Archive Excavation – Man Booker Prize Winner Paul Beatty in the Apples and Snakes Archive

As the clocks turn back so do the pages in history of the Apples archive. As you know we’re digging around and discovering gems: gems that you will all be able to access, in the not so distant future.

But for now, we’ve decided to post little bite-size treats during your tea, coffee or gin break …! Well, we don’t know exactly what time you’ll be reading this – do we? Not that we’re advocating reckless drinking. We drink only Apple juice here, freshly pressed, of course.

So, let’s get to it, about three weeks ago I was inputting data information for flyers and came across a tour that took place in 1995 for an author I didn’t recognise, for his book The White Boy Shuffle. A few days later, at home, watching Channel 4 News I saw a Black American author, with his name straplined underneath, and registered: was this the same guy I’d seen on the flyer? Okay, he was older, his close-shaven head, whiter; but the name, the name?

 He was questpaul-beattyioned about the travesty that we’ve all witnessed on our screens this year; the American government’s ineptitude at what amounts to   the murder of Blacks across America at the hands of law enforcement officers and this relating theme in his new book; which although published in 2015 also contains this uncomfortable reality within its pages.

I stopped; I listened, I wrote down the book title and his name to research later. Fast-forward a few days, and back in the office I headed straight to the folder of flyers (archiving gets you like that, it brings out your inner nerd gene) and yes, you guessed it, he was the same guy on the flyer.

Fast forward again nearly a week later and we’ll assume that you all keep abreast of current affairs? And therefore, will know that the Man Booker Prize winner was announced last week. And yes, you guessed it; he is the very same writer/poet that Apples and Snakes toured in 1995 for his then new book The White Boy Shuffle. And last week Paul Beatty was announced as the 2016 Man Booker Prize Winner for his acclaimed novel The Sellout.

But when you research, as I know you will, finger on the pulse and all that – you’ll see that he started his life as a poet and still writes and performs at poetry readings. You can find a number of performances on YouTube.

You may have noticed I haven’t used the term ‘spoken word’ and you will read Paul Beatty has a lot to say in many interviews about the poetry scene, the changes he has witnessed and his responses to them. By his own admission, he is a deep thinker and his interest in psychology means he deconstructs everything he sees, he doesn’t just accept terms but questions their relevance, importance and accepted cultural capital in the wider context and what this communicates. But, I will let you discover all that for yourselves. Time for you to start googling and reading the many interviews and finding out about the writer Paul Beatty – for me, I’m off to get my copy from New Beacon Books. I take my hat off to writers that push the boundaries and don’t write to accepted formulas or populist themes.

And just another last bite before the tea-break is over – Marlon James who won the Man Booker Prize last year (2015) for A Brief History of Seven Killings, and Paul Beatty were both published by the little known small independent publishing house Oneworld set up by husband and wife team Juliet Mabey and Novin Doostdar in 1986. Both suffered rejection, James’ first novel 78 times, before Brooklyn based Akashic Books saw its merits and Beatty’s 18 times rejected, before Oneworld identified both and the merits of their style and stories.

What this tells us is both writers followed their creative truth. So be brave and don’t write to formula if you don’t want to and don’t copy others’ style – write like you. Don’t write to be acceptable; write to dazzle and make the unthinking think.

Again, more google research for you to do, to add to your knowledge, which will no doubt impress and bore in equal measure your friends and family round the Christmas/holiday table; but hey, we aim to keep your grey matter tick tick ticking.

Stay tuned for your next educational installment – and no tuition fees to pay. What’s not to like?


beattyBy bleue granada