Apex Hides the Hurt
author: colson whitehead
pages : [hardcover] 227
memorable quote : Later he decided the specifics were not important, that the true lesson of accidents is not the how or the why, but the taken-for-granted world they exile you from.
From the MacArthur and Whiting Award–winning author ofJohn Henry Days and The Intuitionist comes a new, brisk, comic tour de force about identity,history, and the adhesive bandage industry
When the citizens of Winthrop needed a new name for their town, they did what anyone would do—they hired a consultant. The protagonist ofApex Hides the Hurt is a nomenclature consultant. If you want just the right name for your new product, whether it be automobile or antidepressant, sneaker or spoon, he’s the man to get the job done. Wardrobe lack pizzazz? Come to the Outfit Outlet. Always the wallflower at social gatherings? Try Loquacia. And of course, whenever you take a fall, reach for Apex, because Apex Hides the Hurt. Apex is his crowning achievement, the multicultural bandage that has revolutionized the adhesive bandage industry. “Flesh-colored” be damned—no matter what your skin tone is—Apex will match it, or your money back.
After leaving his job (following a mysterious misfortune), his expertise is called upon by the town of Winthrop. Once there, he meets the town council, who will try to sway his opinion over the coming days. Lucky Aberdeen, the millionaire software pioneer and hometown-boy-made-good, wants the name changed to something that will reflect the town’s capitalist aspirations, attracting new businesses and revitalizing the community. Who could argue with that? Albie Winthrop, beloved son of the town’s aristocracy, thinks Winthrop is a perfectly good name, and can’t imagine what the fuss is about. Regina Goode, the mayor, is a descendent of the black settlers who founded the town, and has her own secret agenda for what the name should be. Our expert must decide the outcome, with all its implications for the town’s future. Which name will he choose? Or perhaps he will devise his own? And what’s with his limp, anyway?
Apex Hides the Hurt brilliantly and wryly satirizes our contemporary culture, where memory and history are subsumed by the tides of marketing.
I honestly didn’t expect to enjoy this book. I needed to read it for class and was relieved that it was very slim and didn’t seem to have difficult prose for me to trudge through. The characters were interesting. The plot wasn’t very shocking or gripping but it was easy to see the underlying themes and ideas, especially about consumerism and marketing.
I found it so incredibly interesting that the main character doesn’t have a name when his entire job involves naming things so that they will reach their full potential. A great product with a terrible name will never sell; most people take this for granted but don’t imagine there’s an entire job that revolves around settling on the perfect name for something. The narrator himself admits that usually he landed the perfect name early on and needed to wait a while to give it to the client, so that it’d seem like he took a long time contemplating the decision.
I really enjoyed the partially ambiguous ending, though I think that it would annoy some readers. It fit in perfectly for this kind of odd little novel. There was so much going on throughout, with not much action and a lot of flashback, that to just tie it all up neatly wouldn’t have seemed right.
I definitely recommend this book especially if you’re looking for something that’ll really get you thinking. I don’t typically read adult novels or books of this type for my own enjoyment, yet I think this is something I’d pick up again just to see what all I missed the first time around.