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Original Essays | April 11, 2014

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Zazen

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Zazen Cover

 

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Average customer rating based on 14 comments:

Jeff Everden, January 31, 2013 (view all comments by Jeff Everden)
great great book!!
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Charles Ahlquist, January 1, 2013 (view all comments by Charles Ahlquist)
In chaos, there is beauty and joy to be found. Zazen is a gem of a story that imagines a dystopian, Portlandesque future full of sadness, confusion, and militant veganism. The sheer beauty of Veselka's tale is in the honest complexity of her characters and the glowing brilliance of her prose. Rarely do I find a book where the cadence of the author's voice is so enchanting that I reread entire pages to basque in their ambiance. I adore this book, and so can you.
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Charles Ahlquist, January 1, 2013 (view all comments by Charles Ahlquist)
In chaos, there is beauty and joy to be found. Zazen is a gem of a story that imagines a dystopian, Portlandesque future full of sadness, confusion, and militant veganism. The sheer beauty of Veselka's tale is in the honest complexity of her characters and the glowing brilliance of her prose. Rarely do I find a book where the cadence of the author's voice is so enchanting that I reread entire pages to basque in their ambiance. I adore this book, and so can you.
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Jess S, January 1, 2013 (view all comments by Jess S)
i felt like this book was written exactly for me. this is exactly the book i wanted to read, with exactly the characters and plot i didn't even know i wanted to read. i'm sure it's not for everyone, and a "good book" is subjective, but to me, this book is perfect. i have thought about it every day since i started it.

but i can't tell you why. i don't want to summarize the plot or talk about the style because this book feels like more than the sum of its parts. i don't want to write down my favorite parts because it feels like cheating.

honestly, writing this feels like wearing my heart on the outside of my body. i am seriously emotional about this book. if you read this book, i kind of don't want to know because it will be like you know too much about me.
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Mosca, January 1, 2013 (view all comments by Mosca)
What an extraordinary new voice! Vanessa Veselka is unlike any other author that I know. Her biting observations of our times are couched as a protagonist's wit navigating her own very-soon-to-come times. And she pulls no punches in a world that spares no one.

Almost anything I say will insufficiently describe this book. But I will try.

Vanessa Veselka is one of those priceless writers who speak their own language with skill, wit, compassion, and vision. I have read no other writers who write like she does. As far as I can tell, she imitates no one. But she may, indeed, inspire imitators.

Vaselka's prose is a treat. She repeatedly teases us with humor, hopes, snide judgements, poetic absurdities, fears, panics, despairs, and then circles us around again the way we came. She keeps us disoriented, but like her numerous perverted characters we keep coming back, unashamed, for more.

As this book progresses, the ambiance and the tone shifts many times surprising the reader, and charting its course in an unexpected new direction. In retrospect, it is clear to me at least, that she is creating emotional and intuitive platforms onto which she is continually adding--a stage of sorts for the story to play out upon. The reader is lead through and onto these platforms blindfolded, it feels. An unspoiled reader will find him/herself continually turning unexpected corners; and arriving repeatedly into new understandings. These "surprises" serve to keep the reader off-guard and ready for unimagined perspectives. It is these unimagined perspectives that are at the heart of Zazen

Veselka swims us through many, many of the terrors and repugnant experiences of our times. She waves under our collective noses the odious pretensions we live through; and has us laughing so hard that we begin to think this book is a comedy. She sets us up against the eternal despair that our daily experiences incline us to fall into--and for good reason.

But Vaselka is not so foolish as to let us draw escapist or cynical conclusions from her alarming observations. She wants more. And she wants us to want more.

I will not belabor this writing with psychological analyses of the endearing protagonist, Della. Nor will I examine the numerous political questions debated by a host of other characters. I will not debate whether this book is science fiction, dystopian, gender politics, moral fable, or revolutionary screed.

As I have said, I feel that Vanessa Veselka wants more. And she has trained me to want more.

Bless you, Vanessa.

