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Apex Hides the Hurt
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Apex Hides the Hurt

3.43  ·  Rating details ·  1,642 Ratings  ·  212 Reviews
The town of Winthrop has decided it needs a new name. The resident software millionaire wants to call it New Prospera; the mayor wants to return to the original choice of the founding black settlers; and the town’s aristocracy sees no reason to change the name at all. What they need, they realize, is a nomenclature consultant. And, it turns out, the consultant needs them. ...more
Kindle Edition, 226 pages
Published (first published 2006)
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Sep 29, 2012 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 02, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
May 23, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Laila (BigReadingLife)
Colson Whitehead is so damn smart. Maybe too smart for me sometimes. But I want to read everything he's written, because he challenges me. A nameless "nomenclature consultant" with a limp who's had a bit of a mental breakdown is hired to help rebrand the ton of Winthrop. He is wooed by the three city council members: a wacky descendant of the original Winthrop, a descendant of one of the original black settlers, and a wealthy businessman who wants to bring jobs and rename it New Prospera. Our na ...more
Mar 31, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Aug 14, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
It might be a while before I get to Whitehead's latest, but this one is first-rate, American, idea-rich fiction.
Jane Trucksis
Sep 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At first, I couldn't decide whether to give this book 3 or 4 stars. I liked it, it was good, but it just felt somewhat. . . cold, clinical. I'm drawn to books that I can sink into, whose world I can live in while I'm reading them.

Then I realized that this isn't that kind of book. For one thing, the main character is in advertising: he's a "nomenclature consultant." The names he comes up with for products don't have to reflect any reality--they just have to convince the public that their lives wi
Jul 05, 2007 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
Nov 10, 2016 rated it did not like it
This book is a collection of well-designed and striking, beautiful sentences that lead absolutely nowhere. It's as if the author spent all his time pouring over word choice and then forgot to include a plot or any type of character development. The unnamed narrator is a judgmental jerk who treats the people around him with unexplained contempt. The themes in Apex are thought-provoking and complex, and I think the question of how race, consumerism, and colonization intertwine is an important and ...more
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
Feb 15, 2012 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
Aug 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 09, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Short, and sort of abstract, but kind of hilarious
Mar 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Oct 04, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2012, review, 3-stars
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
Aug 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Most of the book went over my head. I had trouble with the style and I was also distracted by various things going on in my personal life preventing me from sitting down properly to read this book. I never understood why the protagonists' injury to his toe was important but I intuited that it was. I didn't get his beef with Muttonchops, the bartender. I wasn't able to appreciate his whole process of naming the town.
Cassie Steiner
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have so much to say about this book, but without spoilers or re-hashing plot point by plot point to analyze the really well-written symbolism and satire, I’ll just add this: reading this book was a powerful reminder why it’s important to read books by authors of color. The discussion of race felt more authentic, and the character descriptions themselves flipped the script of most fiction (authored by a white person) that defaults to white characters unless otherwise described.
Jul 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mar 08, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-book-club
Thwip... went the back cover as I finished this book. Huh, I ask? Why didn't this book work for me? Loved the idea of a nomenclature consultant coming up with a new name for the town of Winthrop. Not so crazy about the nameless protagonist and his idioscracies and dysfunction. The symbolism and metaphors not withstanding, this read was a lot of work with very little payoff in the end.
Jun 09, 2011 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
Mocha Girl
Oct 12, 2009 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
More about Colson Whitehead...
“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.” 12 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.” 8 likes
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