Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead Review-A Delicious Robbery Novel | Novel
For more than 20 years, the novels written by Colson Whitehead have been known for cultural satire, racial allegories, genre expansion, and eccentricity: intuitionists, dent harbor, district one, underground railway (Pulitzer #1 ), Nickel Boy (Pulitzer #2). In his eighth novel “Harlem Shuffle”, Whitehead provides a literary crime legend that is both delicious and nutritious, much lighter than his first two novels, which come from slaves in real life School of atrocities and cruel reforms in the southern United States. Whether it is advanced literary forms or entertaining page-turning modes, this person simply cannot write a bad book.
Set in the early 1960s, Harlem Shuffle is an extraordinary story about an ordinary person. The furniture salesman Ray Carney is a good man who makes mistakes, just like Walter White in Breaking Bad. He was involved in the plan and robbed by his cousin Freddy, who his parents referred to as “bad influence” (and Freddy himself had his own “bad influence”).
The mundane Joe-furniture salesman aspect of Carney’s life has been reiterated too much in the novel, just like the sleepless night he spent in worries. Nevertheless, it is understandable that the premise of the novel depends on his Double life. The fun of the plot lies in discovering what kind of predicament an ordinary person will fall into, and how or whether he will get out of the predicament. Crime novels may become formulaic, just like action movies. Although there are no car chases or Tarantino-style fighting scenes in Harlem Shuffle, Whitehead is able to meet the expectations of this type while gently imitating them. For example, a lively fighting scene: “It is not accurate to say that these two people are fighting or falling. It is more like holding each other’s upper arms and shaking… This is a low-key battle, a mutual tremor.”
Coleson Whitehead.Photo: Madeleine Whitehead/Associated Press
The novel is divided into three issues, covering the period from 1959 to 1964, each of which culminates in criminal activity. The first act shows how easily a person can commit a crime. The second act considers Carney’s criminal behavior. We can call it the illusion of progress; we are all attracted to it. “The mistake is to believe that he will become another person.” The third act considers whether a person should come forward to help others. What are our responsibilities for greater social welfare? These three parts show our choices: descent, personal progress, and social progress. Or hell, purgatory, heaven.
These three acts can produce a satisfactory novella individually, but they work better together. The novel gains power through accumulation and acceleration—brake and throttle, throttle and brake, until we are far from the starting point. With a sentence or two at the end of a chapter, Whitehead can change the course of the book.
Nevertheless, this novel took place 60 years ago and has many similarities with our time. It is a pleasure to defeat powerful people who think they are invulnerable. Expansion of empire and wealth. Some people aspire to own a house, while others own the entire building. There were gruesome race riots and even shootings that triggered protests. In the novel, two leaflets are distributed as a potential way to a fair and just society. The first one gives instructions on how to make bombs. The second wording prompts us to cooperate patiently: “COOL IT BABY.” Thankfully, Whitehead is never preaching or sentimental.
It may be inevitable that we read novels as fables of our time, but the value of a book should not be determined by its relevance to our present. On the contrary, we can extend ourselves in its direction, towards the 1960s, towards Carney’s extreme moral struggle. Whitehead made it easy for us to live in that era and place, and his Harlem area performed very well.Harlem shuffle It’s another novel that New Yorkers would affectionately claim.
If Harlem Shuffle is your introduction to Whitehead, you will find a wide range of writers. Without pretending or pretending, he can use verbs like bivouac, then switch registers convincingly and write: “That’s another matter entirely.” His humor may come from absurdity (scammers get cash and discounted furniture Remuneration), from a spoof (a rich man snobbishly describes the New York subway as a “dirty cage of dirty people”), and even from the nickname of the gangster. Meet Yea Big, Pepper, Miami Joe, Chet the Vet (his name is because he went to veterinary school-one month). Whitehead balances humor with insight.
Finally, you will find the gentleness under the swagger. Whitehead drew a list of his minor figures, especially those who are easy to become stock figures, such as crime bosses and thieves, as cautiously as the main figures. His portraits are never stingy; on the contrary, Whitehead exaggerates the humanity of a liar. He lowered their sweetness. Some of them have an innocent desire for farm life or higher education. He made us love them like their mothers. Take Pepper as an example. He is the perfect law enforcer played by Samuel L Jackson. He asked Carney, our humble furniture salesman, “What makes you want to sell sofas?” Carney replied, “I am an entrepreneur.” “‘Entrepreneur?’ Pepper said the last part is like manure.’ That’s just a tax liar.'”
Ian Williams (Ian Williams) is the author of “Reproduction (Dialogue)” and the forthcoming paper Lost Direction: Black People in the World. Colson Whitehead’s Harlem Shuffle is published by Fleet (£16.99). To support The Guardian and The Observer, please purchase one on Guardianbookshop.com. Shipping costs may be charged.
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