Apex Hides the Hurt - Colson Whitehead

Assuming you had a facility for choosing the right name, the just name, for healing the disquiet of anonymity through the application of a balming name, you were a nomenclature consultant.

Whitehead tells his story in a roundabout way, giving hints instead of background and getting a little bit closer with each pass before spiralling off to another subject. Even the conversations are often vague descriptions of dialogue rather than actual quotations. The protagonist is never named, which takes on some significance in a book about naming things.

He is a nomenclature consultant, and his claim to fame is Apex, the name of a brand of multicultural bandages. But then something happened, and at the start of the book he's limping around missing a toe, avoiding all human interaction. Then he reluctantly agrees to an assigment, something to get him back in his game: a small town looking to update its image wants a new name. At least, Lucky Aberdeen does. Lucky founded a successful software company in this town and is looking for version 2.0 of everything. But there are those who prefer the old name, and our hero has been brought in to resolve the standoff.

Although it's not a lengthy book, Whitehead manages to cram a lot of things into this book, viewed through the lens of marketing and ad-speak. The protagonist, like Whitehead himself, is black and remarks on the history of terms like "colored," "Afro-American," "African-American." Race also plays a part in the name of the town, which was originally founded by black settlers and then later industrialized by a rich white man. There's a send-up of Harvard culture, an allusion to Legos, and plenty of ubiquitous made-up franchises.

The oblique style of writing may take a little getting used to, but it fit the mood of the protagonist. It feels less like a story with a big plotline and more like a collection of anecdotes and memories, a little vague and unsettled. There is some resolution at the end, but it seems to be much more about the journey than the destination.

Fed to jonathan's brain | April 02, 2007 | Comments (0)


Post a comment

Remember Me?