Top 164 Quotes & Sayings by Colson Whitehead

Explore popular quotes and sayings by an American novelist Colson Whitehead.
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.

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Abraham Absent Absorption Abstract Absurd Accept Access Access To Information Accounts Accurately Hide All Adapt Address Admire Affect Affection African African American African-American Agony Alien All Kinds Allowed Allowing Alternative America American American Culture American History American People American Writer Amount Angels Animated Anonymous Anti Antidote Anytime Apex Apocalypse Apocalyptic Appeal Apple Applied Apprehension Approaching Arrival Artificiality Assume Assuming Atari Athlete Atrocities Attack Attempt Authority Authors Average Avoid Awful Awhile Baby Back Back To Work Background Balloons Bang Basically Be A Slave Beaches Bears Beaten Behave Behaviour Being Weird Belief Believed Beneath Better Place Bickering Bidder Birth Bits Black Black America Blackness Blame Blankets Blocks Blowing Blowing It Bones Book Books Bookstore Boomers Bore Bored Boring Both Ways Bought Brag Bright Bringing Broadcast Broken Broken Glass Brooklyn Brother Brought Brutal Buildings Burden Burn Buying Cafes Calling Can't Change Can't Change People Canon Capture Cards Career Caring Carry Cases Casino Category Cave Centered Central Central Park Centuries Century Challenging Change Changed Changing Chaos Chapter Characters Cheap Childbirth Children Chips Choose Choosing Church Cities Citizens City Civil Civil Rights Class Close Closer Clouds Clue Coffee College Colored Colossus Comic Comic Book Comic Books Comics Companion Compare Compared Compelled Compelling Concept Concerns Condition Conditions Coney Island Conform Constant Consumer Contacts Contemporary Continue Cool Corporate Correct Cotton Couch Country Couple Courtesy Cracks Crap Crappy Crazy Create Creative Creatively Critic Critical Critics Culture Daily Danger Darkness David Days Dead Death Declaration Declaration Of Independence Deep Define Deliver Deluded Depending Designed Desk Despair Destination Detail Detective Devouring Different Ideas Different Kind Different Kinds Different Ways Differently Difficulty Direction Disappear Disappointed Discover Discovered Discuss Discussing Discussion Disgusting Distraction Domestic Doomed Downloading Dragged Drawing Dread Drive Driving Drove Dumb Dust Early Early Age Easier Eccentric Economic Economics Economy Eddie Editor Editorial Effect Elements Elevator Elevators Elimination Embarrassing Embracing Emotional Empty Enclosure End Of The World Ended Ending Enjoy Enthusiasm Envied Ephemeral Erect Errand Escape Essays Establish Establishing Establishment Eternity Everyday Evocative Evolution Evolved Examine Exciting Exclude Exist Existed Existence Expand Expect Experience Experienced Explore Exposing Extend Extract Extremes Face Facebook Fact Failure Fallen Falling Falling In Love False Families Family Family Unit Faster Fears Feel Felt Female Festering Fewer Fiction Fiction And Nonfiction Field Fifth Grade Figure Figured Figures Figuring Film Films Finally Find Finding Finds Fine Finish Finished First Day Of Spring First Time Five Years Floating Focused Folks Follow Follow Me Football Forcing Form Formats Fortune Frankly Freak Free Free Time French Fresh Friday Friend Friends Front Full Fund Funny Future Gambit Gambling Game Gave General Generally Generation Genre Genres George Get Back Getting Lost Glass Good Good Book Good Writer Good Writers Google Government Grade Great Grew Grew Up Ground Growing Growing Up Guides Guns Half Hamptons Hand Hang Harbor Hard Harper Head Healer Hear Heat Heat Wave Held Helium Hell Henry Heroes Heroic High High School Highest Hint Historian History Hold Home Hope Hopeful Horror Horror Movie Horror Movies Horror Stories Hose Hour Hours House Household Huge Human Humdrum Humor Humorous Hurt Hurting Hurting People Husband Idea Ideas Idiot Ignore Imagine Immersed Immoral Important Improbable Improvement In Fact In Other Words Incentive Inch Include Incompleteness Independence Individuals Inevitable Influence Information Ink And Paper Inside Inspectors Inspiration Inspired Inspires Integral Intended Interest Interesting Internet Interpretation Interview Invited Island Issue Issues James Jimmy John Joke Jokes Journalist Jumping Juncture Juxtaposition Keep Moving Keeping Kicking Kids Killing Killing Myself Kind Kinds King Knew Knowing Knuckles Lady Late Lazy Learn Learned Leave