Books: Colson Whitehead: The Third-Novel Curse

After two critically exalted novels, rising star Colson Whitehead comes up with a clunker

Colson Whitehead is, along with Jhumpa Lahiri, almost certainly the most critically adored American novelist under 40. To be really sure about it, you'd need some kind of hypothetical rave-ometer (which, come to think of it, is kind of a Whiteheadian idea), but after two novels--The Intuitionist and John Henry Days--he has been awarded a MacArthur "genius" grant, praised by John Updike and Jonathan Franzen and compared (by this magazine) to Ralph Ellison and Toni Morrison. So it's a bit of a surprise to find that his third novel, Apex Hides the Hurt (Doubleday), is a rather modest affair, slender and...

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