Colson Whitehead

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Colson Whitehead

Arch Colson Chipp Whitehead (born November 6, 1969) is an American novelist.


  • I ask myself: Is the outlook of this book comic? Is it tragic? Is the story best served by a first person narrator who's telling his or her story? Is it best served by an omniscient narrator who can stand above and make connections about the characters and society and politics? Part of figuring out how to tell the story is tone and voice, the same way I'm picking characters and places.
  • Elwood and Turner represent two different parts of my personality…There is the optimistic or hopeful part of me [in Elwood] that believes we can make the world a better place if we keep working at it. Then there’s the pessimistic side, the cynical side [in Turner] that says no—this country is founded on genocide, murder, and slavery and it will always be that way. That’s our dilemma as human beings: How do we reconcile the hopeful with our pessimistic side? How do we reconcile disappointments with the small daily times that make up our lives? I don’t know [any more] than anybody else.… For the characters [in the novel] there’s the problem of, How do you come back from a life-changing catastrophe?...Bouncing back from trauma, you borrow from a sense of hope…but also recognize what you’ve gone through and what you’re up against.
  • I never know when I start out. You know, I sort of know what the ending is. I know where the characters always end up, and I usually have an image of the last page before I start. I'm a big outliner. But you can't know everything and you have to be open to discovery…

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