Legendary Legs Level Life Light Likes Lincoln Linear Lines Listening Literal Literary Literature Live Living Location Locomotive Long Long Time Longer Lose Lost Love Luther Lying Magnificent Mail Make Makes Making Male Malicious Manhattan Martin Martin Luther King Masters Meals Meaning Meant Meant To Be Mediocre Mellow Member Memory Mess Messages Metaphor Midst Mine Minutes Miracle Misanthropy Miserable Misfits Mission Models Modern Modern Technology Moment Moments Momentum Monster Monsters Months Mood Mother Motion Motown Mountain Mouth Move Moved Movement Movie Movies Moving Multidisciplinary Murder Music My Brother My Children My Family My Generation Mysterious Mystery Myth Nagging Names Narrator Narrators Nations Native Nature Natures Neanderthals Neighbor Neighborhood Network Neurotic New Ideas New Place New Places New Story New Things New York New York City New Yorker New Yorkers Nice Nonetheless Nonfiction North Not Caring Not Worrying Nothing Is Perfect Novels Number Obligation Obscure Old Buildings Old New York Older Olympic Olympic Spirit One Thing Ongoing Only Time Opportunity Order Our Children Our Family Our Words Overlap Page Pages Paid Pain Paper Paranoia Parents Paris Park Part Party Payback Peeping People People Say Perfect Perfection Performance Performance Art Perpetual Person Personality Personally Petty Physical Picking Piece Pieces Pigeon Place Places Plan Planet Plantation Played Plays Pleasure Poem Point Point Of View Poker Politics Poor Pop Culture Popeye Port Posh Position Possibility Post Prefer Prejudices Premature Premise Present Preserving Pretending Pretty Previous Price Problem Problems Process Procrastination Product Project Projects Prop Property Protect Publish Published Publisher Publishing Publishing House Pull Purchased Pure Purity Purpose Pursuing Putting Quarters Question Questions Rabble Race Race In America Railroad Raised Raising Raising Kids Ralph Rarely Ration Read Readers Readership Reading Ready Real Realism Realistic Reality Realizing Reasons Receive Received Recognize Redemption Refuge Regard Reincarnation Religion Remember Remembered Rent Represent Representation Representative Representing Requires Research Reserve Retain Revealed Rhetorical Rich Richard Rights Rights Movement Rise Rise Above Rock Roll Room Roots Round Rules Running Rush Rush Hour Rwanda Sacred Sacrifice Sadness Safe Sandwich Satisfy Save Scary Scatter School Schools Science Science Fiction Scratch Screenplays Searching Seat Section Seek Sell Sense Sentences Shade Shape Short Short Stories Show Shut Side Simple Sins Skin Slave Slavery Sleep Slow Slow Motion Slowly Small Smaller Smallpox Snob Snobbery So Bored So Boring Soccer Social Society Sold Solid Solved Some People Song Song Titles Sonic Sonic Youth Sooner Sophomore Sort South Speak Speaking Speaking French Spending Spent Spinach Spirit Sport Sports Spring Square Stability Stand Started State Stayed Steak Step Stephen King Stop Stopped Store Stories Story Storytelling Strange Streaks Streamlined Street Structural Studs Stuff Style Subculture Subject Subjects Subway Sudden Suffer Suffering Summer Support Supposed Supposed To Be Surely Surprisingly Survival Surviving Switch System Tackling Takes Taking Talk Talking Taught Teach Teacher Tears Technology Teddy Teddy Bear Teenager Teens Teeth Television Telling Tells Tend Term Terms Terrible Territory Terror Text That Moment These Days Thing Things Things Will Get Better Thinking Thought Three Years Thrown Time Titles To Love Today Tone Tool Tooth Topic Tortured Tourists Towers Toys Trading Tradition Tragedy Train Training Transferred Transform Traveling Treat Treatment True True Nature Truth Tumult Turner Twenty Twenty-Five Typewriters Unconventional Underground Underground Railroad Understand Understand Me Unexpected Union Unit Up North Vague Valid Values Vast Vegas Vehicle Very Interesting Video View Views Village Violent Virginia Visit Vital Voice Voices Wake Wake Up Walk Walker Walking Wandering Wanted Wanting Watch Watching Waves Way Of Talking Ways Weak Weapon Weapons Week Weird Weird Al Weird Stuff Weirdness White Wholesome Wife Windows Wire Words Work Work Out Worked Working World World View Worrying Write Writer Writers Writes Writing Writing A Book Written Wronged Wrote Year Year Later Years Years Ago York Yorker You Can't Change People Young Young Age Youngsters Your Children Your Husband Youth Zombie Zombies Zone Less More Hide All See All
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.
