Quote Of The Day: Slang And Satire

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Quote Of The Day #59

I think I must have missed half of the jokes or parody or satires in this book since there are so many historical contexts and allusions to events that I have no knowledge of. However with my limited understanding, the book is still very funny. I have been in possession of “The Sellout” by Paul Beatty for several years, but haven’t read it until now. Well, I really should stop buying books and start reading them. And to this end, I have to say the recent inflation really helps me achieve this goal–at least on the part of stop buying–which I thought I would never be able to achieve. My only complaint is that there should be detailed explanations for every passing shot of humor that I don’t understand, most of them loaded with references to race relations and American history that I think most Americans know but immigrants don’t.

The book is about Bonbon, an African American who lives in a fictional town of Dickens, California. He’s into urban farming and social experiments, just like his father. Although he was psychologically damaged as a boy when his father did whimsical social experiments on him, he was paradoxically repeating and expanding the social experiments his father had done. He supports segregation and thinks that it will be a boost for black small businesses; he supports the segregation of schools, thinking that children would learn more about black history that way; he puts sign “white only” on city buses. And he even found Hominy Jenkins who willingly wants to become his slave. Hominy was a child star and is now unemployed. And the passages about Hominy’s role as a black child actor in Hollywood movies are very funny, reminding me of all those caricatures of stereotypical Asian roles.

And then something unexpected happens, which eventually lands Bonbon in jail and then in front of the Supreme Court in Washington DC.

My father was (Carl Jung, rest his soul) a social scientist of some renown. As the founder and, to my knowledge, sole practitioner of the field of Liberation Psychology, he liked to walk around the house, aka “the Skinner box,” in a laboratory coat. Where I, his gangly, absentminded black lab rat was homeschooled in strict accordance with Piaget’s theory of cognitive development. I wasn’t fed; I was presented with lukewarm appetitive stimuli. I wasn’t punished, but broken of my unconditioned reflexes. I wasn’t loved, but brought up in an atmosphere of calculated intimacy and intense levels of commitment. We lived in Dickens, a ghetto community on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles, and as odd as it might sound, I grew up on a farm in the inner city. Founded in 1868, Dickens, like most California towns except for Irvine, which was established as a breeding ground for white Republicans and the chihuahuas and East Asian refugees who love them, started out as an agrarian community.

Most citrus fruits require frequent watering, but the inverse is true for satsumas. They turn water into piss, and no matter how much pruning I did, that year’s crop hung heavy and mean on the branches. If I couldn’t figure out a way to decrease the water intake, the yield would be shit and I’d have wasted ten years and fifty pounds of imported Japanese fertilizer. I clipped a mandarin off the nearest tree. Snipping it a quarter inch above the navel, I dug my thumb into the bumpy flesh, ripping it open and squeezing a few drops into the refractometer, the small, overpriced, Japanese-made machine that measures the percentage of sucrose in the juice. “What’s it say?” he asked desperately. “Two point three.” “What’s that on the sweetness scale?” “Somewhere between Eva Braun and a South African salt mine.” I never whispered to my plants. I don’t believe that plants are sentient beings, but after Hominy went home I talked to those trees for an hour. Read them poetry and sang them the blues.

It’s really a funny book and now I am going to search for other books of this author. Wait a second, I thought I said stop buying books…

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