Tuesday, November 3, 2015
Review: "Sag Harbor" Colson Whitehead
If anything, Colson Whitehead is a rather interesting and varied writer. He can give his readers something like Zone One, a zombie apocalypse novel that is more than a little over written or something like John Henry Days, which is something of a mini-masterpiece and for sure the most interesting book on race and American history outside of anything that Walter Mosley has written. His books vary in quality, but the element of the unexpected is something you are likely to always get when you pick up one of his novels. His coming of age novel, Sag Harbor is no different. It has a unique premise set in a unique culture, but I hate to admit that it doesn’t come together smoothly, being a little too self-aware at times and way too eager to make certain pop culture references. But I found it quite funny, I am glad to say. It centers on a privileged black kid named Benji Cooper, who, along with his younger brother Reggie, spend their summers in the eponymous town, which has a large community of kids the same age, race and class of Benji and his family. The typical coming of age tropes occur, like brushes with the law and first love, and a few funny scenes involving Benji’s job at an ice cream store, and the fragile shelf life of the product he is selling. But a lot of this has been done before and doesn’t offer any kind of lasting impression once you finish the book. Besides Benji and his brother, none of the characters are fleshed out, and it doesn’t help matters that there are so many of them. For a writer like Whitehead, books like this are expected: experiments that don’t produce great results despite an intense effort and aggressive originality. It’s comes with the territory, and my eagerness for what he comes out with next is in no way diminished.