Beatty is the author of three novels: The White Boy Shuffle (1996), Tuff (2000), and Slumberland (2008), and two books of poetry: Big Bank Take Little Bank (1991) and Joker, Joker, Deuce (1994). He also edited Hokum: An Anthology of African-American Humor (2006). He was the recipient of the first Grand Poetry Slam Championship of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in 1990.
Beatty’s work is funny, edgy, and controversial. He bravely dives into stereotypes and attitudes in often disconcerting ways, forcing us to question society’s values and our own. He has no sacred cows. The Washington Post claims, “What Gore Vidal did for sex and gender constructs, Beatty does for race and prominent black Americans, with sacred cow-tipping on nearly every page. Waterfalls of wordplay that pool and merge like acid jazz on the page.” The Denver Post adds, “Beatty is an acute observer of stereotypes and delights in examining them and then twisting them around,” all while he “captures the problems and challenges of young blacks with a precision that ought to put most sociologists to shame.” Beatty’s work confronts us and makes us uncomfortable, implicating us in the stereotypes we find funny and exploding those same images as we read on. Jessica Hagedorn has suggested, “like a nineties Richard Pryor peaking ecstatically on acid, Paul Beatty wreaks havoc with the English vernacular and captures the deadly cool beneath the heat of L.A.’s volatile landscape.”
The careful craft Beatty employs in his language use has contributed to his prominence as a key writer of our time. According to The New York Times, “Mr. Beatty’s blunt, impious, streetwise eloquence has a transfixing power.” USA Today notes that “when Beatty writes, it’s hard not to pay attention.” The Village Voice calls him, “one of the most talented young writers to come along in years,” and adds that he “has the guts and verve and genius of a Tiger Woods on paper.” The Los Angeles Times refers to him as “an uncategorizable underground hero with a loyal, loud, smack-talking cult following.” Adam Mansbach puts it simply, “nobody riffs like Paul Beatty.”
Beatty has master’s degrees in creative writing from Brooklyn College and psychology from Boston University. A native of Los Angeles, he now lives in New York City.
- Genre: Authors
- Awards: Grand Poetry Slam Championship of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in 1990.
- Downloads: PDF beatty_2012_caals.pdf
Novelist and poet Paul Beatty will be the twenty-fourth guest in Marygrove’s Contemporary American Authors Lecture Series. He will deliver the Lillian and Don Bauder Lecture at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 20 2012.