Colson Whitehead is one of America's most respected novelists, the author of "The Intuitionist" and "Sag Harbor,"and a MacArthur genius. But his book,"Zone One"gets pretty lowbrow. It's about zombies --- and not some postmodern metaphorical zombies. It's the real deal, with brains being eaten and the living going to war against the undead. The coup is that the book is chilling, funny, and smart all at the same time.
Whitehead reads a scene from the book, in which the protagonist remembers walking in on his parents in flagrante as he sees a more horrifying encounter take place. "I always knew I'd write a horror novel eventually," he tells Kurt Andersen. "Until I was in college, I wanted to write the black 'Shining' or the black 'Salem's Lot.' If you took any Stephen King novel and put 'the black' in front of it, that's what I wanted to do."
Whitehead was introduced to serious, adult horror movies at a young age, including "A Clockwork Orange" as a 10-year-old. "And I remember being like, 'Mommy, what are they doing to that woman?' And her being like, 'It's a comment on society.' So I think it's helped my work, even if it wasn't entirely appropriate."
That said, he'll wait to introduce those movies to his own daughter: "I try to stick with the herd in terms of the Brooklyn parenting advice," he laughs, "which means I'm not allowed to be drinking pushing the stroller."