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Apex Hides the Hurt

3.42  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,441 Ratings  ·  196 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 consultant
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published March 21st 2006 by Doubleday (first published January 1st 2006)
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Nov 06, 2012 Maureen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
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.
Dec 12, 2011 Trish rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 01, 2009 Trin rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, american-lit
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
Jan 05, 2015 Garren rated it really liked it
Good, almost great. Heck, maybe it is great. I found it fascinating anyway. The plot here is that a man who made a living by giving names to commercial products has been hired to rename a town. The narrative moves between this main plot, the man's own rise and fall within the naming business, and his frequent mental tangents.

It's squarely in the "literary fiction" genre because of these musings and the psychological dysfunctions of the protagonist (and others). From the incredibly self-involved
Jul 28, 2009 Nic rated it it was amazing
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
I once had a job very similar to that of "nomenclature consultant," so it's possible that most of my enjoyment comes from the well-deserved skewering of meetings that bear eerie resemblance to many I've sat through. But I think there's a lot to enjoy here even for those who have thankfully been spared the world of corporate image sculpting: sharp prose (with an ear for repetition that works particularly well in audio), musings on the nature of identity, and a good balance between satire and stor ...more
It might be a while before I get to Whitehead's latest, but this one is first-rate, American, idea-rich fiction.
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.
Aug 24, 2016 Aaron rated it it was amazing
My hilarious, fabulous, five year old daughter often volunteers me for hard tasks because, "You are a doctor and work at a hospital." While in reality I am a social worker, I do have an online Doctorate of Divinity that I bought for 19.95 and make my friends and family call me Dr. Benson. This masterpiece by Colson W. is no less ridiculous about a nomenclature consultant. Like Tom Robbins or Kurt Vonnegut any tale by Colson has depth way beyond the surface material and challenges my beliefs on l ...more
Grayson Queen
Jan 20, 2012 Grayson Queen rated it liked it
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
Jul 15, 2007 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2007
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
Apr 06, 2010 Dave rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2010
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
Apr 28, 2012 pattrice rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 31, 2009 Abigail rated it liked it
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
Feb 16, 2012 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 09, 2011 David rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-fiction
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
Oct 24, 2009 Kyle rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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?
Jul 24, 2014 Will rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 16, 2008 Alicia rated it it was ok
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.
Natalie Bueche
Apr 30, 2016 Natalie Bueche rated it it was amazing
A pivotal, pivotal book that delves deeply into what is wrong with today's American industries. The depiction of our industrialized society that Whitehead plays out throughout the novel is incredulous. He expresses the minds of our society as brainwashed by the "perfect little pictures" inside our head--these pictures ingrained within us by industry and progression. This "perfection" industries influence us to chase after is unattainable and unreal. They paint this false fantasy over our world a ...more
Dec 05, 2015 Sarah rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Very smart, very funny. A bit reminiscent of Pynchon, but far less annoying. I'm not so big on satire -- I find it cold -- but I enjoyed this very much.
Hope N
A nomenclature consultant is brought in to name a town whose three council members are divided about how to proceed. The mayor wants to go back to the original named given by the freed slaves who founded it. The successful businessman wants to rename the town in order to attract business and the aristocracy sees no reason to change the name at all. I read The Intuitionist by Whitehead and liked his writing style enough to want to read more by him. This book is an easy read and clever. Nice narra ...more
Feb 28, 2009 Lee added it
Short, and sort of abstract, but kind of hilarious
Nov 05, 2012 Reid rated it liked it
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
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
Jun 09, 2011 Jeruen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jinny Chung
Mar 04, 2012 Jinny Chung rated it it was amazing
"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
Oct 12, 2009 Mocha Girl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: satire
"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
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I'm the author of the novels Zone One; Sag Harbor; The Intuitionist, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway award; John Henry Days, which won the Young Lions Fiction Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; and Apex Hides the Hurt, winner of the PEN Oakland Award. I've also written a book of essays about my home town, The Colossus of New York, and a non-fiction ac ...more
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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.” 13 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.” 9 likes
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