Tuesday, November 22, 2016

the last book I ever read (The Sellout: A Novel by Paul Beatty, excerpt four)

from The Sellout: A Novel by Paul Beatty:

I minored in crop sciences and management, because Professor Farley, my intro to agronomy teacher, said that I was a natural horticulturist. That I could be the next George Washington Carver if I wanted to be. All I needed to do was apply myself and find my own equivalent to the peanut. A legume of my own, she joked, placing a single phaseolus vulgaris into my palm. But anyone who’d ever been to Tito’s Tacos and tasted a warm cupful of the greasy, creamy, refried frijole slop covered in a solid half-inch of melted cheddar cheese knew the bean had already reached genetic perfection. I remember wondering why George Washington Carver. Why couldn’t I have been the next Gregor Mendel, the next whoever it was that invented the Chia Pet, and even though nobody remembers Captain Kangaroo, the next Mr. Green Jeans? So I chose to specialize in the plant life that had the most cultural relevance to me—watermelon and weed. At best I’m a subsistence farmer, but three or four times a year, I’ll hitch a horse to the wagon and clomp through Dickens, hawking my wares, Mongo SantamarĂ­a’s “Watermelon Man” blasting from the boom box. That song pounding in the distance has been known to stop summer league basketball games mid-fast break, end many a ding-dong-ditch, double-Dutch marathon early, and force the women and children waiting at the intersection of Compton and Firestone for the last weekend visitation bus to the L.A. County Jail to make a difficult decision.

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