Man Booker Prize Winner Is Paul Beatty, First American To Win British Prize : The Two-Way Beatty won for The Sellout, a satire hailed as hilarious about the fraught subject of race in the U.S. The competition was opened recently to any author writing in English and published in the U.K.
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Novelist Paul Beatty Is First American To Win Britain's Man Booker Prize

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Novelist Paul Beatty Is First American To Win Britain's Man Booker Prize

Novelist Paul Beatty Is First American To Win Britain's Man Booker Prize

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

For the first time ever, an American has won the Man Booker Prize for literature. Until recently, that prize was open only to writers from Britain and from the nations of the British Commonwealth. Now the rules have been widened. Americans qualify, so long as their books were published in the U.K. And American Paul Beatty won yesterday for his novel, "The Sellout." NPR's Lynn Neary reports.

LYNN NEARY, BYLINE: The Man Booker committee describes "The Sellout" as a searing satire on race relations in contemporary America. Judge Amanda Foreman said Beatty takes aim at racial and political taboos with wit, verb and abandon. "The Sellout" wasn't an easy book to write, Beatty said. And for some, it won't be an easy book to read.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

PAUL BEATTY: I don't write, like, not to offend. Or - I don't write to offend either. You know, I write to say what I have to say.

NEARY: Speaking to NPR last year, Beatty said humor is a good way to address really serious things. And "The Sellout" does just that. It's the story of a guy named Bonbon, whose home town near Los Angeles has been wiped off the map. He becomes both a watermelon and pot farmer, reinstates segregation and involuntarily takes on a slave. You get an idea of Beatty's satirical sensibility in this excerpt.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

BEATTY: (Reading) They say pimping ain't easy. Well, neither is slaveholding. Like children, dogs, dice and overpromising politicians and apparently prostitutes, slaves don't do what you tell them to do.

NEARY: "The Sellout" has been called a comic masterpiece, and Beatty has been compared to famous satirist Jonathan Swift. He says his work is a layered experience.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

BEATTY: With a lot of good writing, it works on a number of levels. There's a joke. There's the joke inside the joke. And then there's the serious bit in the joke, you know, in the sentences, in the language and the tempo of the book. I don't write thinking that everyone's going to necessarily understand everything. I think we got to deal with something.

NEARY: Beatty now joins a roster of Man Booker winners that includes Hilary Mantel, Salman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood. The prize comes with a purse of 50,000 pounds, a little more than $60,000, and with any luck, an increase in both name recognition and sales. Lynn Neary, NPR News, Washington.

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