Famous Quotes & Sayings

Colson Whitehead Quotes & Sayings

Enjoy the top 100 famous quotes, sayings and quotations by Colson Whitehead.

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Even angels are animals. — Colson Whitehead

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They jostled one another, competed for space below as they did above, in a minuet of ruin and triumph. In the subway, down in the dark, no citizen was more significant or more decrepit than another. All were smeared into a common average of existence, the A's and the C's tumbling or rising to settle into a ruthless mediocrity. No escape. — Colson Whitehead

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The music stopped. The circle broke. Sometimes a slave will be lost in a brief eddy of liberation. In the sway of a sudden reverie among the furrows or while untangling the mysteries of an early morning dream. In the middle of a song on a warm Sunday night. Then it comes, always - the overseer's cry, the call to work, the shadow of the master, the reminder that she is only a human being for a tiny moment across the eternity of her servitude. — Colson Whitehead

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I was a skinny guy, but I was morbidly obese with doom. — Colson Whitehead

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His legs remembered the correct position for squatting down with toys. He played. He fit the round male studs into the round female grooves. He got some thinking done as he hunkered down on his fallen-sleep legs. — Colson Whitehead

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Don't go searching for a subject, let your subject find you. You can't rush inspiration. ... Once your subject finds you, it's like falling in love. It will be your constant companion. Shadowing you, peeping in your windows, calling you at all hours to leave messages like, Only you understand me. — Colson Whitehead

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I like movies. I've written screenplays as a sort of procrastination thing for me. Like I'll work for a couple months on this idea that's been kicking around and then like 30 pages in I'll just go try a novel because it's a lot easier. That's what I know. So why am I killing myself? — Colson Whitehead

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And that great mixture was brought to America in the holds of slave ships. To the north, the south. Their sons and daughters picked tobacco, cultivated cotton, worked on the largest estates and smallest farms. We are craftsmen and midwives and preachers and peddlers. Black hands built the White House, the seat of our nation's government. The word we. We are not one people but many different people. How can one person speak for this great, beautiful race - which is not one race but many, with a million desires and hopes and wishes for ourselves and our children? — Colson Whitehead

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Royal joined the singing to change the subject and to remind her that there were things a body could feel good about. A community that had come together, from seeding to harvest to the bee. But the song was a work song Cora knew from the cotton rows, drawing her back to the Randall cruelties and making her heart thud. Connelly used to start the song as a signal to go back to picking after a whipping. how could such a bitter thing become a means of pleasure? — Colson Whitehead

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I always have a few ideas that are percolating, and then after I've finished a book and it's a year later, and things are sort of festering and things are disgusting in my house and I have to get back to work, whatever project I keep thinking about is the one I end up working on. Sort of a very simple process of elimination. — Colson Whitehead

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IF THEY THINK those two words New York will fix them, who are we to say otherwise. — Colson Whitehead

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Looking at them now as folks chased in and out, getting ready, it was hard for Cora to image a time when the fourteen cabins hadn't been there. For all the wear, the complaints from deep in the wood at every step, the cabins had the always-quality of the hills to the west, of the creek that bisected the property. The cabins radiated permanence and in turn summed timeless feelings in those who lived and died in them: envy and spite. If they'd left more space between the old cabins and the new cabins it would have spared a lot of grief over the years. — Colson Whitehead

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Everyone was fucked up in their own way; as before, it was a mark of one's individuality. — Colson Whitehead

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One of my dinner companions invited me on a strip-club excursion. I demurred, spoiled by the erotic revues of Anhedonia, where the performers remain fully clothed but get emotionally naked, delivering monologues about their top-shelf disappointments, and times when they were almost happy. Hard to enjoy American-style strip clubs after that. Once you go bleak, you never go back. — Colson Whitehead

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A society manufactures the heroes it requires. — Colson Whitehead

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That's how the European tribes operate, she said. If they can't control it, they destroy it. — Colson Whitehead

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Sometimes such an experience bound one person to another; just as often the shame of one's powerlessness made all witnesses into enemies. — Colson Whitehead

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Things are pretty much status quo with the sexual-tension friend. — Colson Whitehead

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I have a good poker face because I am half dead inside. — Colson Whitehead

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Yet when his classmates put their blades to a colored cadaver, they did more for the cause of colored advancement than the most high-minded abolitionist. In death the negro became a human being. Only then was he the white man's equal. — Colson Whitehead

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I get invited to do panels with other Brooklyn writers to discuss what it's like to be a writer in Brooklyn. I expect it's like writing in Manhattan, but there aren't as many tourists walking very slowly in front of you when you step out for coffee. It's like writing in Paris, but there are fewer people speaking French. — Colson Whitehead

