MAN ABOUT TOWN
It’s not every day you get to interview a Man Booker Prize winner, so when US author Paul Beatty was in Cape Town recently we jumped at the chance to chat to him and find out what makes him tick.
The author was catapulted to international fame last year when he became the first American to win the prestigious literary prize for The Sellout, his outrageously funny take on US race relations. Where do you keep your Booker Prize trophy? “Oh, I don’t even know where it is. My mom has it – she was very proud of me when I won it.” What are the perks of winning the Booker? “The book sales help and the recognition is nice – but it’s not something I’m comfortable with so I’m going to have to figure out how to deal with it.” If someone had never heard anything about your book, how would you explain it to them? “I wouldn’t even try. I think it’s the case with everything I write – my books [The White Boy Shuffle, Tuff and The Sellout] are hard to categorise. It’s hard for me to give a synopsis of them.
“Fundamentally they’re books about people with no tools trying to do the impossible. All my books are about that at some level.” What makes you angry? “My own sense of myopia.” A word that you overuse. “I notice I use the word ‘supposed’ a lot, as in ‘he was a supposed spy’. ” The one book people might be surprised to know you’ve never read. “I never read The Catcher in the Rye – I somehow missed that one.” What book has impressed you recently? “Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill. It’s the best book I’ve read in the past few months.”