Explore popular quotes and sayings by an American novelist Colson Whitehead.
Arch Colson Chipp Whitehead is an American novelist. He is the author of eight novels, including his 1999 debut work The Intuitionist and The Underground Railroad (2016), for which he won the 2016 National Book Award for Fiction and the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction; he won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction again in 2020 for The Nickel Boys. He has also published two books of non-fiction. In 2002, he received a MacArthur Genius Grant.
I think a joke is a form of truth-telling. A good joke that's absurd contains elements of our daily darkness and also a possibility to escape that darkness. So, for me, humor is an attempt to capture everyday tragedy and everyday hopeful moments that we experience all of the time.
I was allowed to write about race using an elevator metaphor because of Toni Morrison and David Bradley and Ralph Ellison. Hopefully, me being weird allows someone who's 16 and wanting to write inspires them to have their own weird take on the world, and they can see the different kinds of African American voices being published.
In '82 and '83, that was the rise of the VCR. Every Friday, my brother and I would go to Crazy Eddie's - which was a video store in Manhattan - and rent five horror movies. And that's basically what we did, basically, for three years. Becoming social misfits.
I've always had a love of cards, ever since I was a little kid. I think poker, as a system, describes the chaos of the world. Our sudden reversals, our freak streaks of fortune. The belief that the next hand can save you, and the inevitable failure of the next hand to save you. I think that describes my world view pretty well.
'Zone One' has one kind of an apocalypse, and 'The Underground Railroad' another. In both cases, the narrators are animated by a hope in a better place of refuge - in the last surviving human outpost, Up North. Does it exist? They can only believe.
I was 7 years old when 'Roots' was first broadcast, and my parents gathered all us kids around the TV to learn about how we got here. But it wasn't until I sat down and immersed myself in the research that I got the barest inkling of what it meant to be a slave.
In the 1930s, the government paid writers to interview 80- and 90-year-old former slaves, and I read those accounts. I came away realizing - not surprisingly - that many slave masters were sadists who spent a lot of time thinking up creative ways of hurting people.
I take inspiration from books, movies, television, music - it all goes in the hopper. Depending on the project, I'm drawing from this or that piece of art that has stayed with me. Toni Morrison, George Romero, Sonic Youth - they are all in there.
I knew that a zombie book would not particularly appeal to some of my previous readers, but it was artistically compelling, and being able to do a short nonfiction book about poker was really fun and great.
Anytime an African-American writes an unconventional novel, the writer gets compared to Ellison. But that's O.K. I am working in the African-American literary tradition. That's my aim and what I see as my mission.
I try to keep each different book different from the last. So 'Sag Harbor' is very different from 'Apex Hides the Hurt;' 'The Intuitionist,' which is kind of a detective novel, is very different from 'John Henry Days.' I'm just trying to keep things rich for me creatively and for the readers who follow me.
I get invited to do panels with other Brooklyn writers to discuss what it's like to be a writer in Brooklyn. I expect it's like writing in Manhattan, but there aren't as many tourists walking very slowly in front of you when you step out for coffee. It's like writing in Paris, but there are fewer people speaking French.
I wrote a book of essays about New York called 'The Colossus of New York,' but it's not about - you know, when I'm writing about rush hour or Central Park, it's not a black Central Park, it's just Central Park, and it's not a black rush hour, it's just rush hour.
The readership for 'Sag Harbor' was different from people who'd read me before - it was linear and realistic, not as strange as 'The Intuitionist.' Did they carry over to 'Zone One,' a story about zombies in New York? Some, some not. I'm used to people not caring about my other books.
Having a wife and kids drove home the brutal reality of the slave system for me - the price it exacted on families. On the other hand, whenever I despair over our history, I am brought back to hope, the hope that things will get better, for my children.
I use New York to talk about home, but the ideas in 'Colossus' could be transferred to other cities. The story about Central Park is really about the first day of spring in any park. The Coney Island chapter is really about beaches and summer and heat waves.
Being a slave meant never having the stability of knowing your family would be together as many years as God designed it to be. It meant you could come back from picking cotton in a field to find that your children are gone, your husband's gone, your mother's gone.
Part of any book is establishing the rules at the end of the world. My first book, 'The Intuitionist,' takes place in an alternative world where elevator inspectors are important, so you have to establish rules, and part of that is, How do people talk? How do they behave?