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I want to keep growing as a writer. I find myself doing unexpected projects and sort of challenging my idea of where I am in my career, or what I'm supposed to be doing. In fact, I'm not supposed to be doing anything. Just finding projects that are challenging to me. I want to be a writer who keeps growing and figuring out new things and hopefully people will follow me along as I publish these things. — Colson Whitehead

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Her father dropped her off in front of the place where she was to live and left the engine running. Lila Mae removed the two suitcases from the back of the pickup truck. The suitcases were new, with a formidable casing of green plastic. Scratchproof, supposedly. Her father had only been able to afford them because they were, manufacturer's oats aside, scratched - gouged actually, as if an animal had taken them in its fangs to teach them about hubris. — Colson Whitehead

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If I have three ideas and I'm working on one more than the others, that sort of tells me that I should work on that one. — Colson Whitehead

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He spills his guts, it was the last sip that sent him over the edge but she has her hands full with her own loneliness, she's not about to take on his. Reach inside to muzzle the broken part of you that is now talking. — Colson Whitehead

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White man trying to kill you slow every day, and sometimes trying to kill you fast. Why make it easy for him? That was one kind of work you could say no to. — Colson Whitehead

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As time went on, we learned to arm ourselves in our different ways. Some of us with real guns, some of us with more ephemeral weapons, an idea or improbable plan or some sort of formulation about how best to move through the world. An idea that will let us be. Protect us and keep us safe. But a weapon nonetheless. — Colson Whitehead

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The doctor was a frequent visitor at Miss Trumball's establishment, preferring it to the Lanchester house, whose girls had a saturnine disposition in his opinion, as if imported from Maine or other gloom-loving provinces. — Colson Whitehead

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Weeks passed, but my Word-A-Day Calendar was stuck on motherfucker. — Colson Whitehead

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They were exiles, but Hob provided a type of protection once they settled in. By playing up their strangeness, the way a slave simpered and acted childlike to escape a beating, they evaded the entanglements of the quarter. The walls of Hob made a fortress some nights, rescuing them from the feuds and conspiracies. White men eat you up, but sometimes colored folk eat you up, too. She — Colson Whitehead

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The I-Remember-Whensters lumbered in with their musty catalogues of the bygone, dragging IVs of distilled nostalgia behind them on creaky wheels, — Colson Whitehead

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One day a pickaninny was happy and the next the light was gone from them; in between they had been introduced to a new reality of bondage. — Colson Whitehead

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Hipsters seek refuge in church, Our Lady of Perpetual Subculture. There is some discussion as to whether or not they are still cool but then they are calmed by the obscure location and the arrival of their kind. Keep the address to yourself, let the rabble fund it themselves. Wow, this crappy performance art is really making me feel no so terrible about my various emotional issues. — Colson Whitehead

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Suck it, Entropy. We have an appointment, my old friend, but not today. — Colson Whitehead

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Resentment was the hinge of her personality. — Colson Whitehead

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I write the books that I'm compelled to and I definitely learn things about the world when I write them, and I hope that other people get something out of them, enjoy them, see the world differently when they're done. — Colson Whitehead

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All I truly know is that we rise and fall as one, one colored family living next door to one white family. We may not know the way through the forest, but we can pick each other up when we fall, and we will arrive together." - — Colson Whitehead

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Tonight the song you always despised strides from the jukebox full-bodied and you hear the lyrics for the first time, understand the lyrics for the first time after all these years. This new you with an older soul. Now it's your favorite. All this time singing the wrong words. — Colson Whitehead

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Here's a tip for new parents: Start lowering those expectations early, it's going to pay off later. — Colson Whitehead

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She had not been his and now she was his. Or she had always been his and just now knew it. Cora's attention detached itself. It floated someplace past the burning slave and the great house and the lines that defined the Randall domain. She tried to fill in its details from stories, sifting through the accounts of slaves who had seen it. Each time she caught hold of something - buildings of polished white stone, an ocean so vast that there wasn't a tree in sight, the shop of a colored blacksmith who served no master but himself - it wriggled free like a fish and raced away. She would have to see it for herself if she were to keep it. — Colson Whitehead

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I was inspired to become a writer by horror movies and science fiction. — Colson Whitehead

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Since the night she was kidnapped she had been appraised and reappraised, each day waking upon the pan of a new scale. Know your value and you know your place in the order. To escape the boundary of the plantation was to escape the fundamental principles of your existence: impossible. It — Colson Whitehead

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see chains on another person and be glad they are not your own--such was the good fortune permitted colored people, defined by how much worse it could be at any moment. — Colson Whitehead

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But it's like riding a bike. A hell-bike, made out of hell. — Colson Whitehead

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If you want to see what this nation is all about, you have to ride the rails. Look outside as you speed through, and you'll find the true face of America. It was a joke, then, from the start. There was only darkness outside the windows on her journeys, and only ever would be darkness. — Colson Whitehead

