Posts Tagged ‘Colson Whitehead’

Social and financial forces silently war in the American heartland in Colson Whitehead’s novel ‘Apex Hides the Hurt’

October 14, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 14, 2017

Like many places, the Midwestern town at the center of Colson Whitehead’s 2006 novel Apex Hides the Hurt is torn by battling crosscurrents. In Winthrop, one especially acute conflict pits a nostalgic longing for the past against an eagerness to embrace change — the kind of conflict, one outsider will discover, that’s hard to settle in a town still rent by deep, unspoken feelings about race, history and money.

The seemingly placid town of Winthrop is ruled by a congenial three-person council that’s normally very good at finding consensus. The group consists of Albie Winthrop, a batty divorce whose forefather manufactured and sold barbed wire to customers far and wide; Regina Goode, a grounded divorcee of decidedly more modest means, but whose roots run at least as deep as Winthrop’s; and Lucky Aberdeen, a wildly successful local software entrepreneur whose vision for the future of the town will bring as much change as that of Albie’s forefather did back in the late 1800s.

The specific issue that summons the New Yorker who is the focus of Whitehead’s novel is nomenclature. Aberdeen wants to change the town’s name to New Prospera. Goode wants to change it back to Freedom, which is what the place was originally called by her ancestors, former slaves fleeing the ashes of the Confederacy. Winthrop, of course, is perfectly content with the name that the town has had ever since it was officially incorporated by an alliance among his and Goode’s progenitors.

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The undead populate the Big Apple in Colson Whitehead’s haunting ‘Zone One’

July 9, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
July 9, 2013

Colson Whitehead’s 2011 zombie novel, Zone One, gave me nightmares.

There are a number of reasons why that might have been. One is that it’s a horror novel — a tale of the zombie apocalypse — and a damn scary one, to boot. Another is that I rarely read or watch horror stories. A third is that the ending is quite macabre.

Zone One takes place over one weekend, but the events it portrays are pulled from the entire span of the protagonist’s life. He is one Mark Spitz (as he is nicknamed), a native of New York City’s Long Island suburbs who is now based in lower Manhattan — or Zone One, as it’s been dubbed. Spitz and his two Omega squad teammates are sweepers, tasked with entering every single space that might contain a zombie.

Actually, that word is never (to my recollection) used in the book. The monsters are instead referred to by one of two labels: skels, which are the typical mindless zombies that feed on people, and stragglers, which are a novel sort of undead that are frozen in place. Both kinds are to be shot in the head, bagged and hauled (or thrown) down to the street. There, following their collection by Disposal workers, the corpses are carried by horse-drawn cart for incineration at “Fort Wonton.”

Although Zone One is a massive reclamation project, it’s part of an even larger endeavor: The cleansing of post-apocalyptic America. The effort is led by a provisional government in Buffalo that issues pamphlets on “Living with PASD” (that’s post-apocalyptic stress disorder, natch) and is preparing for a global summit.

Mark Spitz is a damaged man, yet he is also — strangely — a flourishing one. In his journey through the zombie-riddled East Coast, he finds safety repeatedly, only to see it compromised time and again. Read the rest of this entry »

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