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Distinguished Correspondent
emmagrace
Posts: 162
Registered: ‎12-04-2008
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Re: Questions for Colson Whitehead?

Hi and welcome! I am really enjoying your book! You really have a wonderful way of telling the story. I look forward to finding out what happens next!
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barrycaseyii
Posts: 8
Registered: ‎12-26-2007
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Re: Questions for Colson Whitehead?

Colson, thank you!  I am rwally enjoying the book.  For someone raised in California, who has only been to the Hamptons in the last 10 years, it is so interesting to immerse myself in the life of Ben.  I truly wish that I had the ability to turn back time, and see the Sag Harbor of yesteryear..."communities" have all but disappeared in America (at least the little of America that I have seen).  To read of the unknown (at least unknown to me) is very eye opening.

 

Anyway...I just wanted to thank you for allowing us to read this book before publication.  Every question that I have pondered has been answered in the previous threads :smileyhappy:

 

Thanks again.

 

Barry

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adopted1
Posts: 26
Registered: ‎02-05-2009
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Re: Questions for Colson Whitehead?

This was my first "First Look" and I must say I was very excited to get started. Not sure what to expect through the whole process, I have been pleasently pleased.

I would like to start by saying that this was my first time EVER reading an autobiography of this style. I had a difficult time getting started and staying focused. There was a lot of description and not enough dialouge and that made it a difficult read at first. When asked how I was enjoying the book, I could only say it was ok. Not to discount your talent and abilities in anyway, but I was expecting something a little different.

As I got further into the book, it all started coming together and making sense and for that I thank you!

My question is about Benji since he is the one telling the story. Was it your intent to make this a boy to man story? By that I mean, the experiences that he had with family and friends, were they supposed to make him the man he was to become?

One more....2 1/2 pages of describing Coke???
adopted1
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Jennmarie68
Posts: 127
Registered: ‎02-09-2009
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Re: Questions for Colson Whitehead?

Mr. Whitehead,

 

First off, like everyone else I want to thank you for the opportunity to read your book before the general public, and also allowing us to "pick your brain" a little bit. Most of the questions I have had so far have been answered, but there were a few things I wanted to comment on.

 

My first job was at Dairy Queen, however unlike you and Benji, I wasn't turned against ice cream forever. For me it was a short lived I won't eat there cause I know what they do to their food kind of thing, which isn't so bad if you don't mind eating off the floor (15 second rule applies to resturants also). But I wanted to know if the reason for not wanting sweets anymore is simply from eating so much, or like me, is it from knowing how things were done behind the scenes? 

 

Second, I lived in a kind of opposite world from Benji. I grew up in the inner city and was the only white kid in most of my classes. Then I'd worked so hard to fit in at school and when I would hang out with my parent's friends' children I didn't fit in because I was accustomed to what I experienced in my school, not in the white schools.  So I understood what Benji was going through being the one who didn't fit in, in any social circumstances. This really has allowed me to connect with Benji on a very personel level.

 

Lastly I want to commend you for writing this book. I would imagine that writing an autobiographical book, even one loosely based on your life, was cause for much personal reflection, and from experience I know that is not easy, but to share it with the world for all to critique and/or criticize must be even harder. At first I didn't think I was going to like this book, but the further I get the more I am loving it. I think your style of writing is fresh and keeps the story from becoming mundane. 

 

Thank you for participating with us, and I am going to be picking up some of your past works in the very near future. 

 

-Jennifer

Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Eleanor Roosevelt
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bookworm_gp
Posts: 58
Registered: ‎12-04-2008
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Re: Questions for Colson Whitehead?

Hi Colson,

Welcome and thank you for joining us. I'm really enjoying your writing. I watched your video on YouTube and seeing you walk around Sag Harbor gave me a little more perspective on the book.

The passage that always sticks in my mind is on page 3 where you describe Ben and Reggie as " butt to butt, more or less looking like a Rorschach test." Great!!

Questions - how much of Ben is Colson? And when did you start writing?

