Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour satirises the experience of being a minority in a corporate environment. The only Black person at a start up to be precise. Darren Vender is a high school valedictorian who didn’t persue academia but coasts, occupied as a Starbucks barista. A chance meeting with arrogant CEO Rhett sees Darren land a pivotal role at young New York start up, Someone, where he is forcibly re christened as the eponymous Buck.
Based on the premise, I thought I would love this and there are some strong ideas but also aspects that really didn’t work for me. In reality, I probably wouldn’t have finished this had I been reading a physical copy but the narration on the audio book was so good
Black Buck is positioned well, reminds me of ‘Sorry To Bother You’ (Boots Riley film starring Lakeith Stanfield) and also has some elements of the Theranos scandal documented in Bad Blood. Both of which I enjoyed, especially the latter (the book, not the scandal)
Black Buck highlights some points that I appreciated seeing in fiction. Black tokenisation in corporate and the associated micro aggressions (not so micro in parts). The impact of capitalism on the individual and their values, their immediate community. Racial and social strata in America and it’s impact on social mobility. Looks at gentrification , start up culture and the cult of perceived success. It started really well with the introduction of character’s through Darren’s everyday routines. Mateo Askaripour’s visuals of Darren leaving his brownstone daily and greeting the ‘gargoyles’ brought the changes in interaction to life. I also really liked how dialogue and relationship driven the narrative was.
I wasn’t really taken with the writing style which would have stopped me reading but as I mentioned , Zeno Robinson‘s narration was excellent and really improved the experience. Some of the quips and references to race in conversation were a bit prescriptive and obvious for me, so made me wonder if I really was the intended audience. Some parts of the prose felt unnecessarily inserted for explanation’s sake.
Don’t know what to make of the African characters in this book. Maybe Askaripour wanted to reflect different facets of the Black population in New York.
There were too many points where I thought ‘Noooo, Darren, what are you doing??’ Black Buck would have ended very early had I been the protagonist. Would have just said ‘Nope, not me, not today’. End of book. Obviously the satirical impact.
I think the descent into absurdity was a bit too exaggerated for me, especially in the second half. It started off very well, they had us in the first half. Mateo Askaripour set it up well. I think Black Buck should have been only two thirds of the length at most. Great last line though. Movie worthy last line.
If you liked Sorry To Bother you, you might like this story but I’d recommend the audiobook. I’m really starting to see the merit of audiobooks in stand alone capacity
It might be that I don’t do too well with satire on paper but like it on screen/ audio. It’s the same deal with horror and Sci Fi. I didn’t get too far with Paul Beatty’s The Sell Out for example, although I plan to try again at some point. Have you read any satire you would recommend?
Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour published on 18th March 2021 by Hachette in the UK
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in the US