‘Beatty insistently finds poetry in the projects, dignity on the street.’ Guardian
‘Beatty’s blunt, impious, streetwise eloquence [is] transfixing’ New York Times
‘The writing here is seamless and teeming with momentum’ New York Times Book Review
Winston ‘Tuffy’ Foshay is a 19-year-old, 24-stone ‘player-king’ to a hapless gang in Spanish Harlem, a denizen who breaks jaws and shoots dogs. His best friend is a disabled Muslim man who wants to rob banks, his guiding light is an ex-hippie Asian woman who worked for Malcolm X, and his wife he married over the phone whilst in jail. When the frustrated Tuffy agrees to run for City Council, so begins a zany, riotous concoction of nonstop hip-hop chatter and brilliant mainstream social satire, as the indomitable Beatty again demonstrates why he is hailed as one of the shrewdest cultural commentators and hilarious cutups of his generation.
A zany, riotous concoction of nonstop hip-hop chatter and brilliant mainstream social satire, Beatty's second novel depicts the unusual coming-of-age of 19-year-old, obese African-American Winston "Tuffy" Foshay, who tries to rise above his rough-and-tumble life on the vicious streets of Spanish Harlem. He wakes up to reality when he survives a shooting in a Brooklyn drug den, and his commitment to becoming a new man is clinched after a crack binge leaves him deranged and hiding in his bedroom closet. Both drug dealer and abuser, he understands the addict's need for illegal substances to escape the despair that pervades his impoverished, violent community. The novel's manic comedy is balanced by the telling portrayal of Winston's topsy-turvy marriage to Yolanda, the mother of their year-old son, Jordy. Following a harrowing visit to prison to see his father, Winston reaches out for another type of mentor in Spenser Throckmorton, freelance rabbi, lecturer and journalist, who, along with Yolanda and his political activist-surrogate mom, Inez, encourages Winston to run for City Council. In a series of howlingly funny scenes, Beatty uses the youth's inept campaign to get in some wicked shots at the American electoral process, voter apathy, conservative politics, liberals and political fat cats. While the book's freewheeling conclusion sounds a note of triumph, Beatty acknowledges the overall lack of promise and opportunity in the lives of young blacks in communities neglected by society at large. His supporting cast of rogue characters is expertly drawn, providing the perfect complement for Winston's many comic miscues. Beatty's book is full of deep belly laughs, wonderfully knowing observations on society and pop culture, all delivered with the same imaginative originality and skill that informed his acclaimed debut work, The White Boy Shuffle.