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by Paul Beatty

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"Slumberland" is laugh-out-loud funny and its wit and satire can be burning...There are incredible moments of tenderness... Beatty is a kind of symphonic W.E.B. Du Bois." -Los Angeles TimesSee more details below


"Slumberland" is laugh-out-loud funny and its wit and satire can be burning...There are incredible moments of tenderness... Beatty is a kind of symphonic W.E.B. Du Bois." -Los Angeles Times

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
Washington Post

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.
Seattle Times

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.
Time Out New York

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 inimitable as ever. Beatty's outrageous novel aims to provoke, and it succeeds.

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.
Los Angeles Times

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.
Chicago Sun 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.
author of The End of the Jews Adam Mansbach

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.
author of Caucasia and Symptomatic Danzy Senna

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.
Junot Diaz

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.

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Bloomsbury USA
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