Gail

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DSaff
Posts: 2,048
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Questions for Colson Whitehead?

Colson, just to let you know, the parts that aren't as enjoyable are the ones that cause me concern. Examples: boys alone without their parents for so much of the summer, loss of electricity, and the lack of medical care with the beebee incident. Those are also the things that keep me reading. But, make no mistake, I am really enjoying the book and have already recommended it to others. As in this forum, your book will be a good one for book discussions.

Colson_Whitehead wrote:

 

I'm glad you are enjoying it, for the most part.

 


DonnaS =) " Reading is a means of thinking with another person's mind; it forces you to stretch your own." Charles Scribner
"A book is like a garden carried in the pocket." Chinese Proverb
My blog: http://bookworm56.blogspot.com
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GSB65
Posts: 40
Registered: ‎12-06-2008
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Re: Questions for Colson Whitehead?

Colson,

  I hope it's all right to ask you a question that isn't specifically Sag Harbor related, but more writing in general.  Has it always been your dream to be a writer or did you start off on another pursuit and found this was your place to be?  Do you have a certain protocol you follow when sitting down to write a book, like do you already have an idea in place or characters in mind that you would like to tell a story about?  Just a little curious as to how a writer's mind works.

 

Thanks Again!

 

Stephenie

 

Frequent Contributor
CKindianCB
Posts: 25
Registered: ‎12-06-2008

Re: Questions for Colson Whitehead?

Why did Benji go back to Jonni Waffle and open the freezers doors during the black out?

I am really enjoying the book.  Most of us can remember our youth, we did not always think everything through.

I have a cousin that lost his eye when he was shot with a bb gun. Benji was very lucky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

w

Distinguished Wordsmith
Carmenere_lady
Posts: 529
Registered: ‎11-05-2006
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Re: Questions for Colson Whitehead?

Hi again Mr. Whitehead.  Another question for you.......what kind of response, if any, do you anticipate to receive from people who have become characters in Benji's life? 

 

And a comment, at first I thought Sag Harbor was going to be a light and breezy recollection but I have found that it is actually quiet deep and touches on many thought provoking subjects.  It is  an enjoyable  and stimulating read.

Lynda

"I think of literature.....as a vast country to the far borders of which I am journeying but will never reach."
The Uncommon Reader


"You've been running around naked in the stacks again, haven't you?"
"Um, maybe."
The Time Traveler's Wife

It is with books as with men; a very small number play a great part.
Voltaire
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EbonyAngel
Posts: 276
Registered: ‎12-22-2006
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Re: Questions for Colson Whitehead?

I'd like to thank you for making your book avaible for us to read.  I'm enjoying it and your discription are great, I can really see and feel them.  I don't have a question at this point but wanted you to know that I will be looking for your other books and hope to enjoy them as much as I am this one.
Reader
A_reader68
Posts: 2
Registered: ‎02-23-2009

Re: Questions for Colson Whitehead?

Hi Colson,

 

I joined the first look club because I didn't want to wait to read your book--and now I don't have to bother you with questions while you're on vacation this summer.

I'm a big fan of everything you write, but this one has special resonance for me. Sag Harbor is a special place, and the effect those neighborhoods had/have on young black kids is so strong. Much of what you write feels like an echo of sentiments my husband (C Weber) has explained to me over the years. I laughed out loud at the section about a watermelon on Main Street. I think that was one of the first "rules" I learned when I met him: never eat watermelon or fried chicken in front of white people. So, in a way, as I read Benji's story, I feel like I'm gaining perspective on some of C's formative years.

 

So here's my question: Regarding the idea of double-consciousness, do you think our kids will feel that duality as strongly as Benji and his friends did? Has our society changed enough that kids can be who they are, and their "blackness" or "whiteness" isn't so all-defining? With my own daughter, who goes to a predominantly white school, it seems that kids don't feel the same need to define their pop culture as belonging to only one race. They have their preferences, but share openly among each other. My daughter, who's not a fan of hip-hop or rap, will still come home happily singing "Notorious" because one of the kids on the bus taught it to her. They all seem open to exploring and accepting; they ridicule people they suspect are racist. What I see with my daughter is that this openness among peers seems to remove that pressure to behave in some preconceived way. She is who she is, and she genuinely seems okay with that...so far.

