Colson Whitehead is the author of five inventive and acclaimed novels, including The Intuitionist, John Henry Days, and the Pen/Faulkner Award-winning Sag Harbor. His most recent novel is Zone One, a wry take on the post-apocalyptic horror novel in which armed forces try to resettle Manhattan and rid the former metropolis of its remaining plague-ridden inhabitants.
In this recording from the 2012 Key West Literary Seminar, Whitehead humorously recounts his upbringing in Manhattan (“I would have preferred to have been a sickly child, but it didn’t work out that way. Instead, I just didn’t like going outside.”) and his early identification with and aspiration to the lifestyle of a writer (“If you were a writer you could work from home, you didn’t have to wear clothes or talk to people, and you could just make stuff up all day.”) Along the way, Whitehead touches on the equivalency between the science fiction and horror genres he adored as a youth and the ostensibly more “serious” magical realism of Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez, the absurdity of Irish playwright and novelist Samuel Beckett, and the mythical landscapes of Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. He acknowledges the influence of Stephen King and comic books, and reveals Donna Summer’s disco hit “McArthur Park” as an investigation of the artist’s journey.
From KWLS 2012: Yet Another World