brilliant comic novel, an American deejay in Berlin declares the end of blackness even as he finds himself the object of a million racial projections. Every sentence is a moment of fierce and intelligent wit, and all of our preconceived notions – of racial-uplift narratives, of Germany, and of the nature of music – are turned squarely and rightly on their heads.” —Danzy Senna, author of Caucasia and Symptomatic

“Furiously written…another bravura performance from the searingly talented Paul Beatty. A no-holds-barred comedic romp that crushes through the Fulda Gap of Black/White, East/West relationships like an M1 tank.” —Junot Diaz

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781596912410
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
08/04/2009
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
301,464
Product dimensions:
5.52(w) x 8.36(h) x 0.72(d)

Meet the Author

Paul Beatty is the author of two novels, Tuff and The White Boy Shuffle, and two books of poetry, Big Bank Take Little Bank and Joker, Joker, Deuce. He is the editor of Hokum: An Anthology of African- American Humor. He lives in New York City.

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Slumberland 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guillo More than 1 year ago
Amazing amazing amazing book. A racial journey that shows to its reader that the ideas of segregation and separation still exist. Although we might turn the other way Beatty makes sure that we stare straight at the truth in this novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
browngirl More than 1 year ago
Paul Beatty has written a really scathing and hilarious tale about a Black guy, who goes by DJ Darky, on his journey of creating the perfect beat. The most significant part of this journey involves him going to Berlin to get validation from his musical hero, jazz musician Charles Stone, who he and his friends- The Beard Scratchers- have affectionately dubbed "The Schwa". This novel presents ideas of race, culture, and music with language that's lyrical and cheeky. From the opening page, DJ Darky declares that Blackness is over and while reflecting on years of tanning says: "My complexion has darkened somewhat; it's still a nice nonthreatening sitcom Negro brown, but now there's a pomegranate-purple undertone that in certain light gives me a more villainous sheen." Brilliant! I was laughing out loud from just the first few pages. This is rare that a book invokes emotion in me that's evident. This has to be my favorite book thus far for the year. That this book's focal point is music and the level of music snobbery by the host of such thoughtful characters was so on point for me as I can be quite a music snob. Slumberland is like your favorite movie from which you love to quote every other line. Yes, this book has too many lines I want to quote. I'm glad I held on to Beatty's White Boy Shuffle even though I couldn't get into it on my first attempt many years ago. I think I have more appreciative eyes towards his writing now.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago