Colson Whitehead
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3.39 of 5 stars 3.39  ·  rating details  ·  1,197 ratings  ·  175 reviews
From the MacArthur and Whiting Award–winning author of John Henry Days and The Intuitionist comes a new, brisk, comic tour de force about identity, history, and the adhesive bandage industry

When the citizens of Winthrop needed a new name for their town, they did what anyone would do—they hired a consultant.

The protagonist of Apex Hides the Hurt is a nomenclature consultan...more
Published (first published January 1st 2006)
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a very clever book from a really sharp writer that i realized too late was a satire. i would have thought that names would have been enough for me and he does pursue some really interesting lines of thought but when all is said and done i would wish for more meat and less cucumber sandwich.

on the fence between two and three stars.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
A nameless nomenclature consultant who’s had a bit of a nervous breakdown is hired by a small town to lend his expertise to the renaming of their community. This book didn’t really work for me. I found the prose very flat, and the way the plot progressed—interspersed with flashbacks exploring the reasons behind the protagonist’s meltdown—offered no surprises. I felt like—even though Whitehead clearly had some interesting ideas about community, race, identity, and history—I’d read this book befor...more
3.5 stars.

For all the apparent unsubtlety of this novel - should the town at the center of the plot be called Freedom, Winthrop, or New Prospera? - there's are wonderful nuances of thought and expression in the prose. I love Whitehead's ruminations on the power of names, that they can make or unmake us, sell something, preserve something, obscure something, and we may not know which at the time. Similarly, the sub-plot about Apex band-aids is fascinating, not least of which because it contains r...more
This is such a fascinating premise, about a guy who is a professional namer of things, from medecine to cosmetics to towns. But Whitehead just didn't go far enough or do enough with it, and it all sort of fell flat and left me feeling very unsatisfied.
Grayson Queen
If you're a reader, that is, if you have time to sit down and read a book that isn't going to rock your world then go ahead and read this. Its only 211 pages and an easy read.

After reading another book by this author, a book that left me with mixed feeling I thought I'd give him another go. This book isn't bad and it isn't good. Part of me feels like someone told the author to write a first person narrative with a self-deprecating character. So he did and slapped a story and some characters toge...more
Colson Whitehead is one of those writers who is so eloquent, whose prose is so elegant and clear, it makes my best efforts look like those of a hack.

This deceptively slim novel opens a world of ideas. The protagonist is an unnamed "nomenclature consultant" a professional paid for naming products who is hired to rename a town. He negotiates councilmember politics, the cultural and economic and racial history of the town, as well as his own reclusiveness following a strange physical accident. A qu...more
Whitehead writes well, but shows signs of being a serious one-trick pony. How rich is the "outsider from out of town" story lode anyway? Not rich enough to support three books, that's for sure.

Colson Whitehead - (the novels; haven't read "The Colossus of New York")

So, I didn't totally get "The Intuitionist", but I kind of liked it anyway. The world of elevator inspectors didn't exactly thrill me, however, and the main character seemed disconnected from the world at large.

"John Henry Days" was...more
Whitehead doesn't seem to be getting the respect he deserves. My first impressions were disbelief and smugness. A story about a nomenclature consultant? Sure. Ok. We're going to play with words, meanings, names, language, etc. That hasn't been done before. But as I continued with Apex Hides the Hurt I saw how Whitehead not only expands the many theoretical and abstract discussions about the meaning of language, he gives those discussions life. He puts meat on the abstract bones. And that's bold,...more
The night after I finished this book, I dreamed: shuttlebus, shuttlebus, shuttlebus.

For those who haven't yet read it, and thus won't catch that reference, let me say:

Colson Whitehead has written a profound book about superficiality. It's at once about the modern problem of the branding of America and the abiding questions (with which philosophers have wrestled for centuries) about the relationship of language to reality. With regard to the latter, it probes the potentially corrosive effects of...more
I really wanted to like this book more. But, alas, it was the second book in a row that I read that had an unnamed, black, male author and I found the lack of committment to a character and the need to embrace the "everyman" trite and annoying. It made much more sense in this novel, due to the fact that the narrator is a nomenclature consultant by trade, but the inability to really connect with him made the prose feel plastic and hard to empathize with. Whitehead's brilliant, semantic insights m...more
This was a quick, clever little read. It's about a nomenclature consultant - a guy who names products for a living - who has recently undergone a "misfortune" and stopped working for some time. He is easing back into work by taking a contract with the town of Winthrop, which is in the process of deciding whether or not to change its name to reflect its changing demographics (a successful software company is headquartered there).

While this is a story that expresses both affection and disdain for...more
I recommend the audio book. At under six hours, it seems ideal for a long day's drive or a week's commute. It hits the right sweet spot between too complex to follow and too simple to entertain. It treats consumer culture with the disrespect it deserves, but is not tiresome or hectoring. It is occasionally funny.

For students searching for a paper topic: compare this book with Pattern Recognition by William Gibson.
I honestly didn’t expect to enjoy this book. I needed to read it for class and was relieved that it was very slim and didn’t seem to have difficult prose for me to trudge through. The characters were interesting. The plot wasn’t very shocking or gripping but it was easy to see the underlying themes and ideas, especially about consumerism and marketing.

I found it so incredibly interesting that the main character doesn’t have a name when his entire job involves naming things so that they will reac...more
The last 50 pages of the book are good and there are small sections which are great, but as a whole the book fell flat. I hoped for more.
There is a subtle arrogance that underlies the book that really bothers me. The main character is the only person in the novel with any insight or hint of depth. He's surrounded by a world of clueless drones who are all waiting for the main character's brilliance to save them. It makes me wonder if this is how the author sees himself?
I had a whole review written up and then Goodreads really awful, no-good pop-up window for reviews closed out, so blame it on technology.

Colson Whitehead is my favorite living writer, I'm jealous of his netherworldly writing talent, and I am biased towards anything he writes.

This book has a nameless narrator and some people are bothered by that. I wasn't, because I don't read hoping that every single stylistic choice has to be made with me in mind. Maybe you will be bothered. That is okay. Do no...more
Apex Hides the Hurt by Colson Whitehead is a book that had a clever idea but didn't quite pull it off. Featuring a town with an identity crisis a consultant is brought in to rebrand it could have been an interesting commentary on modern society but instead drifted along aimlessly. It failed to keep my attention and took me far longer to read than it should have because I kept putting it down and wandering off.
This review may have very mild spoilers, so I think it's safe in that regard without any alerts, at least for anyone who reads other reviews of this book.

The best place for me to start this review is with the novel’s location of Winthrop, which is a stand-in for America, and for which Apex is it’s symbol. In a way, the title really is a good summation of the meaning of this novel - Apex Hides the Hurt, or the significant pain, of part of the African American experience. Apex, the high point of A...more
Nov. 1st, 2011 - I don't know how I feel. I'm on page 105, the story is interesting enough but I'm not excited by the book. In fact, I find myself falling asleep every time I pick it up and start reading. The writing style is curious. There is an intellectual craftiness in the way the story is being told and I so wish I could get it... but I don't. No fault of the writer. I'm putting it down for now, starting a new novel, but I will come back to it and hopefully fresh eyes will give me a better...more
If you want to make fun of some concept, say, the fact that Americans are so obsessed with new things and natural things, would you write a book about it? At least one author did, and the end result was this novel.

Apex Hides the Hurt is about an unnamed nomenclature consultant, who as we learn as the novel progresses, is hired by a town because the town wanted to change its name. There are three possibilities: New Prospera, which is the suggestion by one of the business magnates in the town; Fre...more
Jinny Chung
"What do you call that terrible length of time between when you see that your food is ready and when your waitress drags her ass over to your table with it? He saw Regina emerge from the back of the restaurant. His eyes zipped to the plates sitting on the kitchen ledge. Tantalasia. Rather broad applications, Tantalasia, apart from the food thing. An emotional state, that muted area between desire and consummation. A literal territory, some patch of unnamed broken gravel between places on a map....more
Mocha Girl
"You call something by a name, you fix it in place. A thing or a person, it didn't matter - the name you gave it allowed you to draw a bead, take aim, shoot. But there was a flip side of calling something by the name you gave it - and that was wanting to be called by the name that you gave to yourself. What is the name that will give me the dignity and respect that is my right? The key that will unlock the world." Colsen Whitehead, Apex Hides The Hurt