--Mosca




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Product Details

ISBN:
9781935869054
Author:
Veselka, Vanessa
Publisher:
Red Lemonade
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
20110531
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Language:
English
Pages:
256
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 in

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Related Subjects


Featured Titles » General
Featured Titles » Literature
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
History and Social Science » Pacific Northwest » Featured Titles
History and Social Science » Pacific Northwest » Literature Folklore and Memoirs

Zazen New Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$15.95 In Stock
Product details 256 pages Red Lemonade - English 9781935869054 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Portlander Vanessa Veselka has written a phenomenal debut novel that kicks ass and takes names. Zazen (which is set in an slightly alternate universe, but is still wonderfully and satirically recognizable as Portland) is a brilliant, moving, maddening, punk-rock novel that will give you fury and hope.

"Staff Pick" by ,

There were several books I liked this year that I expected to like (such as Murakami's 1Q84), but this book came out of nowhere and absolutely floored me. Zazen is a brutally honest story about the heartbreak that follows the failure of idealism. However, don't be put off by that description, as there is an astringent wit at play here and gallows humor on nearly every page, making Zazen the perfect manifesto for these Occupy (insert location) times.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "The deeply disaffected young woman narrator of Veselka's taut debut must decide whether to flee a dystopian America or try to endure it, and, in the process maybe help save it a little. Della is a waitress with an obsessive interest in self-immolation, a sharp wit, and a dwindling hope in humanity. When a bomb goes off in an office building in her faceless industrial city's downtown, Della finds that the distant wars the country's been fighting are coming closer to home. At first she considers leaving like many others, but then the chaos becomes attractive to Della and she calls in a series of phony bomb threats around town, taking big delight in watching people scramble from, for instance, a mall-church complex. But when someone starts setting off bombs at places from her list of 'targets,' Della realizes that she might be part of something bigger than her own absurd protest. Veselka's prose is chiseled and laced with arsenic observations, and though she unleashes some savage social satire, her focus is more on the hypocrisy, heartache, and confusion that drive Della and those around her. But don't be distracted by the chaos and disorder: Veselka makes a case for hope and meaning amid sheer madness. (May)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Review" by , "Vanessa Veselka is something like a literary comet: bright-burning, far-reaching, rarely seen, and a little dangerous."
"Review" by , "At turns hilarious, unsettling, and improbably sweet, Veselka's debut is, above all, a highly engaging, and totally unique experience, which will have you re-reading passages and dog-earing pages. But best of all, in the end, Zazen is that rare novel which dares to be hopeful in the face of despair, and succeeds."
"Synopsis" by ,

When there is nothing left to burn, Della sets herself on fire. At twenty-seven, she is stuck in the far corner of a parallel America on the verge of collapse, splitting time slinging tofu scramble at the local vegan-friendly diner and counting down the days until the impending birth of her brother Credences twins forces her out of his houses leaky attic apartment. She collects pictures of historic self-immolators and stares out the skylight of her room while TVs from across the sprawl spew war reports and Presidential battle plans. A breakdown a few years back has sent splinters through her buzzing mind, though something in her still hums with a mercurial urgency, flittering back and forth between fight and flight. Many of those close to her shuffle through the shallow rebellions – hair dye, sex parties, gluttonous self-absorption – of an ineffective counterculture, and while others join the growing people leaving their country behind for a life of escape and “eco-tourism,” something quiet in her whispers the need to stay. But those bombs keep inching closer, thudding deep and real between the sounds of katydids fluttering in the still of the city night, and the destruction begins to excite her. What begins as terror threats called in to greasy bro-bars across the block boils over into a desperate plot, intoxicating and captivating Della and leaving her little chance for escape.

Zazen unfolds as a search for clarity soured by irresolution and catastrophe, yet made vital by the thin, wild veins of imagination run through each escalating moment, tensing and relaxing, unfurling and ensnaring. Vanessa Vaselka renders Della and her world with beautiful, freighting, and phantasmagorically intelligent accuracy, crafting from their shattered constitutions a perversely perfect mirror for our own selves and state.

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