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The Rule-Bending Fiction of Colson Whitehead

Why Colson Whitehead Keeps Bending the Rules of Fiction

After “The Underground Railroad” and “The Nickel Boys,” weighty reckonings with America’s past that both won Pulitzers, the author returned with a stylish heist novel set in Harlem — and further proof of his restless need for reinvention.

By Ron Stodghill

Colson Whitehead is strolling through New York City’s Meatpacking District, marveling over the area’s metamorphosis from seedy underbelly to vibrant hipster paradise. It’s a warm late-summer afternoon and Whitehead, dressed in slim jeans, polo shirt and sneakers, pauses at a busy intersection. “This place was a s—hole when I was growing up,” he says of the neighborhood, flanked by Chelsea, the West Village and the Hudson River. “It was scary. I mean, a really scary neighborhood.”

Whitehead stands in the bustle and points across the no-longer-so-scary cityscape. “My daughter was born five blocks east,” he says matter-of-factly. “My wife lived here, and I moved in with her.” Beyond this bit of personal nostalgia, Whitehead admits he never much cared for the neighborhood through any of its iterations — perhaps least of all its rebirth as a hyper-gentrified enclave. “It’s been built up like this for about 10 years,” he says with a shrug. “It’s sort of ridiculous.” Read the full story at the Wall Street Journal.

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