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The Far-Flung Inspirations Behind Mateo Askaripour’s ‘Black Buck’

Mateo Askaripour shares a mixtape of his inspirations, from Malcolm X to McKinsey & Company, that fueled his razor-sharp satire on race and corporate America, Black Buck.

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Start-up implosions, comically hubristic CEOs, and corporate-sanctioned white privilege. All are fodder for Mateo Askaripour ’s Black Buck, a gripping, darkly hilarious debut novel that dials up the drama and intrigue of tech news to funhouse-mirror proportions.

We spoke to Askaripour, a Pocket user since 2012, who explained how he relied on a team of muses while working on Black Buck. Every day as he sat down to write, he looked to a folder of photos of people who inspire him, drawing on their strength and style to set a distinctive, irresistible tone.

“Nina Simone is one of my biggest inspirations,” Askaripour said, “and Mississippi Goddam encapsulates the spirit of what I was going for in my book. And Paul Beatty’s work, The Sellout, is what made me feel that I could write something that pushes the envelope of what a book can do.”

So when we asked Askaripour to create a Pocket collection of articles and videos that inspired and informed the book, it was the perfect opportunity to bring that folder to life. Read on for a peek into the mind of the writer at work, drawing on a wide range of influences, from Malcolm X to McKinsey & Company.

“Writing, for me, is salvation, and writing fiction is a specific form of it. When I became disillusioned with the worlds of start-ups and sales, I began writing fiction, and it was just so cathartic and therapeutic—all of these words ending with an i-c! It may be cliche to say, but four hours would have passed by, and I wouldn't notice. I was just having fun, creating.”

Watch Pocket’s Q&A with Mateo Askaripour discussing Black Buck, this collection of inspirations, and the experience of publishing his debut novel.

Portrait by Andrew "FifthGod" Askaripour

Mateo Askaripour

Mateo Askaripour’s work aims to empower people of color to seize opportunities for advancement, no matter the obstacle. He was a 2018 Rhode Island Writers Colony writer-in-residence, and his writing has appeared in Entrepreneur, Lit Hub, Catapult, The Rumpus, Medium, and elsewhere. Black Buck is his debut novel. He lives in Brooklyn.