Colson Whitehead ’91 has gained a reputation as a literary chameleon, deftly blurring the lines between literary and genre fiction, and using his uncanny abilities to inhabit and reinvent conventional frames in order to explore the themes of race, technology, history, and popular culture that continually resurface in his work. In a country where reading habits and reading publics are still more segregated than we often care to admit, his books enjoy a rare crossover appeal. His first novel, “The Intuitionist,” is a detective story that regularly turns up in college courses; the zombie thriller “Zone One” drew praise from literary critics and genre fiction fans alike; “Sag Harbor,” about black privileged kids coming of age in the 1980s, was a surprise bestseller. In an era when commercial pressure reinforces the writerly instinct to cultivate a recognizable “voice,” his astonishingly varied output, coupled with highly polished, virtuosic prose, makes Whitehead one of the most ambitious and unpredictable authors working today.Beyond the books, Whitehead swims effortlessly in the hyper-connected moment: he maintains an active presence on Twitter, where his sly and dyspeptic observations on the curious and the mundane have gained him a devoted following. A sampling includes sagacious tips for the aspiring writer—“Epigraphs are always better than what follows. Pick crappy epigraphs so you don’t look bad”—and riffs on Ezra Pound: “The apparition of these faces in the crowd / Petals on a wet, black bough / Probably hasn’t been gentrified though.” In the pages of The New York Times Magazine and The New Yorker, he has wryly dissected contemporary mores and the light-speed metamorphoses of language in the age of social media. In a widely shared essay from last year, he parsed the current attachment to the “tautophrase,” as in “you do you” and “it is what it is.” Or Taylor Swift’s popularization of “Haters gonna hate.” Swift makes an easy target, of course, but Whitehead takes aim at the rhetoric of those in power too, and the narcissism in our culture more generally. He’s more gadfly than moralist, but there is a Voltaire-like venom to his sarcasms. “The modern tautophrase empowers the individual,” he observes, “regardless of how shallow that individual is.” Read Full Story
By Dialogo April 15, 2011 An operation by the Special Operations Battalion (BOPE) in two slums in northern Rio de Janeiro on 13 April left five dead, believed to be drug traffickers, a Military Police spokesperson informed AFP. The operation to suppress drug trafficking and weapons trafficking in the slums of Manguinhos and Mandela mobilized one hundred police officers, supported by two armored vehicles. Three pistols, two grenades, twenty-three motorcycles, and chemical substances for manufacturing drugs were confiscated, the police specified, and four arrests were made. Elsewhere, in western Rio, the Civil Police carried out an operation on 13 April to dismantle a police-style militia suspected of operating in thirteen slums. A city councilor was arrested, and fourteen arrest warrants were issued by the judicial authorities. The expansion of militias in Rio de Janeiro goes back to 2006, when groups of active or retired police officers invaded several favelas in the western part of the city, expelled drug traffickers, and started to collect “security fees” from inhabitants. Militias are present in 105 of the city’s 250 major slums, according to a report by Paulo Storani, a former captain of the elite Special Operations Unit (BOPE) of the Military Police. The authorities of Rio de Janeiro state, one of the country’s most violent, began a countercampaign in 2008 to pacify the city and eliminate militias and drug traffickers from the slums, ahead of hosting the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. At present, around twenty slums have been pacified.