f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Waiting for a Moment That Never Comes

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Waiting for a Moment That Never Comes

I know you likely don’t care about Apex and Colson Whitehead enough to want two days on the book, but I’ve got ICRS this weekend and so this is all I’ve got going in terms of extracurricular thoughts.

What I’m trying to figure out is if I’m being fair to Whitehead in my reading. And my concern is that I’m slightly disappointed in Whitehead for not giving me a scene I expected to read.

What I’d read about Apex is that it featured a nomenclature consultant who specialized in naming products. And that he’d worked on Apex a brand of bandages whose special selling-point is that they came in a spectrum of skin colors to match humanity’s wide-range of pigmentation.

I didn’t read much more than that. Didn’t need to. Given Whitehead’s foray into race with Intuitionist I was fascinated to see what he’d do here. I was particularly fascinated to see how the nomenclature specialist pulled off naming each and every color in the spectrum of skin-tones. It seemed dangerous territory, a minefield for a novelist to tip-toe through. But it also seemed ripe for satire and their seemed to be potential to somehow move beyond race. Wouldn’t it be better to move beyond white, black, yellow, and red to thirty-five brand new skin tones?

Anyway, these were some of my thoughts before I picked up the book. I’m assuming you realize Whitehead never broaches the topic. The bandages are given stock numbers rather than names and, well, that disappointed me. (It also seems unlikely in the uber-marketing universe he sets up. Or at least it should be addressed. Why didn’t they name the colors? Am I just fixated here?)

I don’t have much of a point here other than to say, “Poor authors.” Not are you beholden to readers for what actually makes the page, but sometimes you’re beholden for what doesn’t. I don’t know that you can prepare for that—unless a number of early readers warn you and you ignore them. So that’s why I feel I may not be giving Mr. Whitehead a fair shake. Sorry, Colson. (But I’m still disappointed.)