09 April 2010

Read This Now

I just finished reading Sag Harbor, a novel by Colson Whitehead.

I apologize that the title is italicized instead of underlined, as I know that is really going to bother some of you. If you know the html coding for how to get underlining to happen, let me know and I'll be happy to change it. Otherwise I recommend underlining it yourself on your monitor using a permanent marker. But I digress.

I hate reviewing books, but I want you to read this one, so I've devised an express format:

Sag Harbor is a community in the Hamptons on Long Island that has a historically black settlement in it, populated by wealthy, professional black people from the five boroughs. The story is set in that community, and reflects the dichotomy that having parallel wealthy, but racially divided, communities creates. That separation occupies a surprisingly large amount of both the novel, and the character's emotional space. But really it's about two brothers that spend the summer in Sag Harbor at their family's summer house, largely unsupervised, and the broad possibility of re-invention that a summer alone brings.

Language: Sometimes lyrical, always lush, you'll want to lick it from the page. Also: sometimes there is early 80's rap used, and it's hilarious to read Whitehead's description of why rap was important.

Point: Call me unprepared, but I had never thought about the fact that a wealthy, successful class of black people wouldn't have had anyplace to go. Now that I've thought about it, I want to know more. It must feel like the way that being gay used to be harder but also it was more of a club, and now that it's more accepted it feels like less of a bond. Difficult.

Counterpoint: But not really about the separation of wealthy blacks and whites, really about the awkwardness of trying to transform yourself from a boy into a man.

Hilarity?: Oh, in spades. Re: Early 80s rap lyrics, trying to sneak into a club by dressing as a preppy kid, stealing old coke because new coke was terrible and your stockpile was dwindling, summer jobs scooping ice cream, turf wars over what is acceptable white culture and what is not. Apparently, Kraftwerk was ok.

Tragedy?: There is a passage where the main character's dad gets drunk and angry as he prepares to grill some chicken, the number of drinks punctuated by the onomatopoeia of the liquor cabinet quietly opening and closing as refills are poured. The quiet, assumedly-pleasurable process of getting ready to barbecue takes on the milestone-counting quality of a march to doom, punctuated by the sound of the liquor cabinet door. The tension was delicious.


MB said...

< u > < /u >
(no spaces)

But if you underline on a website people think it's a link, and stupid people will just click and click and yell at their computer. Which could be funny, so maybe you should do it.

NG said...

Hey, my computer has permanent marker on the screen now. I hope you're happy.

You may find this interesting, I did: some years back I saw this documentary on PBS (http://www.mpt.org/eshop/?q=node/9), the oldest blacks only resort towns. Interesting history that spans over 100 years.