In introducing Whitehead, Creative Writing Program Director Daniel Torday quoted TIME magazine’s Walter Kirn, who called Whitehead’s The Intuitionist, “The freshest racial allegory since Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man and Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye."
“I usually spend Thursday nights in my apartment, weeping with regret. So this is a nice change of pace,” joked Whitehead as he took to the podium.
For the next hour, Whitehead entertained with a breezy often sardonic discussion of topics ranging from his beginning at the Village Voice—“the thing about the Voice was, whenever you were there was its heyday and whenever you left was its decline”—to how a career as a writer allowed him to finally understand Donna Summer’s version of “MacArthur Park.”
“This song poses an enigma. Who left the cake out and why?...It wasn’t until I got all the rejection letters that I understood it,” said Whitehead, who went on to jokingly intone the song’s lyrics. “I don’t think that I can take it. It took so long to bake it, and I’ll never have that recipe again.”
Whitehead ended his time onstage by reading one of his essays and with a discussion of his tips on how to write.
Among the 11 rules on how to write are nuggets like rule number 2:
"Don’t go searching for your subject, let your subject find you…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.'"
Among those in attendance was Haverford student Eli Mathenia ’16.
"I was in a class that read The Intuitionist and I thought, ‘I need to put this guy on my read-all-his-books list,'" said Eli.
Poet Heather McHugh visits Bryn Mawr as part of the Creative Writing Program Reading Series on Wednesday, Feb. 24, at 7:30 p.m. in the Goodhart Music Room. All readings are free and open to the public.
~ Zubin Hill '17