By Paul Beatty
Paul Beatty's hilarious and scathing debut novel, The White Boy Shuffle, is ready Gunnar Kaufman, a clumsy, black surfer bum who's moved via his mom from Santa Monica to city West l. a.. There, he starts off to endure a startling transformation from local outcast to basketball star, and at last to reluctant messiah of a "divided, downtrodden people."
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There are quite a few people inside. The congregation, if one may call it that, is organized around a variety of social services and activities. Next to the seltzer fountain someone distributes lebkuchen, another puts out bins with secondhand clothing, a third picks up litter. At first my two women seem to take little note of this bustle, alarmed as they are by the absence of an altar. I point out a massive analogue clock on the front wall, where one 58 would normally find the pipe organ. This tempers their dismay somewhat.
As far back as I can remember I felt at ease among the dead. I made a habit of frequenting cemeteries wherever in the world I happened to be. My fondest memories are 31 of exploring the Old and the New Povozki in Warsaw, the churchyard of Peksovy Bzhyzek in Zakopane, Père-Lachaise in La Ville Lumière and the Glasgow Necropolis modeled on it, London’s Highgate, burial grounds in the Irish Midlands, and the maze-like Montjuïc cemetery, whose scabrous crests overlook a topography of the port of Barcelona.
We would rather not look past the horizon of history, nor dig through the piles (and pits) of historical debris, sorted and unsorted documents, partial and impartial memories; we would rather not move beyond these obstructions. There is today so much nostalgia (we observe) for destruction on the grandest scale.