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Apex Hides the Hurt

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  2,458 ratings  ·  327 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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Average rating 3.48  · 
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 ·  2,458 ratings  ·  327 reviews

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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.
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
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
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
May 23, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-lit, fiction
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
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.
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
Laila (BigReadingLifeblog)
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
It might be a while before I get to Whitehead's latest, but this one is first-rate, American, idea-rich fiction. ...more
Susannah Savage
Dec 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Every time I read a book by Colton Whitehead, I need a dictionary to parse through his extraordinary vocabulary. This was no exception. This book was a rich commentary on capitalism, American race relations, and our collective failure to actually address problems in our country. I’d highly recommend, but also would recommend not reading it during the holidays/for relaxation since it’s a bit intense.
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
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. ...more
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. ...more
Feb 20, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A hilarious and scathing satire, this is the story of a town in want of a new name and the man in charge of selecting that name. There are three factions, all with their own wants/needs/desires and claims on history:
--First are the black families, the descendants of the first settlers of the land, free men and women, who want to return to the town's first name: Freedom.
--Second is the sole surviving member of the family Winthrop, who wants to keep using the old name for posterity. The original W
Christopher Berry
Had this been the first book of Colson Whitehead’s that I had read, I may not have decided to read him again, but alas, this is not the first book of his that I had the pleasure of reading, with the first being Underground Railroad, which was amazing!

I find that Whitehead is an author who has a wide variety of subjects to write about, which a lot of authors do not, they stay in one area and do not branch out. I appreciate this of Whitehead very much! This book was very readable, and somewhat en
A consultant is hired to choose a name for small town. The African Americans escaping slavery who first settled it named it Freedom. Then a family named Winthrop put a barb wire factory there and renamed the town after themselves. Now a wealthy software engineer who has moved back home and is trying to encourage others to move there wants a more forward- thinking town name. The consultant is well-known, well- paid and won an award for his naming ability. He named the bandage branded Apex, that i ...more
Jul 05, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What’s a nomenclature consultant? Everything is in the name, it seems. The story centers around the consultant, a man who has had career successes that had its zenith with Apex, a low-quality version of Bandaids, and now is hired to name or rename a town.

The town has history. Like all towns. Some of it is advertised and some of it is forgotten or buried. The consultant has very specific rules, and one is that the name selected must be implemented and must remain in place for at least one year.

Molly Huff
Feb 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Winthrop is a town at a crossroads. Poised at the precipice between their present and their past, this small town founded by freed people and remade in the image of the wealthy white man who renamed it after himself, is looking for yet another name, one that will usher in the new era of prosperity that the town elders hope will follow. Enter the nomenclature consultant, a man who makes his living by giving things their true and proper name. This unnamed individual arrives in Winthrop amidst his ...more
Laurie Cooper
Dec 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: colson-whitehead
Subtle but powerful with witty observations that build on his theme throughout the book - Colson Whitehead invites you inside the world of his "nomenclature consultant" who is called upon to rename a town in order to inspire development and please the current inhabitants (who are split over the suggested options.)

Character development would only blur the concepts Whitehead offers - it is all about names - what they intend to mean, how they succeed, and their true costs.

A must read-again for me!
Apr 11, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021
I found both The Intuitionist and Zone One challenging at times. Even though my actual reading time was shorter for Apex, it felt harder to get through than the other two.

This is surprising given that I had to look up several words while reading The Intuitionist and way more than several while reading Zone One. I looked up only two or three words while reading Apex, and those were words for which I merely needed a refresher.

I still feel like this was a worthwhile read, but at times it felt more
Apr 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Worth reading. Don't have much to say about it. Very brisk satire. Let the voice of the narrator guide you through the plot. Prose is excellent as always. Accessible but also conceptual to some degree. Amputated toe. History wrapped up in the naming if a town. I think Colson Whitehead took a crack at the genre of corporate satire and really gave it depth by adding the socio historical elements of where names come from. Turns out the apex can be the nadir. ...more
Feb 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 that I’d round up. I didn’t think the end of this book was as brilliant as I wanted (or as, say, The Nickel Boys), but it was a deliriously good read, and I’m happy to admit I might be wrong about that ending. It was definitely thought-provoking, and I’m curious to mull it over. Whitehead has proven himself to be a remarkable author.
Mitch Rogers
Aug 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my third Whitehead book, and I like him more and more. He’s sneakily becoming one of my favorite writers. What this man can do with a sentence! Especially when he is in a more comical tone, like in AHtH.
Jay Shelat
May 26, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Apex is pretty good. Like many critics, I agree that it’s not his best book. It’s a bit didactic & metaphorical, kinda lost in the weeds of its own playful prose. But it is Whitehead’s most intriguing plot and its ideas about race & history, esp in ch3, are so brilliant.
Vinh Hoang
Apr 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whitehead writes with wit and satire but also poignancy in the exploration of the importance of names and symbols in relation to the history of African Americans.
Sep 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can honestly say this is the first book i have read it a nomenclature consultant as the main character. Very unique and original plot that I enjoyed. On to the next Colson Whitehead book!
Pam Parker
Nov 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary, humor
Great little book - quirky and fun. Satirizes corporate culture and branding as we follow our narrator -- a nomenclature consultant (someone who comes up with cool names for products, etc) -- who remains unnamed, as he seeks to help rename a town. So good.
Benjamin C
Sep 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Combining humorous takes on contemporary American 'khaki' culture, odd characters of great familiarity, and the historic consequence of happenstance. It's breezy fun that sticks in your teeth. ...more
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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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