A new book out this week, and related content you won’t find anywhere else.
The book everyone’s talking about right now is Colson Whitehead’s imaginative, groundbreaking, and research-infused new novel The Underground Railroad, which has been granted the bookish blessing of being Oprah’s latest Book Club pick. The book, Whitehead’s eighth, imagines the Underground Railroad as a literal railroad. All of Whitehead’s novels have a way of refracting the familiar in sometimes surreal ways, and often incorporate huge amounts of research on peculiar topics (elevators, poker, zombies). Back in 2001, Suzan Sherman interviewed Whitehead for BOMB, and asked about the tremendous amount of research that went into his second novel, John Henry Days. Whitehead responded:
It was definitely a balancing act. Since I didn’t write it start-to-finish, I wrote different sections at different times, if I got bored I could take a break doing research for a month before writing another chapter. I’d get five stamp books out of the library and just have a stamp week, or a Tin Pan Alley week. Even though I’m kind of a lazy person, I went down to the town of Talcott, West Virginia, where the actual John Henry Days festival takes place every year…It wasn’t something I normally do because I work out of my head.