To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average. Instead, our system considers things like how recent a review is and if the reviewer bought the item on Amazon. It also analyses reviews to verify trustworthiness.
I had high hopes when I picked this up, enjoying the style of linked short stories, but that is where any pleasure ended. There is zero impetus in this book, nothing at stake, no momentum. He calls it a novel, but it feels like a limp, flabby memoir. I get the sense as I read it that he is deeply enjoying his own nostalgia, whilst barely a shred of it has any interest for me. He spends two pages explaining the sounds associated with his father's drinking, another entire page about the intricacies of lighting a barbeque - a barbeque. I fixed it for him - "My father soaked the charcoal in lighter fluid and set it on fire." I'm forcing myself to finish it, but the closer I get to the end, the more pity I have for the people who wind up in a conversation with this man. He strikes me as the sort who will hold forth, ad infinitum, with zero concern for those stuck listening to him. Which reminds me, there is no character depth or development in this book - everything feels stilted and disconnected as if he doesn't have real human connections and has no idea about how to convey them in language. Do yourself a favor and don't believe the hype ;)
Required reading in a AL class and reminded me of my own childhood in the 80s. You soon forget that all this is fiction and get in the car with the boys to the beach, and as a reader, you can almost smell the waffles and taste the ice-cream. The story drifts along as one might through a long summer vacation from school without much drama or pivotal events (discounting the 'gangster' chapter), yet at the end, the characters and the reader mature. Great story telling.
Loved this novel. Not your average coming-of-age read. Really delved into what it’s like to be black, both as part of the black Sag Harbor community and the white people only parts. Lots of good laughs and many moments to ponder how different life is for black people in America. Highly recommend.
I read this book at the end of summer, which is a good time to read it. Whitehead is one of America's rising literary stars, but this book will probably not go down as one of his best or one of his most important books. It may, however, go down as one of his most personal novels. It is an important glimpse into a sector of our society that not many of us may otherwise see. This novel flies in the face of the African-American experience portrayed within television or Hollywood movies. The teenagers portrayed within Sag Harbor are not the Barack Obama's, trying desperately to understand their role within black-white America. These are teenagers who are looking for their first kiss, a few dollars in their pocket from a summer job, or what to do on a hot, summer evening. Whitehead paints a wonderful picture of the community, the time, and the teenagers we all grew up with.
I had a hard time figuring out what to rate this book. I agree with the reviewers that were disappointed with it's lack of plot, tension, conflict, or any similar driving force. There is one scene where the father is bbq'ing on the beach and it feels like it is building to something, but I don't think it ever did, other than the fact that the chicken didn't turn out too well that day??
The narrative meanders along and at times the descriptions are so long that it feels indulgent and calling out for an editor. This is most apparent in (but unfortunately not limited to) the scene where the main character describes all the types of people that come into the ice cream shop where he works; it goes on for many pages (I read it on kindle so not I am not sure how many, just too many) and it works for a few paragraphs before it just gets annoying. I also found some parts of the book rather confusing. It would jump ahead to the "present time" and say how things worked out or talk about subsequent or previous summers and then, I guess, go back to the particular summer that was the focus of the book. But I wasn't always sure about this, what age the Benji character was, what the year was, and where all the stories fit in relation to each other.
Still, I found many of the stories to be very funny. I would remember them later and have my husband read particular passages because I thought he would also find them funny. Overall, I liked the characters and the stories and the writing, but it bored me in between these funny stories. It wasn't the kind of book I couldn't put down or wanted to keep reading after my subway ride was over, walking down the street with it, trying not to get run over, like I have with other books. I actually read it during a long "vacation" weekend and even with little else to do I didn't always pick it up when I could. So in the end, I suppose three stars is about right. Maybe 3.5 if I had the option - because I do think it's well-written and the characters are mostly likeable and there are some very funny bits and some relateable pieces. I don't consider the days I spent reading this book to be a waste of time, but having read many good things about this book, I expected more.
Colson Whitehead's Fourth. It sounds like a future lecture title in a writing workshop of the future. There are so many reasons that should be the case, but since this is my first Whitehead read, un-initiated into this writer's social networking, reviews, etc., I'll just add a few personal notes.
As someone (an up-islander) who's spent time in Sag Harbor since the mid-1970's, tying up a dinghy to the Long Wharf dock, then rushing across the asphalt to the Waffle-Cone shop in the hopes of reducing the sweat pouring off me, I'm finding this book touches on very familiar places. There has been a screaming need, for many years, for a definitive written account of what the "Season" does to a small East End Town from the perspective of a working townie, or in Ben's case, a long-term Summer Townie. Anyone who's risked life and limb, crossing the street to the Corner Bar will feel right at home. Sag Harbor, an honest, working town, deserves this more than any I can think of. It's also a place that I love dearly.
The device the author uses to elicit our empathy, the mind of a teenage boy laid bare to expose its mechanical processes, will keep readers in the loop on this one. This is not a quick snack. It's a full meal, best read on an empty stomach. It has the grace to illustrate the yearning soul of a tourist town that is mostly just seen as surface gloss. Sag residents, especially those with some history in the place, will undoubtedly receive this book with the good humor,love and longing that pours off the pages.
Did I mention profoundly moving? I'm not sure I can adequately describe how universal Benji's gradual awakening to the reality of his life is to anyone who was once an awkward teenage boy. We all have had that one, crystalline night when we discovered who we really were.
For those, like myself, of an older generation, Jean Shepherd's narrative work comes to mind, but the author takes it much further. Though the decade and the cultural angle are very different than my own, the author's easy, good-natured ability to paint a loving picture of one Summer Life, with all it's warts and tics, will keep Colson Whitehead in my list of writers I'd like to drink a beer with.