Colson Whitehead is the bestselling author of The Underground Railroad, which in 2016 won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction and the National Book Award and was named one of the Ten Best Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review. He is also a Pulitzer Prize finalist and a recipient of the MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellowships.
In this interview, author Colson Whitehead looks back at his work, from The Intuitionist to this year’s Crook Manifesto. Learn in his own words the decisions that led to his bestsellers and the writers that inspired his work.
“The survivors in the story were all white and I wondered what happened to the Black part of campus. I assumed it was worse. And it was.”
“If an idea stays with you, it’s sort of arguing for its importance. And the idea stayed with me for years and years.”
“I would drop off my kid at school in the morning, you know, say goodbye to the other parents, they’d be like, ‘Oh, what’s up, Colson?’ I was like, ‘oh, I’m going to Atlantic City to gamble.’”
“Hopefully if you don’t like poker and gambling and if your Uncle Bob spent your college fund gambling on horses, you can still get into the book.”
“He grew up with a father as a criminal and that was his model for manhood. There’s that same sort of voice in the back of his head saying ‘lets do crime’ that his father had … even if he wants to be on the straight and narrow.”
“Part of what Harlem Shuffle is about is who finds their way in the world and who falters.”
“For the first time I had a character and a world that I wanted to pursue, so it became two books.”
“Pretty early in this book, despite knowing it was a cliché, I had to recognize that New York City is a character. It’s having its ups and downs in the same way Carney is.”
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