The Square Circuit

Academia, parenthood, living in a bankrupt city, and what I read in the process.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Well, I'm still waiting for the Big One from Colson Whitehead. APEX HIDES THE HURT, his novel of a couple years ago, shows a writer with a great deal more confidence and control than he had in either THE INTUITIONIST or JOHN HENRY DAYS, but the book still lacks something. The plot, such as it is, deals with a "nomenclature consultant" who has taken an indefinite leave from his job because of an injury. He's hired by a small town to come up with a new name for the town, and in the course of his residence there discovers that the town was founded by freed slaves (and thus initially named "Freedom") but later became the home base for a barbed-wire magnate named Winthrop, who then had the town named after himself. In the book our hero must make his recommendation while avoiding the menacing bartender and hotel housekeeper.

Whitehead's narrative voice is very impressive--clever without being show-offy, assured, and leisurely and compressed simultaneously. The main character is interesting and the reader wants to be in his head. The problem is that the plot peters out halfway through this short novel--after we got the backstories of all of the characters, there was just no drive or energy behind the story. Whitehead is so talented, and I trust that eventually he'll find the plot that is ready for him, but I'm still waiting.



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