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Zanesville

by

Zanesville Cover

 

 

Reading Group Guide

1. In Chapter 1 we learn that the protagonist, Clearfather, has the beginning of a quotation carved into his back. What is the significance of this quotation? Is it important this this scarring takes the form of language and do your thoughts about the wound change by the end of the story?

2. We meet several different types of families throughout the course of the book, both literal blood-related families and chosen or accidental families-tribes of circumstance. What are some of the conclusions about the definition of a family offered by the novel? How does the story make you feel about the role and the responsibilities of the individual within a family unit? In your view, which characters behave the most honorably in this regard?

3. Two major questions that contemporary speculative fiction frequently focuses on are What does it mean to be human? and What is real? What kind of answers or suggestions does this story put forward? Is there a link between humanity and reality in the book, and if so, what is it?

4. Each of the major female characters can be said to have a special gift. What are they and how do they influence Clearfather?

5. Dr. Tadd puts forward the argument that trivia is important-that knowing what type of animal a certain cartoon character is may be more significant than it appears. Why does he say this? What role does the exchange of such information play in peoples lives?

6. Dooley Duck tells us there is hope for us all because of what happened to him. Why does he see himself as an inspirational figure?

7. Stinky Wiggler makes the point that Clearfather and Blind Lemon have one major thing in common, which he values above all else. How does Wiggler phrase this characteristic and what do you think he means?

8. Wiggler calls his enemy APPARATUS. How would you describe this adversary? What other names might apply?

9. The novel advances the concept that Ideas are alive, that they are creatures with an independent existence from humans. If you had to defend this proposition, which ideas would you point to?

10. The story tells of both a physical and a psychological/spiritual journey. By the end of the book, what do you think the most important lesson Clearfather has learned? Are the discoveries worth the price? Does he ultimately act wisely or selfishly? Can selfishness ever be wise?

11. Issues for Further Discussion

A. The author Kris Saknussemm has said that he has had two abiding life interests:

The private obsessive theme park-shrines of what are termed “Outsider Artists,” some examples of which are The Ideal Palace of Ferdinand Cheval, Simon Rodias Watts Towers, Reverend Howard Finsters Paradise Garden and Leonard Knights Salvation Mountain, among many others.

The relationship between Magic, Religion and Science.

How do these two personal fascinations express themselves in Zanesville?

What sort of personal shrines on whatever scale do you know of in your own life? Do you have one, however small-or even secret?

Do you think that we live in an age of Magic, Religion or Science?

B. When asked in an interview what was the seed crystal for writing the book, Saknussemm indicated that it was the following quotation from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your own private heart is true for all men-that is genius.”

Why is this observation both empowering and uplifting and also dangerous and disturbing? It was made a century and a half ago-does it have more or less relevance today?

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

VeraRose, May 23, 2006 (view all comments by VeraRose)
SUBVERSIVE ENTERTAINMENT OF THE HIGHEST DISORDER

This is a blasphemously funny book that also contains some very disturbing messages about the future of America. Saknussemm's bizarre imagination gives us a psychomedia adventure fable full of misfits, mutants and machines with both intelligence and heart--not to mention some rebel cartoon characters on a sexual and environmentally friendly rampage. Imagine the grit and slickness of William Gibson and Bruce Sterling at their best, with the humor and mania of Christopher Moore or Tom Robbins. The result is a must read.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780812974164
Author:
Saknussemm, Kris
Publisher:
Villard Books
Subject:
General
Subject:
Corporations
Subject:
Social reformers
Subject:
Quests (Expeditions)
Subject:
Humorous fiction
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20051031
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
496
Dimensions:
7.94x5.26x1.13 in. .79 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Humor » General
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Zanesville New Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$14.95 In Stock
Product details 496 pages Villard Books - English 9780812974164 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Saknussemm's debut novel describes the picaresque wanderings of a Zelig-like character through a post-apocalyptic America where psychotropic drug dependency and bodily mutilation/alteration are the order of the day. The protagonist, Clearfather, awakens as a middle-aged man in a future Central Park, with vague childhood memories and an outsize member. He makes his way through an America in which the divide between public and private is so nonexistent that the U.S. government itself is privatized, outsourced to the monolithic drug manufacturer, Vitessa Cultporation. Searching for his identity and an explanation of the current state of the barely unified union, Clearfather encounters deposed sex-obsessed — drug-addicted corporate scions, lesbian motorcycle gangs, gay heavyweights and possibly the creator of the universe, at least in its current state. Saknussemm creates a self-contained, sci-fi world where celebrity worship is pervasive and holographic mascots, 'eidolons,' stand in as shills for everything from fast-food haggis to 'Childrite nurturing centers.' Tedious action sequences between warring factions and an autistic attention to authorial eschatology make this a long trudge. But it is just a slight step into the imaginative ether to see how many of the novel's obsessions are endgame imaginings of current societal problems." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Synopsis" by , US
"Synopsis" by , A first novel by an award winner in poetry and short fiction, "Zanesville" reads like "Gulliver's Travels" as seen through the eyes of Terry Gilliam.
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