What is in a name? Apparently a lot. Colson...more
This is Whitehead’s third novel and it has certain things in common with his previous two. Race is a theme. His prose style remains graceful, witty, and brilliantly smart. His approach is wry and at times rueful. His protagonist is always an insider who’s nonetheless an outsider, or at least not a fit despite his or her success—someone who is “passing” but is both uncomfortable with his passing and with a simple version of his minority identity and culture. This time the protagonist is a nomencl...more
When I saw that this was about names, I figured it was perfect for me, since I do love fun names and am known around my office for it. Amazing! Fantastically subtle and well-observed, about a "nomenclature consultant" who's been hired to rename a small town trying to reinvent itself in the middle of the country. In the process, he manages to mostly recover from a self-imposed convalescence/breakdown after getting his second-to-baby toe amputated. Race issues are thrown in around the edges, reall...more
I really enjoyed this book. At first glance, the language is easy, the sentences short and Whitehead's voice just flows over you. Upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that every sentence not only advances the plot, but also serves as an example of the kind of advertising slogans that the main character deals in on a daily basis. The main character, a "nomenclature consultant" spends his days creating the perfect name for products, in order to help them sell. After an accident leaves him with...more
Bookmarks Magazine

In Colson Whitehead's satirical look at American identity politics, racial identity, and corporate values, every sentence shimmers. Known as a "writer's writer" for his acclaimed novels, John Henry Days and The Intuitionist, and his essay collection, The Colossus of New York (***1/2 Jan/Feb 2004), Whitehead again shows off his literary and intellectual vigor. In the line of Ralph Ellison, he brilliantly chronicles the exploits of a prosperous black man living in society's shadows. Critics agree,

I'm a big fan of Intuitionist, and I wanted to see what Whitehead did a little further on in his career, so I read this one. The results are kind of mixed: I think maybe the writing is a little better, a little more controlled and self-consciously manipulated, less tick-filled. But the story itself ran aground for me a little bit.

It's a story about a guy who names things (Nomenclature Consultant) and it's written in this very showy, self-conscious style. The style suggests that the choice of nam...more
Ryan Chapman
Mar 05, 2007 Ryan Chapman rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who hate TV
Shelves: fiction
Whitehead's an immensely talented novelist, a master of balance. In his newest novel, Apex Hides the Hurt, an unnamed "nomenclature consultant" is recruited from New York to a generic Southern hamlet called Winthrop to decide the town's future name. Will it stay Winthrop, out of tradition and deference to the barb-wire magnate that put the town on the map? Will it revert back to Freedom, the name given by the original settlers, a band of freed slaves? Or will it be New Prospera, favored by the l...more
Sep 17, 2007 Darlene rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of contemporay lit, minority studies
This book was recommended to me by my dear Jesse, and he loved it. He's a great fan of Whitehead's work. I believe he's even taught John Henry Days in one of his classes. On the other hand, I had to work hard to finish this book.

I knew almost instantly that it wasn't my kind of read. I could appreciate the quality of the writing. There are moments of real brightness. The style is nauseatingly intimate. The characters are vivid and consistent. Whitehead's observations about race relations and po...more
I had the same feeling about this book that I did about the Intuitionist-- like, I must be missing something, and maybe some other more awesome book is happening over my head and I am too dumb to appreciate it. But while reading this, I didn't actually feel like the book was smarter than me, I felt like I was getting it, and there just wasn't that much to get. It feels less like a novel than an excuse for social commentary, but the social commentary isn't original or insightful or particularly r...more
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Colson Whitehead was born in 1969, and was raised in Manhattan. After graduating from Harvard College, he started working at the Village Voice, where he wrote reviews of television, books, and music.

His first novel, The Intuitionist, concerned intrigue in the Department of Elevator Inspectors, and was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway and a winner of the Quality Paperback Book Club's New Voices Awa...more
More about Colson Whitehead...
Zone One The Intuitionist Sag Harbor John Henry Days The Colossus of New York

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“Isn't it great when you're a kid and the world is full of anonymous things? Everything is bright and mysterious until you know what it is called and then all the light goes out of it...Once we knew the name of it, how could we ever come to love it?...For things had true natures, and they hid behind false names, beneath the skin we gave them.” 9 likes
“Colored, Negro, Afro-American, African American. ... Every couple of years someone came up with something that got us an inch closer to the truth. Bit by bit we crept along. As if that thing we believed to be approaching actually existed.” 6 likes
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