The terror of figuring out a new genre, of telling a new story, is what makes the job exciting, keeps me from getting bored, and I assume it keeps whoever follows my work from getting bored as well.
The idea of sacrifice is integral to the John Henry myth. Heroic figures have to die in order for us to have our stories; we live and stand on their bones. — © Colson Whitehead
The idea of sacrifice is integral to the John Henry myth. Heroic figures have to die in order for us to have our stories; we live and stand on their bones.
If you write about race in 1850, you end up talking about race today because in many ways, so little has changed.
For me, choosing between fiction and nonfiction is really only about picking the right tool for the job.
When I'm working on a book, I try to do eight pages a week. That seems like a good amount. Less than that, I'm not getting a nice momentum, and more than that, I'm probably putting out too much crap.
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.
People don't like it when you compare the miracle of childbirth to writing a book, but I think there is some overlap in the two because they are both pure agony.
The movie 'Rock 'n' Roll High School' was a sacred text in my household.
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.
My mom's mother was from Virginia, but I don't feel much of a tie. I'm very much anti-South for many, many reasons. Whenever I go down there, people are always looking at me funny, you know.
I was inspired to become a writer by horror movies and science fiction. — © Colson Whitehead
I was inspired to become a writer by horror movies and science fiction.
I'm someone who just likes being in my cave and thinking up weird stuff.
I enjoy thinking about how race plays out over the centuries, how technology evolves, how cities transform themselves. These subjects are present in some of my books and absent in others.
Write what you know.
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 was sort of a miserable teenager.
A lot of my books have started with an abstract premise.
If you're writing a detective novel or horror or sci-fi, you want to expand or reinvigorate the genre in your own little way.
I have a good poker face because I am half-dead inside.
What isn't said is as important as what is said.
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'm not a teacher; I'm not a historian. I'm trying to create a world for my characters.
Most of my books have always worked through juxtaposition, jumping through different point of views and time.
For me, the terror of the zombie is that at any moment, your friend, your family, you neighbor, your teacher, the guy at the bodega down the street, can be revealed as the monster they've always been.
'Sag Harbor' was a very different book for me. It changed the way I thought about books that I wanted to do.
Stephen King in general, as well as films of the apocalypse from the '70s, had a big influence on 'Zone One.'
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.
Slavery was a violent, brutal, immoral system, and in accurately depicting how it worked, you have to include that, obviously. Or else you are lying.
I am not sure the issue of race in America will ever be completely solved.
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.
In fifth grade, we did 10 minutes on slavery and 40 minutes on Abraham Lincoln, and in 10th grade you might do 10 minutes on the civil rights era and 40 minutes on Martin Luther King, and that's it.
If self-absorption, vague yearnings, and a nagging sense of incompleteness are sins, then surely I will burn for all eternity, and I will save you a seat.
Other people have hang-ups about what's literary or genre or whatever, and that's sort of not my problem. You're supposed to write what you have to write, and you're supposed to keep moving.
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 do write about race a lot, but I don't think writers - of any shade or background or whatever - have to write about certain subjects. — © Colson Whitehead
I do write about race a lot, but I don't think writers - of any shade or background or whatever - have to write about certain subjects.
There are good writers and bad writers. It's hard to find writers who really speak to you, but the work is out there.
I always try to mix it up with each book - changing tone, changing style keeps the work very vital for 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.
'Driving while black' was taught to me at a young age.
I'm not a representative of blackness, and I'm not a healer.
The contemporary casino is more than a gambling destination: it is a multifarious pleasure enclosure intended to satisfy every member of the family unit.
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.
I live in Brooklyn. I moved here 14 years ago for the cheap rent. It was a little embarrassing because I was raised in Manhattan, and so I was a bit of a snob about the other boroughs.
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.
'John Henry Days' was already half in the can before my first book came out, so I'd already started something that was big and sprawling - I just had to finish it.
A lot of early Misfits song titles are inspired by old B-movies, which were my Popeye's spinach when I was a kid. — © Colson Whitehead
A lot of early Misfits song titles are inspired by old B-movies, which were my Popeye's spinach when I was a kid.
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.
Some people don't like my fiction, because they prefer the nonfiction. But moving around keeps the work fresh for me and, hopefully, for my one or two readers who follow me from book to book!
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.
I admire Vegas's purity, its entirely wholesome artificiality.
I usually have two or three ideas floating around. When I have free time, the one I end up thinking most about is the one I end up pursuing.
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?
I like to explore different ideas of race, how the concept of race has evolved in the country. It's one thing I enjoy talking about, but I don't feel compelled to talk about it.
'Zone One' comes out of me trying to work through some of my ideas about why, for me personally, zombies are scary.
Some books are well-received with critics; other books sell.
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