 

As she (too quickly) approaches her teenage years, I wonder, will she feel that same need to become "more black" when she's in Azurest? I know you don't have a crystal ball, but what's your opinion? Will Sag have the same significance for the next generation as it did for yours?

 

Thanks for a great read.

 

 

    

Contributor
mchwest
Posts: 11
Registered: ‎08-15-2008

Re: Questions for Colson Whitehead?


canterbear wrote:

I would have liked a bit more of the motives behind some of the thoughts and actions of the characters.  Such as why did Benji leave the freezer open? 

Why did his sister talk about leaving the house as soon as he could? What does, "you know what goes on in that house?" mean to her and to Benji.  Is it just that the parents left them alone alot?

 

 

thanks..Doreen 

  


 

Thanks again for joining the first look club, I really enjoyed your book and being able to read it ahead of publishing. I too had the question of why the freezer door was left open, and did the sister have a problem with the fathers drinking?
dg
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dg
Posts: 45
Registered: ‎10-13-2007
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Re: Questions for Colson Whitehead?

Thank you for sharing your book.  I always enjoy coming of age novels but I find the ones that have characters who seem to have an underlying innocence or optimism are my favorite.  I developed an attachment to the characters that I found missing in the last first look book.  I was sorry to see the book come to an end.  I am looking forward to reading other books that you've written.   
Author
Colson_Whitehead
Posts: 53
Registered: ‎01-22-2009

Re: Questions for Colson Whitehead?


deaver wrote:

Thank-you Mr Whitehead for your book and my many laughs! 

I was wondering if starting with a topic, then stearing away from it, then back to it was a calculated action on your part; and if so, why?


 

Deaver,

 

thanks for the question...

 

benji knows certain things, whether or not he can admit them to himself fully. he approaches knowledge and enlightenment, shys away, and then get bold and moves a little closer. so the way he is telling his story mimics this process.

 

hope that helps!

 

colson


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Colson_Whitehead
Posts: 53
Registered: ‎01-22-2009
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Re: Questions for Colson Whitehead?

 

 

lg4154 , thewanderingje,  mv5ocean

 

 

 

thanks for kind words, guys. this a pretty different way of interacting with readers -- to say the least.

 

i'm really glad you guys enjoyed the book...it's always nice to hear!

 

all best 

 

colson


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Author
Colson_Whitehead
Posts: 53
Registered: ‎01-22-2009

Re: Questions for Colson Whitehead?


adopted1 wrote:
This was my first "First Look" and I must say I was very excited to get started. Not sure what to expect through the whole process, I have been pleasently pleased.

I would like to start by saying that this was my first time EVER reading an autobiography of this style. I had a difficult time getting started and staying focused. There was a lot of description and not enough dialouge and that made it a difficult read at first. When asked how I was enjoying the book, I could only say it was ok. Not to discount your talent and abilities in anyway, but I was expecting something a little different.

As I got further into the book, it all started coming together and making sense and for that I thank you!

My question is about Benji since he is the one telling the story. Was it your intent to make this a boy to man story? By that I mean, the experiences that he had with family and friends, were they supposed to make him the man he was to become?

One more....2 1/2 pages of describing Coke???

 

hey adopted1,

 

i would have had 10 pages on coke if they'd let me.

 

is benji a man at the end of the book? i know people are still reading it, so i won't go too far into what happens to him by the end...i wouldn't want to ruin the shock ending about the serial killer, the forest fire, and the daring escape.

 

i will ask this: across the course of a given summer, how much more wisdom have you gained? how much do we really grow over the course of three months?

 

 


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Author
Colson_Whitehead
Posts: 53
Registered: ‎01-22-2009
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Re: Questions for Colson Whitehead?


