Opinion | How Colson Whitehead Writes About Our ‘Big Wild Country’

Produced by ‘The Ezra Klein Show’

“If he got a thrill out of transforming these ill-gotten goods into legit merchandise, a zap-charge in his blood like he’d plugged into a socket, he was in control of it and not the other way around,” writes Colson Whitehead in his new novel, “Harlem Shuffle.” “Dizzying and powerful as it was. Everyone had secret corners and alleys that no one else saw — what mattered were your major streets and boulevards, the stuff that showed up on other people’s maps of you.”

Whitehead is the creator of “The Underground Railroad,” which gained the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, and “The Nickel Boys,” which additionally gained a Pulitzer, the primary time two consecutive books by an creator gained. But he really began “Harlem Shuffle” in between these two books. And now that he’s completed it, he can’t fairly put it down. He’s engaged on a sequel, he instructed me. The first time he’s tried one.

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“Harlem Shuffle” is each a joyous and a troubled ebook. It’s constructed round Ray Carney, a furnishings salesman and fence for stolen items, and a collection of capers round 1960s-era Harlem. But at its core it’s about patrimony, capitalism, ambition, race and the ethical prices of striving in an unjust system.

We discuss all that, and extra: how Marvel Comics made Whitehead wish to be a author, how parenthood modified him, why he hopes to distill all of it all the way down to a haiku, whether or not the writing world is a simply or unjust system, the character of zombies, the nonfiction of the late-Aughts web, the legacy of 9/11, his favourite heist motion pictures, what his spouse thinks his characters know that he doesn’t — and I might preserve going.

This one’s a enjoyable one.

You can hearken to our entire dialog by following “The Ezra Klein Show” on Apple, Spotify, Google or wherever you get your podcasts. View an inventory of ebook suggestions from our company right here.

(A full transcript of the episode can be out there noon on the Times web site.)

Credit…Chris Close

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