The Faculty Room of Massachusetts Hall overflowed with students, professors and community members this past Tuesday when novelist Paul Beatty visited campus. He performed a reading from his book, “The Sellout,” and answered questions from the audience. 
Although many consider the content and themes of his novels to be satirical, Beatty doesn’t think of himself as a satirist. 

“[I write about] my friends mostly, LA; I don’t know, just how absurd life is,” he said. “I usually start writing when I’m running out of money.”

Beatty came to campus as a part of the Visiting Writers Series, sponsored by the English Department. 

Professor of English Brock Clarke, who invited Beatty to campus, touched on the benefit of having writers speak and read to students.

“It’s one thing to talk about a writer’s work when it’s in front of you, to read it in class, to talk about it in class,” said Clarke. “But I think it’s also useful for students to see writers as people who are striving to do the same thing as [they] are, and one of the ways you do that is bring them to campus.”

Audience member Sydney To ’19, who read Beatty’s book in Clarke’s Introductory Fiction Workshop, felt similarly.

“It’s very interesting seeing him up there. It’s weird to read someone’s book and then to see them as a person,” he said.    

Beatty started writing poetry while he was in graduate school in psychology. He sent off his poems to an MFA program and was accepted. His advice for students pursuing creative writing is straightforward.

“Gotta keep writing,” he said. “I mean, it’s pretty simple: writers write, that’s basically it.”
Beatty first gained recognition as as a slam poet, but today he only writes novels. He has not written a poem in about 20 years.

“I think part of the reason why I quit poetry [was that] I was writing a poem once and, I don’t know, I wrote some line and went, ‘Oh, they’ll like that one,’ and I [thought] ‘Woah.’ That just really caught me that I even thought about that, and it really messed with me,” said Beatty. “That’s not why I write.” 

He said that he likes novel-writing more because it let him stick to his goal of writing only for himself. 

“I was just much more aware of audience when I was writing poetry for whatever reason and with the fiction I just don’t think about it as much,” he said. 

“He’s one of the most exciting novelists working today,” said Clark, of Beatty. “One of the funniest, one of the most daring, one of the most irreverent writers, and I felt we could stand to hear from someone like that.”    

Beatty said that he usually does not have specific goals in mind when he writes a book.
“Hopefully they’re a little elucidating, a little funny, a little sad,” he said. “I’m just trying to write good books, that’s it.”