78 Quotes of Colson Whitehead

” I’m someone who just likes being in my cave and thinking up weird stuff. “
” For me, the terror of the zombie is that at any moment, your friend, your family, you neighbor, your teacher, the guy at the bodega down the street, can be revealed as the monster they’ve always been. “
” I use New York to talk about home, but the ideas in ‘Colossus’ could be transferred to other cities. The story about Central Park is really about the first day of spring in any park. The Coney Island chapter is really about beaches and summer and heat waves. “
” If you write about race in 1850, you end up talking about race today because in many ways, so little has changed. “
” Once I got to college, it seemed that the Hamptons were a little bit too posh for me and didn’t represent the kind of values I was embracing in my late teens. So, I didn’t go out there, except to visit my parents, for a long time. And then, after 9/11, I discovered it was a nice, mellow place to hang out. “
” In the 1930s, the government paid writers to interview 80- and 90-year-old former slaves, and I read those accounts. I came away realizing – not surprisingly – that many slave masters were sadists who spent a lot of time thinking up creative ways of hurting people. “
” I wrote a book of essays about New York called ‘The Colossus of New York,’ but it’s not about – you know, when I’m writing about rush hour or Central Park, it’s not a black Central Park, it’s just Central Park, and it’s not a black rush hour, it’s just rush hour. “
” A lot of my writer friends live near me, and that makes people think we just hang around with one another in cafes, trading work and discussing ‘Harper’s’ and what not. But I rarely see them. We’re home working. “
” Zombies are a great rhetorical prop to talk about people and paranoia, and they are a good vehicle for my misanthropy. “
” I don’t generally follow sports. At an early age, I discovered that nature had apportioned me only a small reserve of enthusiasm. Best to ration. “
” There are good writers and bad writers. It’s hard to find writers who really speak to you, but the work is out there. “
” ‘Zone One’ has one kind of an apocalypse, and ‘The Underground Railroad’ another. In both cases, the narrators are animated by a hope in a better place of refuge – in the last surviving human outpost, Up North. Does it exist? They can only believe. “
” You can’t rush inspiration. “
” In America, when you hear about the Underground Railroad, it’s so evocative. You think it’s a literal subway for a few minutes before your teacher goes on and describes where it actually was. “
” I have a good poker face because I am half-dead inside. “
” I live in Brooklyn. I moved here 14 years ago for the cheap rent. It was a little embarrassing because I was raised in Manhattan, and so I was a bit of a snob about the other boroughs. “
” The contemporary casino is more than a gambling destination: it is a multifarious pleasure enclosure intended to satisfy every member of the family unit. “
” I like to know how I’m supposed to feel about things. Just a little clue or hint. “
” Usually, when I write a novel, it takes me about 100 pages to figure out the voice of the narrator. “
” A lot of early Misfits song titles are inspired by old B-movies, which were my Popeye’s spinach when I was a kid. “
” Write what you know. “
” What isn’t said is as important as what is said. “
” Growing up devouring horror comics and novels, and being inspired to become a writer because of horror novels, movies, and comic books, I always knew I was going to write a horror novel. “
” I’m just trying to keep things rich for me creatively and for the readers who follow me. “
” Early on my career, I figured out that I just have to write the book I have to write at that moment. Whatever else is going on in the culture is just not that important. If you could get the culture to write your book, that would be great. But the culture can’t write your book. “
” I was inspired to become a writer by horror movies and science fiction. “
” I was inspired to become a writer by horror movies and science fiction. “
” ‘Sag Harbor’ was a very different book for me. It changed the way I thought about books that I wanted to do. “
” I get invited to do panels with other Brooklyn writers to discuss what it’s like to be a writer in Brooklyn. I expect it’s like writing in Manhattan, but there aren’t as many tourists walking very slowly in front of you when you step out for coffee. It’s like writing in Paris, but there are fewer people speaking French. “
” I grew up reading the ‘Village Voice’ and wanting to be one of these multidisciplinary music writers, film writers, book writers. And I lucked out getting a job at the ‘Voice’ right after college. “
” You can raze the old buildings and erect magnificent corporate towers, hose down Port Authority, but you can’t change people. “
” I’m of that subset of native New Yorkers who can’t drive. “
” If the world’s nations can set aside their petty bickering over religion, politics, and territory, certainly I can ‘get that Olympic Spirit’ and rise above my prejudices. “
” I didn’t know I was a zombie pedant until I started considering what from the zombie canon to keep in ‘Zone One’ and what to ignore. “
” Monsters are a storytelling tool, like domestic realism and close third. “
” In college, I wrote maybe three short stories. “
” There’s not a lot of good TV. “
” Part of being in New York is being able to brag about what used to be there. “
” I love getting out of the Q train at Union Square. It’s such a mix of people, like a party. There’s always an errand you can do along there, whether it’s picking up contacts or buying poker chips. “
