He was turned down 18 times. Then Paul Beatty won the Booker

Charlotte Higgins in The Guardian:

ScreenHunter_2332 Oct. 28 19.48Paul Beatty may be the first American to win the Man Booker prize, after a rule change three years ago that made authors of any nationality eligible for the £50,000 award, so long as they were writing in English and published in the UK. But he very nearly wasn’t published in Britain at all. Beatty calls his fourth novel “a hard sell” for UK publishers. His rumbustious, lyrically poetic novel was turned down, his agent confirms, by no fewer than 18 publishers. And then, finally, a small independent called Oneworld – founded by a husband-and-wife team in 1986 – took it up. The company is celebrating the unusual achievement of a second consecutive Man Booker win, because it also published Marlon James’s A History of Seven Killings.

“It’s weird for me,” says Beatty, who is 54. The morning after the night before, the New York-based, Los Angeles-born writer is slightly dazed, somewhat short of sleep and good-naturedly overcoming his reluctance to talk about his work. “I think it’s a good book. I was like, ‘Why? What’s all that about?’ I would be uncomfortable guessing [why I couldn’t get a publishing deal]. I would hurt myself. It would be like, ‘Really? Still?’ I guess they thought the book wouldn’t sell.” He won’t be drawn, but the implication is that he suspects publishers may have found the material too harsh, too unconventional, too unfamiliar – and, conceivably, beneath all that, in some undefinable way too black. It is certainly a book in which one gasps frequently – amid deeply uncomfortable laughter and, at times, tears. Nothing is sacred in The Sellout, in which the book’s narrator (surname Me) decides to reinstate segregated schools and reluctantly takes on a slave in his home district of Dickens, Los Angeles. All things, no matter how piously regarded, up to and including the US civil rights movement, are there to be punctured by Beatty’s fierce and fizzing wit.

More here.