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I write books and either people read them or they don't read them. The rise of Facebook or e-books doesn't change the difficulty level of writing sentences and thinking up new ideas. — Colson Whitehead

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Stubborn breaks when it don't bend, — Colson Whitehead

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There was no recourse, were no laws but the ones rewritten every day. — Colson Whitehead

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Cora had heard Michael recite the Declaration of Independence back on the Randall plantation many times, his voice drifting through the village like an angry phantom. She didn't understand the words, most of them at any rate, but 'created equal' was not lost on her. The white men who wrote it didn't understand it either, if 'all men' did not truly mean all men. — Colson Whitehead

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Racial prejudice rotted one's faculties. — Colson Whitehead

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It was a gorgeous and intricate delusion, Manhattan, and from crooked angles on overcast days you saw it disintegrate, were forced to consider this tenuous creature in its true nature. — Colson Whitehead

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Nowdays, Rosie the Rivetere was a former soccer mom who had just opened her own catering business when Last Night came down and her husband and kids were eaten by a parking attendant at the local megamall's discount- appliance emporium. — Colson Whitehead

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She wasn't surprised when his character revealed itself - if you waited long enough, it always did. Like the dawn. — Colson Whitehead

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You are a New Yorker when what was there before is more real and solid than what is here now. — Colson Whitehead

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And if you could make a study of the dead, Stevens thought from time to time, you could make a study of the living, and make them testify as no cadaver could. — Colson Whitehead

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Judge not the dysfunctions of others, let ye be judged. — Colson Whitehead

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The only way to know how long you are lost in the darkness is to be saved from it. — Colson Whitehead

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I can't say that you should extract this or that value from my books explicitly. They are up for interpretation. In terms of the obligation, I think we're all individuals on this planet, trying to scratch our way through the day, and if you're writing a book exposing atrocities in Rwanda or writing a murder mystery set in a mountain village, I think both ways of spending you time are valid and both books are probably fine to read. — Colson Whitehead

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The first one hundred pages were fueled by early Misfits ("Where Eagles Dare [fast version]," "Horror Business," "Hybrid Moments") and Blanck Mass ("Dead Format"). David Bowie is in every book, and I always put on Purple Rain and Daydream Nation when I write the final pages; so thanks to him and Prince and Sonic Youth. — Colson Whitehead

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But we have all been branded even if you can't see it, inside if not without — Colson Whitehead

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Maybe everything the slave catcher said was true, Cora thought, every justification, and the sons of Ham were cursed and the slave master performed the Lord's will. And maybe he was just a man talking to an outhouse door, waiting for someone to wipe her ass. - — Colson Whitehead

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The whites came to this land for a fresh start and to escape the tyranny of their masters, just as the freemen had fled theirs. But the ideals they held up for themselves, they denied others. — Colson Whitehead

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He was a rube, but he was no tourist. — Colson Whitehead

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In his mind, the business of existence was about minimizing consequences. The plague had raised the stakes, but he had been in training for this his whole life. — Colson Whitehead

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The other patrollers were boys and men of bad character; the work attracted a type. In another country they would have been criminals, but this was America. — Colson Whitehead

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Maybe we become New Yorkers the day we realize that New York will go on without us. — Colson Whitehead

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People spare a minute or two relishing other people's setbacks before their own inadequacies distract them again. This is his umpteenth pint but he has a hollow leg or some sort of emptiness in himself and doesn't feel the least bit tipsy. What they take for her air of mystery is merely a side effect of her medication. — Colson Whitehead

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Crossing a single street transformed the way people talked, determined the size and condition of the homes, the dimension and character of the dreams. — Colson Whitehead

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They were up past dawn, crashed, were granted absolution in its secular manifestation of late checkout. — Colson Whitehead

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To preempt rejection she dresses to exaggerate her difference when the true enemy is not the world's disdain but its indifference. He is surely the next item in a dreary procession and cannot be seen for all those previous disappointments. — Colson Whitehead

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There will be no redemption because the men who run this place do not want redemption. They want to be as near to hell as they can. — Colson Whitehead

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You swallow hard when you discover that the old coffee shop is now a chain pharmacy, that the place where you first kissed so-and-so is now a discount electronics retailer, that where you bought this very jacket is now rubble behind a blue plywood fence and a future office building. Damage has been done to your city. You say, 'It happened overnight.' But of course it didn't. Your pizza parlor, his shoeshine stand, her hat store: when they were here, we neglected them. For all you know, the place closed down moments after the last time you walked out the door. (Ten months ago? Six years? Fifteen? You can't remember, can you?) And there have been five stores in that spot before the travel agency. Five different neighborhoods coming and going between then and now, other people's other cities. Or 15, 25, 100 neighborhoods. Thousands of people pass that storefront every day, each one haunting the streets of his or her own New York, not one of them seeing the same thing. — Colson Whitehead

