Colson Whitehead’s hilarious angst on display at St. Joseph’s College

Brooklyn Daily

The writer’s life is filled with fear and loathing — which reminds Colson Whitehead of a joke.

“I usually spend Wednesday night alone, going over my regrets. So this is a nice change of pace,” the author of “The Intuitionist” and “John Henry Days” quipped at St. Joseph’s College last Wednesday — a good set-up to a hilarious evening listening to Whitehead dissect the essential angst of trying to make it as a writer.

By now, the Fort Greene author of four books and the essay collection “Colossus of New York” is a big-time literary star. But it wasn’t always that way. And that reminds him of another joke, this time about the seemingly nonsensical lyrics of the Donna Summer song, “MacArthur Park”:

“When I started getting all these rejection letters, I sat around in my underwear, watching ‘Jerry Springer’ with the shades drawn, surrounded by Budweiser cans, and I finally got what the song was about,” said the author. “Knopf Publishing, why did you leave my cake out in the rain? … Atlas Vanity Publishing of Secaucus, New Jersey, why did you not even return my phone calls?”

Whitehead’s latest book, “Zone One,” is a satirical take on the ever popular zombie-horror genre set in the Big Apple. The story isn’t even set in Brooklyn, but our rapier-wielding critic still had nice things to say about it.

Whitehead is either a phenomenal talent or he’s just lucky that America has gone all “post racial.” And that reminds Whitehead of another joke:

“I call your attention to my slender, delicate fingers and thin, feminine wrists,” the author said. “[But] a skinny black man, with slender fingers and thin feminine wrists, has actually become president. So if it’s ever going to be our time, this is pretty much it.”

Whitehead’s laugh-a-minute lecture is part of St. Joseph’s effort to link writers to their readers — and neighbors.

“I thought, ‘How cool would it be to have a writing series where the speakers live just a few blocks away,’ ” said Richard Greenwald, dean of academics at the college. “I don’t know many other towns where something like this can happen.”

Reach reporter Colin MIxson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.

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