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Harlem Shuffle: A Novel by Colson Whitehead
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Harlem Shuffle: A Novel (original 2021; edition 2021)

by Colson Whitehead (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,1577014,056 (3.95)107
From the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys, a gloriously entertaining novel of heists, shakedowns, and rip-offs set in Harlem in the 1960s. "Ray Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked..." To his customers and neighbors on 125th street, Carney is an upstanding salesman of reasonably priced furniture, making a decent life for himself and his family. He and his wife Elizabeth are expecting their second child, and if her parents on Striver's Row don't approve of him or their cramped apartment across from the subway tracks, it's still home.  Few people know he descends from a line of uptown hoods and crooks, and that his façade of normalcy has more than a few cracks in it. Cracks that are getting bigger all the time.  Cash is tight, especially with all those installment-plan sofas, so if his cousin Freddie occasionally drops off the odd ring or necklace, Ray doesn't ask where it comes from. He knows a discreet jeweler downtown who doesn't ask questions, either.  Then Freddie falls in with a crew who plan to rob the Hotel Theresa--the "Waldorf of Harlem"--and volunteers Ray's services as the fence. The heist doesn't go as planned; they rarely do. Now Ray has a new clientele, one made up of shady cops, vicious local gangsters, two-bit pornographers, and other assorted Harlem lowlifes.  Thus begins the internal tussle between Ray the striver and Ray the crook. As Ray navigates this double life, he begins to see who actually pulls the strings in Harlem. Can Ray avoid getting killed, save his cousin, and grab his share of the big score, all while maintaining his reputation as the go-to source for all your quality home furniture needs?  Harlem Shuffle's ingenious story plays out in a beautifully recreated New York City of the early 1960s. It's a family saga masquerading as a crime novel, a hilarious morality play, a social novel about race and power, and ultimately a love letter to Harlem.  But mostly, it's a joy to read, another dazzling novel from the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning Colson Whitehead.… (more)
Member:lisa.oldham
Title:Harlem Shuffle: A Novel
Authors:Colson Whitehead (Author)
Info:Doubleday (2021), 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:None

Work Information

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead (2021)

Recently added byjuleikaps, DenW, Arena800, otherwill, SamRivenbark, VickyKretz, RVanhorne, private library
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» See also 107 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 69 (next | show all)
I read a good 75 pages and could not get into this book. I may pick it up agIn at a later date.
  janismack | Jul 4, 2022 |
I loved Nickle Boys and Underground Railroad by Whitehead but did not care for this book. Filled with crime and sad. ( )
  MaryNellT | Jul 2, 2022 |
This is just a perfect story, a diversion, finished in 36 hours which is very fast for me.

A apres-ski after Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys, a love letter to the idea of a Black Harlem that those of us who weren't there can only imagine.

A bit of a caper, very well done. ( )
  kcshankd | Jun 30, 2022 |
This is the story of Ray Carney, owner of a furniture store in Harlem in the 1950s/60s. Ray's father was a criminal, and several of his family and friends are criminals, but Ray wants to lead a straight life. He tries to break into the upper ranks of Harlem Black society, despite his dark skin and questionable family, but finds that the Harlem elite practice a different kind of crime: white-collar crime. Despite his intentions of living lawfully, Carney finds himself drawn into various criminal worlds. The book explores the tension between lawfulness and lawlessness against the backdrop of the Harlem Renaissance and race riots.

The plot meanders a bit: at times it feels like this is going to be a crime thriller, but the action ebbs and flows more like a biography. The book is as much about Harlem as it is about any of the people in the story. ( )
  Gwendydd | Apr 30, 2022 |
Colson Whitehead, a two time Pulitzer-prize winning author shows us a slightly different narrative than we've come to expect. Harlem Shuffle is an interesting mix of drama, comedy, and crime.

Welcome to 1959 Harlem. Ray Carney is a devoted family man trying to survive and provide for himself and his pregnant wife. He tries to put on a good front, wanting people to believe he's an honest stand-up guy. What most people don't see is the cracks in his convoluted front; Behind the scenes he's actually joined forces with a few questionable characters and is now a part time crook.

Harlem Shuffle is a wonderful homage to the Harlem of the past, one rich in culture and history and the love for the area shines through brightly in this narrative. However, the plot is a bit of a let down. It doesn't really go anywhere and a lot happens elsewhere while we're experiencing his love for the city.

Colson Whitehead is a brilliant writer so this is still a decent read however if you're expecting quality similar to his past literary contributions Harlem Shuffle simply falls flat.

Thank you to netgalley and publishers for providing an advanced e-copy for me to read and share my honest opinion. ( )
  chasingholden | Apr 26, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 69 (next | show all)
Already having tackled everything from zombies to metaphorical railroads, Whitehead turned to noir and humor for his latest release, Harlem Shuffle. At once a character study about a furniture salesman living in New York City in the early 1960s and a narrative that explores how even good people can be slightly crooked for all the right reasons, Harlem Shuffle is a funny, violent novel that doubles as a love letter to New York City’s seedy underbelly and the plethora of characters that made it unique....Harlem Shuffle is many things. On the surface, it is a crime novel with a family saga at its core. However, as readers have come to expect from Whitehead, the narrative is also an exploration of race and power dynamics that coexists with a story about the eternal battle between ethics and need whenever money enters the equation.
 
A heist with a cast of zany characters, tongue-in-cheek dialogue, questionable criminal skills, and of course, a bumbling, incompetent thief or two are undoubtedly part of the charm of Colson Whitehead's Harlem Shuffle. But the novel is also a powerful tale of a man's love for his family and the neighborhood where he lives. And the man at the center of that tale is a devastatingly enjoyable character who has a true gift for words — if not always the smartest actions.
 
