Sag Harbor

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 6/15/2010
  • Publisher: Anchor

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From the award winning author of John Henry Days and The Intuitionist: a tender, hilarious, and supremely original novel about coming of age in the 80s.

Benji Cooper is one of the few black students at an elite prep school in Manhattan. But every summer, Benji escapes to the Hamptons, to Sag Harbor, where a small community of African American professionals have built a world of their own.

The summer of ’85 won’t be without its usual trials and tribulations, of course. There will be complicated new handshakes to fumble through and state-of-the-art profanity to master. Benji will be tested by contests big and small, by his misshapen haircut (which seems to have a will of its own), by the New Coke Tragedy, and by his secret Lite FM addiction. But maybe, just maybe, this summer might be one for the ages.

“Weaves a spell that is by turns enchanting, mood shifting, and side splitting.” -Elle

“Lyrical and hilarious.” -Philadelphia City Paper

“By acknowledging that adolescence’s indignities are universal, and that the search for self is endless, Sag Harbor brings this truth home.” -Vanity Fair

“Beautifully written.” -Details

“Imagine a younger version of Bill Cosby, only more lyrical and far racier, with added literary and sociocultural references at his disposal and a greater familiarity with what the book terms ‘the insistent gray muck that was pop culture’ as it seeped through the ‘80s.” -Newsday

Whitehead has a David Foster Wallace esque knack for punctuating meticulously figurative constructions with deadpan slacker wit.” -The Los Angeles Times

“All of Whitehead's previous books were various degrees of funny, and Sag Harbor is funnier than all three combined.” -The Village Voice

“Just as Benji is in the process of remaking himself, one gets the feeling after reading Sag Harbor that Whitehead is taking his first artistic steps away from what has come to be expected from ‘Colson Whitehead.’ And it's safe to say, we're happy, and very lucky, to have both the who he was and the who he'll become out there, telling us like it is.” -The San Francisco Chronicle

“A wise, affectionate novel.” -The Washington Post

“Ebullient, supremely confident.” -The San Diego Union-Tribune

“He can write sentences like nobody’s business, and the deepest satisfaction in this book full of them is his crafty turn of phrase.” -Bloomberg News

“Effortlessly readable Masterful at re-creating the organized chaos of the teenage mind.” -Cleveland Plain Dealer

Author Biography

Colson Whitehead is the author of the novels The Intuitionist, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway award; John Henry Days, which won the Young Lions Fiction Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; and Apex Hides the Hurt, a New York Times Notable Book and winner of the PEN Oakland Award. He has also written a book of essays about his home town, The Colossus of New York. A recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and a MacArthur Fellowship, he lives in Brooklyn.


Notions of Roller-Rink Infinity

First you had to settle the question of out. When did you get out? Asking this was showing off, even though anyone you could brag to had received the same gift and had come by it the same way you did. Same sun wrapped in shiny paper, same soft benevolent sky, same gravel road that sooner or later skinned you. It was hard not to believe it belonged to you more than anyone else, made for you and waiting all these years for you to come along. Everyone felt that way. We were grateful just to be standing there in that heat after such a long bleak year in the city. When did you get out? was the sound of our trap biting shut; we took the bait year after year, pure pinned joy in the town of Sag Harbor.

Then there was the next out: How long are you out for?--and the competition had begun. The magic answer was Through Labor Day or The Whole Summer. Anything less was to signal misfortune. Out for a weekend at the start of the season, to open up the house, sweep cracks, that was okay. But only coming out for a month? A week? What was wrong, were you having financial difficulties? Everyone had financial difficulties, sure, but to let it interfere with Sag, your shit was seriously amiss. Out for a week, a month, and you were allowing yourself to be cheated by life. Ask, How long are you out for? and a cloud wiped the sun. The question trailed a whiff of autumn. All answers contemplated the end, the death of summer at its very beginning. Still waiting for the bay to warm up so you could go for a swim and already picturing it frozen over. Labor Day suddenly not so far off at all.

The final out was one-half information-gathering and one-half prayer: Who else is out? The season had begun, we were proof of it, instrument of it, but things couldn't really get started until all the players took their marks, bounding down driveways, all gimme-fives. The others were necessary, and we needed word. The person standing before you in pleated salmon shorts might say, "I talked to him on Wednesday and he said they were coming out." They were always the first ones out, never missed June like their lives depended on it. (This was true.) Someone might offer, "Their lawn was cut." A cut lawn was an undeniable omen of impending habitation, today or tomorrow. "Saw a car in their driveway." Even better. There was no greater truth than a car in a driveway. A car in the driveway was an invitation to knock on the door and get down to the business of summer. Knock on that door and watch it relent under your knuckles--once you were out, the door stayed unlocked until you closed up the house.

Once we're all out, we can begin.

My name is Ben. In the summer of 1985 I was fifteen years old. My brother, Reggie, was fourteen. As for when we got out, we got out that morning, hour and a half flat, having beat the traffic. Over the course of a summer, you heard a lot of different strategies of how to beat the traffic, or at least slap it around a little. There were those who ditched the office early on Friday afternoon, casually letting their co-workers know the reason for their departure in order to enjoy a little low-pressure envy. Others headed back to the city late Sunday evening, choking every last pulse of joy from the weekend with cocoa-buttered hands. They stopped to grab a bite and watched the slow red surge outside the restaurant window while dragging clam strips through tartar sauce--soon, soon, not yet--until the coast was clear.

My father's method was easy and brutal--hit the road at five in the morning so that we were the only living souls on the Long Island Expressway, making a break for it in the haunted dark. Every so often my mother said, "There's no traffic," as if it were a miracle. Well, it wasn't really dark, June sunrises are up and at 'em, but I always remember those drives that way--memory has a palette and broad brush. Perhaps I r

Excerpted from Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead
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Customer Reviews

Best and funniest book of his by far! June 15, 2011
I opened this novel at midnight intending to read ten pages or so. I found myself halfway through a few hours later seriously debating whether I should get some sleep before work or continue reading. It is a well-rounded, funny, and sometimes heart-breaking story of growing up in a world full of choices and consequences. This author's unique style of writing grabs hold of you from the first few pages, and doesn't let go. I highly recommend it, and I will definitely be seeking more of this author's work in the future.
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Sag Harbor: 5 out of 5 stars based on 1 user reviews.

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