Search Results for: Colson-Whitehead

Write the Book That Scares You Shitless: An Interview with Colson Whitehead

Longreads Pick

LitHub executive editor John Freeman’s interview with author Colson Whitehead, who this week won the National Book Award for The Underground Railroad. The two discuss the genesis of the book, the ridiculous notion that we entered a “post-racial” world after Barack Obama was elected, and the lingering relevance and effects of slavery.

Source: Literary Hub
Published: Nov 23, 2016
Length: 34 minutes (8,565 words)

The 2017 Pulitzer Prize Winners

2017 Winner for Feature Photography. (E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)

The winners of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize were announced today — on the 170th birthday of Joseph Pulitzer — and though there were some surprises, the majority of the honors were bestowed on some of the year’s most talked about pieces of writing. For example, Colson Whitehead won for his ground-breaking work of fiction, The Underground Railroad. And C.J. Chivers of the New York Times snagged a Pulitzer for his heart-breaking portrayal of a soldier grappling with his life stateside in “The Fighter.”

The entire list of the other Pulitzer recipients can be found here, but below is a compendium of some of the celebrated works. Read more…

Colson Whitehead: An Appreciation

Colson Whitehead
Photo by Madeline Whitehead

Black Cardigan is a great newsletter by writer-editor Carrie Frye, who shares dispatches from her reading life. We’re thrilled to share some of them on Longreads. Go here to sign up for her latest updates.

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I was skipping around Google the other day and was reminded of a piece by Colson Whitehead called “How To Write.” You may have read it when it came out in 2012 and laughed and, if you did, I can assure you that if you reread it now you will laugh again. It starts with the observation that the “art of writing can be reduced to a few simple rules” and kicks off with this one:


It is like putting your broken unicorn out there, isn’t it? Anyway, Whitehead’s new novel The Underground Railroad is coming out Sept. 13, and I’ve been counting down to it.

Read more…

Our Zombies, Ourselves: An Undead Reading List

A still from the 1968 film 'Night of the Living Dead.' (Pictorial Parade/Getty Images)

When you think of zombies, it’s likely you envision something like the flesh-eating, immortal creatures created by George Romero, who defined a new genre of horror with Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead. Thanks to Romero, who died this week at the age of 77, the zombie movie has become more than a chance to feel scared. It’s also an essential lens through which we can view pop culture, politics, and society. In honor of the great director, here is some our favorite writing about the terror of the living dead.

1.“Why Black Heroes Make Zombie Stories More Interesting,” by Matt Thompson (NPR Code Switch, October 2013)

One of Romero’s most famous narrative coups was casting a black actor as the hero of his 1968 film, Night of the Living Dead. It was a decision that turned a run-of-the-mill horror movie into a complex commentary on the civil rights movement, and imbued other zombie films with the ability to criticize society.

The thing about good zombie fiction (and I say this as someone who enjoys an awful lot of zombie fiction) is that the zombies are never the most horrific thing. Zombies don‘t typically have the capacity for complex thought — they don‘t execute stratagems, play politics, torture people. All they do is feed. The true horror in any zombie story worth its salt is what other people do when faced with the zombie threat. Zombies are merely relentless; humans can be sadistic.

Read more…

‘To Be Polite By Ignoring the Obvious’: Jess Row on Unpacking Whiteness in Literature


Morgan Jerkins | Longreads | September 2019 | 10 minutes (2,662 words)

Despite the recurring cycle of conversations on topics such as the need for fully-funded MFA programs, the financial challenges of sustaining oneself as a writer, and the lack of diversity in all levels of media, the issue of whiteness in publishing — and the privileges that come with being white in publishing — continues to justify our scrutiny. We are aware that white people hold much of the power in the literary world, but how do we assess this fact critically, understanding that whiteness is not just a factor in the economics of writing, but in the writing itself? Novelist Jess Row investigates this question in his latest book, White Flights: Race, Fiction, and the American Imagination. In his own words, “American culture has evolved a theory of the white psyche that rarely, if ever, considers racism as a direct or even proximate cause of its disorder and distress.” Read more…

An Interview with MacArthur ‘Genius’ Viet Thanh Nguyen

Guillaume Souvant / AFP / Getty Images

Catherine Cusick | Longreads | October 2017 | 9 minutes (2,200 words)

Viet Thanh Nguyen had just gotten back from a summer in Paris when he received an unexpected phone call from a Chicago number. He didn’t recognize the caller, so he let it ring. Out of curiosity, he texted back, “Who is this?”

The number replied, “It’s the MacArthur Foundation.”

“Oh,” Nguyen thought. “I should call these people back right away.”

Nguyen managed to stand for the first few seconds of the call, but soon had to sit down. He’d just won $625,000, no strings attached, as an unrestricted investment in his creative potential.

