To Be Real October 2, 2007Posted by alexis in Uncategorized.
Last week’s readings made Kameelah think about a “choreography of death”, and as we move out of the “foundations” and into our first novel this week, black death remains an important theme.
My reading of Paul Beatty’s The White Boy Shuffle is that the author’s incisive humour and uncanny ear for a number of dialects distracts our flight reflexes so that we can face the brutality that he depicts…and that we live. Beatty addresses police brutality, childhood abuse, poverty and chronic racism in a way that most contemporary novelists have shied away from. It is my sense that ultimately this is a book about life IN death and the ways that class inflected racism in the United States fundamentally change the supposed relationship between the two paradigmatic opposites: life and death themselves.
This is also a book about culture and education and an ironically multicultural critique of multiculturalism itself. It is a satirical adventure that uses stereotype to breathe life into spaces killed by ideological neglect. I thank Beatty for encouraging us to think the supposedly unthinkable. If laughter opens our hearts the depth of what he will portray hear expands them past the point where we thought they would break.
I encourage you to pair your reading of the White Boy Shuffle with a selective viewing of Aaron McGruder’s cartoon “The Boondocks”. While the life of the Boondocks as a comic strip presented small (indeed daily) doses of race critical irony, the life of the Boondocks as a television show has created a dystopic space in tune with Beatty’s project. The Boondocks (again using humour as a critical device) uses stereotype and extremes to accurately display just how crazily racist our society is and just how horrific and senseless the consequences can be. Narrating the actual plot in what most cartoonists would marginalize into a dream sequence, McGruder leaves viewers (or at least THIS viewer) with a “damn”. I am left fully complicit, dissatisfied and awake at the end of every episode. Laughlines charting out pathways for tears.
I am interested to know what you all think about the use of stereotypes and the n-word by both of these authors. What do you feel the function of humour is in race critique? What do these texts make possible? What do they reinforce? What narrative (race, war, death, education, responses to homophobia, protesting anti-asian nativism) within the complex matrix of Beatty’s novel struck you the most? To what extent d these works of fiction steal/shift/remake what it means to be real?
P.S. Please read Kinohi’s extended analysis of White Boy Shuffle in this paper whiteboyshuffle.doc which he has so generously shared with us. (And the thinking continues…)