Feature

Novel of the week: Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead

Whitehead's story of 15-year-old Benji Cooper's summer hanging with other middle-class, African-American kids in a Long Island beach enclave is the author's “most enjoyable” novel to date.

(Doubleday, $24.95)

The 15-year-old protagonist of Colson Whitehead’s new novel knows that the world has trouble categorizing him, said Adam Mansbach in The Boston Globe. Benji Cooper spends nine months a year in a mostly white Manhattan prep school and his summers hanging with other middle-class, African-American kids in a Long Island, N.Y., beach enclave established by their grandfathers. Though “little actually happens” in Benji’s life during the summer of ’85, his reminiscences about it add up to Whitehead’s “most enjoyable” novel to date. “Warm and funny” and “beautifully written,” Sag Harbor makes Benji’s riffs on slang, New Coke, and bad pop music matter because they show him “finessing a workable identity.” Unfortunately, Whitehead’s taste for “indistinct” heroes worked better in earlier novels, said Greil Marcus in Bookforum. Here, it means even Benji’s cleverest riffs don’t give readers enough reason to continue. But that astute voice can be reason enough, said Gene Seymour in Newsday. “If you know in advance” that Sag Harbor is faithful to the uneventful spirit of most teenage summers, its languorous pleasures should win you over.

Recommended

The daily gossip: September 24, 2021
Elon Musk and Grimes.
Daily gossip

The daily gossip: September 24, 2021

The daily gossip: September 23, 2021
Jane Goodall.
Daily gossip

The daily gossip: September 23, 2021

Melvin Van Peebles, multitalented 'godfather of modern Black cinema,' dies at 89
Melvin Van Peebles
In Memoriam

Melvin Van Peebles, multitalented 'godfather of modern Black cinema,' dies at 89

The daily gossip: September 22, 2021
Nicole Richie.
Daily gossip

The daily gossip: September 22, 2021

Most Popular

Jimmy Fallon and Nicole Kidman almost make it through interview without awkwardness
Jimmy Fallon and Nicole Kidman
Last Night on Late Night

Jimmy Fallon and Nicole Kidman almost make it through interview without awkwardness

7 cartoons about America's vaccine fights
Editorial Cartoon.
Feature

7 cartoons about America's vaccine fights

Democrats are governing like Republicans
A donkey.
Picture of W. James Antle IIIW. James Antle III

Democrats are governing like Republicans