Jennmarie68 wrote:

Mr. Whitehead,

 

First off, like everyone else I want to thank you for the opportunity to read your book before the general public, and also allowing us to "pick your brain" a little bit. Most of the questions I have had so far have been answered, but there were a few things I wanted to comment on.

 

My first job was at Dairy Queen, however unlike you and Benji, I wasn't turned against ice cream forever. For me it was a short lived I won't eat there cause I know what they do to their food kind of thing, which isn't so bad if you don't mind eating off the floor (15 second rule applies to resturants also). But I wanted to know if the reason for not wanting sweets anymore is simply from eating so much, or like me, is it from knowing how things were done behind the scenes? 

 

Second, I lived in a kind of opposite world from Benji. I grew up in the inner city and was the only white kid in most of my classes. Then I'd worked so hard to fit in at school and when I would hang out with my parent's friends' children I didn't fit in because I was accustomed to what I experienced in my school, not in the white schools.  So I understood what Benji was going through being the one who didn't fit in, in any social circumstances. This really has allowed me to connect with Benji on a very personel level.

 

Lastly I want to commend you for writing this book. I would imagine that writing an autobiographical book, even one loosely based on your life, was cause for much personal reflection, and from experience I know that is not easy, but to share it with the world for all to critique and/or criticize must be even harder. At first I didn't think I was going to like this book, but the further I get the more I am loving it. I think your style of writing is fresh and keeps the story from becoming mundane. 

 

Thank you for participating with us, and I am going to be picking up some of your past works in the very near future. 

 

-Jennifer


 

Hey Jennifer,

 

Thanks for the kind words and your thoughtful post.

 

The ice cream store where i worked was well-run and clean, and so, no I wasn't put off by seeing "how the sausage is made." It was the sheer excess.

 

The part of good storytelling, I think, is getting people to see themselves in your characters, no matter how different they are superficially...I wrote a book about elevator inspectors -- if I thought only people involved in the vertical transport industry would read it, I wouldn't have started it!

 

I'm very glad you were able to find a connection with Benji's travails. That means I got something right...

 

all best

 

colson


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musicgirlSH
Posts: 3
Registered: ‎02-10-2009
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Re: Questions for Colson Whitehead?

Dude! Interesting book...I love your sense of humor...reminds me of mine!  The way you swirl adjectives and adverbs through the text reminds me of a masterpiece sundae! I guess that ice cream store experience came in handy, huh? 

I am noticing more and more releases of fiction written in first person.  Have your observations been similar?  I have to tell you in all honesty (the only way I know to be)....the writing style reminds me so much of "Love in the Time of Cholera" but yours is much more engaging.  (Thank God!) Since I have not had the pleasure of reading your other novels tell me, is your style similar to this?

Thanks for this book....a good read!

Sharoni  :smileyhappy:

 

Correspondent
bud12
Posts: 52
Registered: ‎01-26-2009
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Re: Questions for Colson Whitehead?

Hi Colson, I wanted to add to the focus of race that A_Reader68 wrote about. It is great that the experience of reader 68's child in a predominantly white school seems so positive. It is a wonderful feeling to feel that our country has improved greatly in certain areas of the country at least, in regard to race relations. I am curious about your experience at Harvard, should you care to comment. I enjoyed your Utube video and saw that you come across as perhaps slightly preppy ( maybe an updated style of that type), with plenty of good humor and charm that you show in your writing. Have you experienced first hand changes for the better in regard to this topic of race.  I thought that in Sag Harbor the perceptions about whites started out very negatively and then seemed to get less talked about as the characters moved on to other things.  Why was that,?Is it just that the characters moved on to other things, that their perceptions got less negative .  Also do your other books deal with the the racial issue? I have totally enjoyed your book and l look forward to reading other books of yours.
Jo
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debbook
Posts: 1,823
Registered: ‎05-03-2008
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Re: Questions for Colson Whitehead?

I don't have a question yet, still reading, but I wanted to say how much I am enjoying your use of humor in this book and i love all the '80's references! It really brings me back.
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