Tuesday, November 10, 2009

REVIEW: Slumberland, by Paul Beatty

Slumberland, by Paul Beatty. Published 2008 by Bloomsbury. Literary Fiction.

I read Slumberland courtesy of LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program.

Slumberland, by Paul Beatty, is a lively, vibrant cracking good read about an African American disk jockey called DJ Darky, who finds what he believes is the perfect beat, a piece of music so moving and evocative and perfect that he is compelled to search out its composer in newly reunified Germany. Along the way he meets friends and lovers, explores issues of race and identity in both Europe and America, and shares his love of music through his energetic prose.

Definitely what I'd call a character- and language-driven book, the slight plot bounces along on Beatty's elastic, creative and oftentimes raunchy language. The graphic sex and drug references start on page 1 and don't let up- this isn't a book for Puritans. The language carries the story of DJ Darky's search for Charles Stone, composer of a piece of music Darky finds on a porn video, as he traverses post-reunification Germany with an assortment of characters including a needy girlfriend, an ex-Stasi agent with an unhealthy fondness for poultry and a pair of black German sisters likewise struggling to come to terms with race and identity.

But it's not all serious. Believe me, it's not. Beatty's sense of humor infects every aspect of the storytelling. Take his reflection on German culture and mores:
German bars don't have happy hours. They have hubris hours. There is no designated time for hubris hour. It happens unexpectedly and without warning. The bartender doesn't ring a bell at five P.M., announce that for the next two hours drinks are two for one, and that sage advice and unmitigated superciliousness are on the house.
And trust me, sarcasm like that doesn't even begin to cover it. I can't even get into some of the stuff that goes on in Slumberland. It's a fantastic, addictive read that will carry you along with its musical, vibrant language, engaging setting and eccentric characters. Visit Slumberland for yourself and see what I mean.

Rating: BUY