Eighteen months earlier, Nguyen had received another life-altering phone call when he won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his debut novel, The Sympathizer. Since the book’s publication in April 2015, Nguyen’s been no stranger to worldwide recognition: He’s also received a Guggenheim fellowship, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, the First Novel Prize from the Center for Fiction, the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, and countless others.

According to the MacArthur Selection Committee, “Nguyen’s body of work not only offers insight into the experiences of refugees past and present, but also poses profound questions about how we might more accurately and conscientiously portray victims and adversaries of other wars.” After writing in obscurity for more than a decade to honor his and others’ war stories — and all refugee stories, Nguyen insists, are war stories — he will now have even more resources to help tilt the world in a more peaceful direction.

I spoke with Nguyen the day after the MacArthur Foundation announced him, along with 23 other extraordinary recipients, as a 2017 MacArthur Fellow. Read more…

Place Your Bets: Six Stories About Gambling

Photo: fitzsean

We pulled into a gas station in rural North Carolina. My friend’s car took diesel; my boyfriend and I needed snacks. The man at the pump across from us looked toward the convenience store and shook his head. “Line’s an hour long,” he said. This was the evening the Powerball would be announced, and folks traveling from all over were lining up to buy last-minute tickets. During the six-hour car ride, we discussed what we’d do if we won. We weren’t going to win. But what if we did? My boyfriend said he’d give each of his coworkers a grand. I wanted to pay off my students’ loans and my parents’ mortgage, nary a dent in the hundreds of millions the Powerball promised after taxes. Wide-eyed, we three walked in. By the time I left the bathroom, the line had dwindled. We restocked on junk food. My boyfriend found a five-dollar bill in his jacket and bought two Powerball tickets. “Playing” the Powerball was passive. We exchanged money for goods; it didn’t feel like a game. But it did make us feel like a part of something bigger—until the winners were announced. I closed Twitter and sighed, and all we Powerballers went back to dreaming.

1. “Heartbreak and Joy in a ‘MasterChef Junior’ Betting Pool.” (Jaya Saxena, The Daily Dot, February 2015)

It’s all fun and games until—nah, it’s still fun and games. “MasterChef Junior” is earnest, heartwarming and suspenseful. It might be the best reality show on TV. Read more…

Colson Whitehead on Gen X, Friendship and The Best Skill a Writer Can Have

“It was 1991. We’d just been diagnosed as Generation X, and certainly we had all the symptons, our designs and life plans as scrawny and undeveloped as our bodies. Sure, we had dreams. Dan had escaped college with a degree in visual arts, was a cartoonist en route to becoming an animator. Darren was an anthro major who’d turned to film, fancying himself a Lynchian auteur in those early days of the indie art-house wave. I considered myself a writer but hadn’t got much further than wearing black and smoking cigarettes. I wrote two five-page short stories, two five-page epics, to audition for my college’s creative-writing workshops and was turned down both times. I was crushed, but in retrospect it was perfect training for becoming a writer. You can keep ’write what you know’—for a true apprenticeship, internalize the world’s indifference and accept rejection and failure into your very soul.”

Colson Whitehead, in the latest issue of Harper’s (subscription required), on friendship, his early career, and a trip to Las Vegas. Read more from Whitehead in the Longreads Archive.


Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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Molly Lambert: My Top 13 Longreads of 2011

Molly Lambert is a writer covering pop culture at Grantland. (She’s also featured in our Top 10 Longreads of 2011)


These are some Longreads I enjoyed this year:

“The Bell Jar At 40”: Emily Gould on Sylvia Plath (Poetry Foundation)

• “The J in J. Crew”: Molly Young on Jenna Lyons (New York magazine)

“The Recessionary Charms Of American Horror Story”: Tess Lynch (Grantland)

• “The Movie Star”: Bill Simmons on Ryan Reynolds and Will Smith (Grantland)

“Occasional Dispatches from the Republic of Anhedonia”: Colson Whitehead at The World Series Of Poker (Grantland)

“Crass Warfare”: Emily Nussbaum on Whitney and 2 Broke Girls (The New Yorker)

“Frantically Impure”: Alex Carnevale on Susan Sontag (This Recording)

“Beauty”: Durga Chew-Bose on Barbara Loden (This Recording)

“God Knows Where I Am”: Rachel Aviv (The New Yorker, sub. required)

• “What Women Want: Porn and the Frontier Of Female Sexuality”: Amanda Hess on James Deen (GOOD)

“‘Make Me Proud’: Does Drake Actually Care About Women?”: Emma Carmichael (The Awl)

“Free The Network”: Allison Bland (The Awl)

“The Celebrity Rehab Of Dr. Drew”: by Natasha Vargas-Cooper (GQ)


See more lists from our Top 5 Longreads of 2011 >

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