Soul Sonic Summer: Colson Whitehead's Sag Harbor

A veteran novelist looks back at his teen self—with your monkey ass

Benji, like a lot of adolescents, has a whole mob of other people inside of him. He curses WLNG, the Lite FM radio station he can't help but listen to, for evoking "a feeling of nostalgia for something that never existed." Later, when he's about to finally make out, he can't stop humming "Oh Babe, What Would You Say?" even though he should really just get on with it. Eventually, Benji surrenders to both song and girl: "People you'd never meet offered the words you were unable to shove past your lips, saying what you felt about someone once, or might become capable of feeling one day," writes Whitehead, in defense of "the oddball tune, the one-hit wonders and fluke achievers" that populate our own memories and vocabularies and airwaves and store shelves. "They spoke for you. Gathering the small, rough things you recognized in yourself."

Fierce with a gryphon: Whitehead
Erin Patrice O'Brien
Fierce with a gryphon: Whitehead

zbaron@villagevoice.com

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