TUFF.

Beatty, Paul.

Published by New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.
ISBN 10: 0375401229 / ISBN 13: 9780375401220
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SIGNED hardcover first edition - First printing. A coming of age story set in Spanish Harlem - the second novel by the irreverent and highly praised author of 'The White Boy Shuffle.' SIGNED on the title page. 259 pp. Very near fine in a like dustjacket. Bookseller Inventory #

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Synopsis: Fueled by the ferocious wit, outrageous comedy, and flat-out rage that made his debut novel, The White Boy Shuffle, one of the most passionately reviewed books of 1996 ("A blast of satirical heat from the talented heart of Black American life" --New York Times; "As much in the tradition of Richard Pryor as Ralph Ellison" --The Village Voice), Tuff unleashes Paul Beatty's verbal dazzle and nothing-sacred sensibility on the story of a young black man coming of age on the streets and stoops of Spanish Harlem.

Nineteen-year-old, 320-pound Winston "Tuffy" Foshay -- player king of a motley crew that includes his scheming, disabled best friend, Fariq, otherwise known as Smush; his Beat-poet, Black Panther father, Clifford; Inez, the unreconstructed Marxist revolutionary who raised him; and his bewildered mentor from the Big Brother program, the hapless African-American rabbi Spencer Throckmorton -- is ready to make a change. So when Inez offers him $20,000 to run for city council, Tuffy gamely embarks on one of the most outlandish campaigns in political history, one that topples both his vision of the world and his place in it.

Beatty's fierce gifts have never been more apparent: Tuff marks the return of one of this generation's freshest voices.

Review: Paul Beatty's eponymous protagonist, Tuffy, wouldn't seem the type to sidle up too close to the word adorable. At 300 pounds, this thug is a true heavyweight in his East Harlem neighborhood. He robs, he kills, he gets high. But by the end of Beatty's follow-up to The White Boy Shuffle, he is as complexly drawn, as funny, and as lovable as any character in recent memory. The author torques his man into an uncomfortable position: this mighty rose in Spanish Harlem decides to run for City Council. Tuffy--a.k.a. Winston Foshay--is having a tough time of it. Sick of selling drugs and "regulating" neighborhood scams, he wants a better way to support his wife and baby son. His first solution is to get himself a Big Brother (even though he's 22 years old). With the help of his new Brother--who turns out to be the rabbi Spencer Throckmorton, a Jewish black man who receives no end of torment from the Muslim contingent of Tuffy's crew--Tuffy runs.

Beatty nails the social nuances of East Harlem right down to the ground. When Tuffy acquires a gun, he considers telling his best friend Fariq about it, but "decided against it. Once people knew you had a gun, it was like having a car--everyone begging to borrow it, wanting you to use it to make their lives easier." Beatty locates irony constantly and quietly: Tuffy and his wife, Yolanda, go to the local school to vote, and the "flag over the entrance was flying at half-mast because the pulleys had rusted shut." Beatty also has a great eye for the way people move; this is a writer who has been paying attention. Spencer takes a late-night walk with Tuffy, through East Harlem. A group of teens approaches, frightening Spencer.

The boisterous youths were only two steps away from him--so close he could feel the chill emanating off their ice-cold scowls. Winston walked toward the group, reached out, and, without breaking stride, shook the hand of the lead gargoyle.
And throughout, Beatty writes--records, it sometimes seems, so dead-on is his tone--incredibly funny dialogue. As is only right, he saves all the best lines for Tuffy. In order to better understand Spencer's Jewishness, Tuffy, a film buff, rents Schindler's List. He complains to Spencer: "I mean, the movie was terrible. I couldn't get past that there were no Jews as tall as Schindler. In all of Germany the tallest Jew went up to Schindler's belly button?" And this is the final, trumping pleasure of Beatty's book: it always returns to Tuffy. With its broad portrait of a fish out of water and its wicked, satirical tone, the novel sometimes threatens to careen into Tom Wolfe territory. Beatty wisely reins in and concentrates on his hero. The author seems a little in love with Tuffy, and by the end, we are too. --Claire Dederer

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Title: TUFF.
Publisher: New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.

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