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Poetry and prayer put ideas in people's heads that got them killed, distracting them from the ruthless mechanism of the world. — Colson Whitehead

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I live in Brooklyn. I moved here 14 years ago for the cheap rent. It was a little embarrassing because I was raised in Manhattan, and so I was a bit of a snob about the other boroughs. — Colson Whitehead

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She said that white towns had simply banded together to rid themselves of the black stronghold in their midst. That is how the European tribes operate, she said. If they can't control it, they destroy it. If — Colson Whitehead

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Talking about New York is a way of talking about the world. — Colson Whitehead

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From the trunk of their scheme, choices and decisions sprouted like branches and shoots. — Colson Whitehead

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The old woman had destroyed his family so thoroughly it couldn't have been accidental. It wasn't her niece's greed - the old woman had played a trick on them the whole time. — Colson Whitehead

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What does the perfect elevator look like, the one that will deliver us from the cities we suffer now, these stunted shacks? We don't know because we can't see inside it, it's something we cannot imagine, like the shape of angels' teeth. It's a black box. — Colson Whitehead

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You should have gone yourself, you ask for a Coke and they come back with orange drink. No one understands the martyrdom of the volunteers for the trip to food concession. — Colson Whitehead

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Best to let the broken glass be broken glass, let it splinter into smaller pieces and dust and scatter. Let the cracks between things widen until they are no longer cracks but the new places for things. That was where they were now. The world wasn't ending: it had ended and now they were in the new place. They could not recognize it because they had never seen it before. — Colson Whitehead

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Did you know that smiling politely burns up the same amount of calories as speaking your mind. — Colson Whitehead

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At ninety, everything is air and the difference between you and the medium of your passage is disintegrating with every increment of the ascension. — Colson Whitehead

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The world is mean from the start and gets meaner every day. It uses you up until you only dream of death. Mabel — Colson Whitehead

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In terms of why everything is different, each book is different than the one before because I'm so bored of what I just finished I want to work on something different. The next book becomes an antidote to what I did before. — Colson Whitehead

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You can't rush inspiration. — Colson Whitehead

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I'm just trying to keep things rich for me creatively and for the readers who follow me. — Colson Whitehead

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He is fat and pink. On the United Elevator Co. advertisements, they airbrush away the pocks in his cheeks, the red slivers in his nose. In person he is too flesh, a handful of raw meat. Dogs have been known to follow him, optimistic. — Colson Whitehead

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It is failure that guides evolution; perfection provides no incentive for improvement, and nothing is perfect. — Colson Whitehead

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New York City in life was much like New York City in death. It was still hard to get a cab, for example. — Colson Whitehead

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Sarsaparilla boiled for one of Sybil's tonics, overpowering the aroma of the roasting meat. Cora — Colson Whitehead

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The city knows you better than any living person because it has seen you when you are alone. — Colson Whitehead

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There was an order of misery, misery tucked inside miseries, and you were meant to keep track. — Colson Whitehead

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He told himself: Hope is a gateway drug, don't do it. — Colson Whitehead

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A feeling settled over Cora. She had not been under its spell in years, since she brought the hatchet down on Blake's doghouse and sent the splinters into the air. She had seen men hung from trees and left for buzzards and crows. Women carved open to the bones with the cat-o'-nine-tails. Bodies alive and dead roasted on pyres. Feet cut off to prevent escape and hands cut off to stop theft. She had seen boys and girls younger than this beaten and had done nothing. This night the feeling settled on her heart again. It grabbed hold of her and before the slave part of her caught up with the human part of her, she was bent over the boy's body as a shield. — Colson Whitehead

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Memory is the most malicious cutter of all, preserving, recasting, panning in slow motion across the awful bits so that we retain every detail. — Colson Whitehead

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He had nerve damage: input could not penetrate. The world stalled out at his edges. Sometimes he had trouble speaking to other people, rummaging for language, and it seemed to him that an invisible layer divided him from the rest of the world, a membrane of emotional surface tension. — Colson Whitehead

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Craftsmen and artisans created items that were brittle rumors compared with his father's iron facts. — Colson Whitehead

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On one end there was who you were before you went underground, and on the other end a new person steps out into the light. — Colson Whitehead

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Cora read the accounts of slaves who had been born in chains and learned their letters. Of Africans who had been stolen, torn from their homes and families, and described the miseries of their bondage and then their hair-raising escapes. She recognized their stories as her own. They were the stories as her own. They were the stories of all the colored people she had ever known, the stories of black people yet to be born, the foundations of their triumphs. — Colson Whitehead