John Freeman in Literary Hub:
I would like to say on his behalf that Colson Whitehead that he is overjoyed to be here, even if he does not show it. “I have a good poker face,” Whitehead wrote in Noble Hustle, his book about gambling and Las Vegas, “because I am half dead inside.” “I was a skinny guy, but I was morbidly obese with doom.”
We know him in NYC as Mr. Sunshine, and, to a small, small cadres, Cuddles, but no writer across all of America has had more fun with serious things in the last twenty years as Colson Whitehead. If Ishmael Reed & Thomas Pynchon collaborated to put together an absurdist theater group, they might call it Colson Whitehead. It would have been established in 1969, in Manhattan, nurtured at Harvard, and workshopped at the Village Voice, where Colson Whitehead was for a few years a TV critic.
He once said he liked that job because he could work four hours a week. It was in the other thirty that he began his first book, The Intuitionist, a parody of a detective story about a woman named Lila Mae in the Department of Elevator Inspectors who has stumbled on a moment of intrigue. That novel was a brilliant evocation of the notion of racial uplift in a city much like New York, just slightly different.
Across the rest of his career, Whitehead has been the dour-faced poet laureate of the city which is his home.