ZazenZazen by Vanessa Veselka

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

i’m going to do something i never thought i’d have cause to do.


i’m going to publicly declare unadulterated book love. if i could marry this book, i would, but human-biblio marriages are not yet on the public radar. if i could have this book’s baby, i would. if it were my life or this book’s life, i would throw mine down gladly. five stars is not enough; if i could adorn this book with the night sky, i’d do it.

it’s Zazen. it’s probably not in your library, but if you live in one of those fortunate states that still funds their libraries, make them order it. if you can’t, buy it. if you can’t buy it at your local indie bookstore, buy it online at Powell’s, that’s where i got it. if you have to get on a plane and fly to Portland and sit outside Powell’s until they get a new shipment, do it.

you can read the summary of the book elsewhere. the summary does not do it justice, not at all. and the whole alternate-world thing isn’t really relevant to the guts of this story. doesn’t hurt it either, but it’s not at all what makes this story work so gorgeously.

it’s the voice, the voice of the narrator. it is so stunningly unique, diamond-hard and silk at the same time. this book’s rhythms slide between pounding hot iron at a forge and sleepy, half-remembered dreams in a perfect, seamless weld.

the book asks what any sentient human in these times must: what do you do with all this pain? how can we live day to day with all these wars, and our blue planet’s unraveling, and all the endless sound and fury we collectively endure while achieving, seemingly, so little progress toward any sort of nirvana?

and the real thrill of it is, this book pulls it off and often makes you laugh yourself senseless.

on a weird whim, i bought an autographed copy. it’s going on my shelves next to my autographed vonnegut and my autographed studs terkel, two writers who also looked clear-eyed at our times and our species and found, despite it all, cause for hope.

and bittersweet, but undeniably sweet, laughter.