” I try to have each book be an antidote to the one before. “
” The terror of figuring out a new genre, of telling a new story, is what makes the job exciting, keeps me from getting bored, and I assume it keeps whoever follows my work from getting bored as well. “
” I wanted to be one of these multidisciplinary critics who is doing music one day, TV the next, and books the next. “
” Access to information, to music or any kind of culture, is getting faster and faster and more streamlined. At each juncture, people are thrown into tumult and have to adapt or die. “
” In ‘John Henry Days,’ I was taking my idea of junketeering and sort of blowing it up to absurd extremes. “
” I never actually went anywhere when I was a journalist. I was a critic, and I just sort of got stuff in the mail and chatted about it. “
” As always, a lot of bad books will be published. Some good books will be published, and you have to seek them out. “
” It’s always hard to write and get your words out there, to find an editor, a publisher – readers! – who are going to appreciate them. “
” There’s always an attack on the sophomore novel from some quarters. “
” ‘John Henry Days’ was already half in the can before my first book came out, so I’d already started something that was big and sprawling – I just had to finish it. “
” I’m always trying to switch voices and genres. “
” I’m raising kids, and so much of American culture sustains me and gives me things to think about and work on. “
” I envied kids who played soccer and football, but that was not my gig. “
” I was always into comic books and horror stories and a huge consumer of pop culture. And then I worked for awhile for ‘The Village Voice’. “
” The Declaration of Independence is that sacred American text so full of meaning and purpose and yet quite empty if you examine it and pull it apart because the words ‘All Men’ exclude a vast number of citizens. “
” I am not sure the issue of race in America will ever be completely solved. “
” I like questions that tee me up to make weird jokes, frankly. “
” Slavery was a violent, brutal, immoral system, and in accurately depicting how it worked, you have to include that, obviously. Or else you are lying. “
” I take inspiration from books, movies, television, music – it all goes in the hopper. Depending on the project, I’m drawing from this or that piece of art that has stayed with me. Toni Morrison, George Romero, Sonic Youth – they are all in there. “
” I admire Vegas’s purity, its entirely wholesome artificiality. “
” I enjoy thinking about how race plays out over the centuries, how technology evolves, how cities transform themselves. These subjects are present in some of my books and absent in others. “
” I do write about race a lot, but I don’t think writers – of any shade or background or whatever – have to write about certain subjects. “
” People don’t like it when you compare the miracle of childbirth to writing a book, but I think there is some overlap in the two because they are both pure agony. “
” The movie ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll High School’ was a sacred text in my household. “
” If self-absorption, vague yearnings, and a nagging sense of incompleteness are sins, then surely I will burn for all eternity, and I will save you a seat. “
” The readership for ‘Sag Harbor’ was different from people who’d read me before – it was linear and realistic, not as strange as ‘The Intuitionist.’ Did they carry over to ‘Zone One,’ a story about zombies in New York? Some, some not. I’m used to people not caring about my other books. “
” I knew that a zombie book would not particularly appeal to some of my previous readers, but it was artistically compelling, and being able to do a short nonfiction book about poker was really fun and great. “
” I started writing in the ’90s, so I was free to just have an eccentric career and not conform to some idea of what a black writer has to do. I didn’t have the burden of representation. “
” Growing up as a product of the black civil-rights movement, I had a lot of different models for black weirdness, whether it’s Richard Pryor or James Baldwin or Jimmy Walker. “
” Being a slave meant never having the stability of knowing your family would be together as many years as God designed it to be. It meant you could come back from picking cotton in a field to find that your children are gone, your husband’s gone, your mother’s gone. “
” Having a wife and kids drove home the brutal reality of the slave system for me – the price it exacted on families. On the other hand, whenever I despair over our history, I am brought back to hope, the hope that things will get better, for my children. “
” I usually have two or three ideas floating around. When I have free time, the one I end up thinking most about is the one I end up pursuing. “
” Generally, I walk around in a glum mood. “
” In fifth grade, we did 10 minutes on slavery and 40 minutes on Abraham Lincoln, and in 10th grade you might do 10 minutes on the civil rights era and 40 minutes on Martin Luther King, and that’s it. “
” I’m not a representative of blackness, and I’m not a healer. “
” I’ve always thought the Nat Turner story to be very interesting. “
” If you want to understand America, it’s slavery. “
” I was allowed to write about race using an elevator metaphor because of Toni Morrison and David Bradley and Ralph Ellison. Hopefully, me being weird allows someone who’s 16 and wanting to write inspires them to have their own weird take on the world, and they can see the different kinds of African American voices being published. “
” If you go to a big publishing house, editorial aside, it’s completely white. “