“Harlem Shuffle” brings Whitehead’s unwavering eloquence — at one point he describes traffic as “honking molasses” — to a mix of city history, niche hangouts, racial stratification, high hopes and low individuals....Though it’s a slightly slow starter, “Harlem Shuffle” has dialogue that crackles, a final third that nearly explodes, hangouts that invite even if they’re Chock Full o’ Nuts and characters you won’t forget even if they don’t stick around for more than a few pages.
added by Lemeritus | editThe New York Times, Janet Maslin (pay site) (Sep 10, 2021)
 
Throughout, readers will be captivated by a Dickensian array of colorful, idiosyncratic characters, from itchy-fingered gangsters to working-class women with a low threshold for male folly. What’s even more impressive is Whitehead’s densely layered, intricately woven rendering of New York City in the Kennedy era, a time filled with both the bright promise of greater economic opportunity and looming despair due to the growing heroin plague. It's a city in which, as one character observes, “everybody’s kicking back or kicking up. Unless you’re on top.” As one of Whitehead’s characters might say of their creator, When you’re hot, you’re hot.
added by Lemeritus | editKirkus Reviews (Jun 16, 2021)
 
It’s a superlative story, but the most impressive achievement is Whitehead’s loving depiction of a Harlem 60 years gone—“that rustling, keening thing of people and concrete”—which lands as detailed and vivid as Joyce’s Dublin. Don’t be surprised if this one wins Whitehead another major award.
added by Lemeritus | editPublisher's Weekly (Apr 20, 2021)
 
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for Beckett
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His cousin Freddie brought him on the heist one hot night in early June.
Quotations
If something big was afoot, Aronowitz twirled in his chair and scurried into the workshop in the back, to more grunts. He reminded Carney of a squirrel in the park, darting helter-skelter after lost nuts.
The way he saw it, living taught you that you didn’t have to live the way you’d been taught to live. You came from one place but more important was where you decided to go.
Everyone had secret corners and alleys that no one else saw—what mattered were your major streets and boulevards, the stuff that showed up on other people’s maps of you.
Finding out you were free six months after the fact didn’t seem like something to celebrate. More like it was telling you to read the morning paper.
Carney didn’t go to church. Blasphemers on one side of the family, skeptics on the other, and both sides liked to sleep in.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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From the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys, a gloriously entertaining novel of heists, shakedowns, and rip-offs set in Harlem in the 1960s. "Ray Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked..." To his customers and neighbors on 125th street, Carney is an upstanding salesman of reasonably priced furniture, making a decent life for himself and his family. He and his wife Elizabeth are expecting their second child, and if her parents on Striver's Row don't approve of him or their cramped apartment across from the subway tracks, it's still home.  Few people know he descends from a line of uptown hoods and crooks, and that his façade of normalcy has more than a few cracks in it. Cracks that are getting bigger all the time.  Cash is tight, especially with all those installment-plan sofas, so if his cousin Freddie occasionally drops off the odd ring or necklace, Ray doesn't ask where it comes from. He knows a discreet jeweler downtown who doesn't ask questions, either.  Then Freddie falls in with a crew who plan to rob the Hotel Theresa--the "Waldorf of Harlem"--and volunteers Ray's services as the fence. The heist doesn't go as planned; they rarely do. Now Ray has a new clientele, one made up of shady cops, vicious local gangsters, two-bit pornographers, and other assorted Harlem lowlifes.  Thus begins the internal tussle between Ray the striver and Ray the crook. As Ray navigates this double life, he begins to see who actually pulls the strings in Harlem. Can Ray avoid getting killed, save his cousin, and grab his share of the big score, all while maintaining his reputation as the go-to source for all your quality home furniture needs?  Harlem Shuffle's ingenious story plays out in a beautifully recreated New York City of the early 1960s. It's a family saga masquerading as a crime novel, a hilarious morality play, a social novel about race and power, and ultimately a love letter to Harlem.  But mostly, it's a joy to read, another dazzling novel from the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning Colson Whitehead.

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"Ray Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked..." To his customers and neighbors on 125th street, Carney is an upstanding salesman of reasonably priced furniture, making a decent life for himself and his family. He and his wife Elizabeth are expecting their second child, and if her parents on Striver's Row don't approve of him or their cramped apartment across from the subway tracks, it's still home.

Few people know he descends from a line of uptown hoods and crooks, and that his façade of normalcy has more than a few cracks in it. Cracks that are getting bigger all the time.

Cash is tight, especially with all those installment-plan sofas, so if his cousin Freddie occasionally drops off the odd ring or necklace, Ray doesn't ask where it comes from. He knows a discreet jeweler downtown who doesn't ask questions, either.

Then Freddie falls in with a crew who plan to rob the Hotel Theresa—the "Waldorf of Harlem"—and volunteers Ray's services as the fence. The heist doesn't go as planned; they rarely do. Now Ray has a new clientele, one made up of shady cops, vicious local gangsters, two-bit pornographers, and other assorted Harlem lowlifes.

Thus begins the internal tussle between Ray the striver and Ray the crook. As Ray navigates this double life, he begins to see who actually pulls the strings in Harlem. Can Ray avoid getting killed, save his cousin, and grab his share of the big score, all while maintaining his reputation as the go-to source for all your quality home furniture needs?

Harlem Shuffle's ingenious story plays out in a beautifully recreated New York City of the early 1960s. It's a family saga masquerading as a crime novel, a hilarious morality play, a social novel about race and power, and ultimately a love letter to Harlem.

But mostly, it's a joy to read, another dazzling novel from the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning Colson Whitehead.
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