Colson Whitehead backstage at the Fitz before Wednesday's Talking Volumes event. Photo by Claude Peck
The self-deprecating humor that is well-known to novelist Colson Whitehead's Twitter followers came through in his live Talking Volumes appearance Wednesday in St. Paul.
Whitehead talked with MPR's Kerri Miller at the Fitzgerald Theater about "Zone One," the new zombies-in-New-York satirical novel that already has shown up on the New York Times fiction bestseller list (#16). Star Tribune review here.
The book is Whitehead's first horror novel and his first novel set in New York. "I wanted to salute the classic horror movies of my youth." He watched George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead" again on Halloween. "It still scares me," he said.
With only a finite number of Muses in the universe, finding creative inspiration can be "a logistical nightmare," Whitehead said.
The writer said that living in New York made it easy to find Zombieland -- on a subway train at rush hour, or at a Whole Foods store at 5 p.m. on a Friday. "Am I the only human in this place?" Whitehead joked.
"Part of me is optimistic," he said, "and part of me despises all humanity and wishes I were alone, walking the streets of deserted New York" like the zombies in the book.
While admitting that he was unable to do anything else, Whitehead described writing as "a terrible job...in which I get one really happy day per year." He said a typical day when working on a book went like this: "Tweet, couch, depressive stupor, idea, computer, couch, depressive stupor."
One routine he's developed over his previous books (including "Sag Harbor," "The Intuitionist" and "John Henry Days") is to blast the same two records -- "Daydream Nation" by Sonic Youth and "Purple Rain" by Prince -- on the final day before deliverying a manuscript to his publisher.
Whitehead said he had an unpublished novel in a desk drawer at home and that he recently wondered whether he should burn it. "Or could my daughter, years from now and I'm dead and she has gambling debts -- could she get some money for it?"
For a profile of Whitehead in the Star Tribune, go here.