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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.
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.
I've read three books by Whitehead, each very different from the other, but each very good. Sag Harbor is obviously very autobiographical -- the other two: the elevator one and the zombie one, were not. I liked all three -- he's a very emotionally honest and straight-forward writer, even when the material is not at all realistic. Really serious literature.