The author Colson Whitehead has written novels about dueling elevator inspectors (The Intuitionist), an American folk hero who perished in a competition with a machine (John Henry Days), a nomenclature consultant (Apex Hides the Hurt), a prep school kid coming of age in the mid-80s (Sag Harbor), and a clean-up crew after the zombie apocalypse (Zone One). He’s written a book-length ode to New York City, an epic report on the World Series of Poker, and a memoir of growing up on horror movies. A few weeks ago he was at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Bali to talk about his work.
Though it is lunchtime and conditions are perfect for a nap, the hall is full of people clutching copies of his books. Whitehead is a tall African-American man in his 40s, with dreadlocks. According to his official bio he was born and lives in Manhattan, received a MacArthur “genius” grant, and worked for the Village Voice. His manner—halting, seeming to grope for the right words—suggests he would rather not be talking about himself, but he obviously knows how to get the crowd going. The moderator introduces him and asks him to read from his latest novel, Zone One. He reads the first line—“He always wanted to live in New York”—then goes off on a riff about the terrors of the writing process.
Read Colson Whitehead: Laureate of the Zombies, our column
today next week in the Philippine Star.