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Zazen

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3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  801 ratings  ·  182 reviews
Somewhere in Della’s consumptive, industrial wasteland of a city, a bomb goes off. It is not the first, and will not be the last.

Reactions to the attacks are polarized. Police activity intensifies. Della’s revolutionary parents welcome the upheaval but are trapped within their own insular beliefs. Her activist restaurant co-workers, who would rather change their identities...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published May 22nd 2011 by Red Lemonade/Cursor (first published April 22nd 2011)
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Entwined by Heather DixonWither by Lauren DeStefanoUnearthly by Cynthia HandAcross the Universe by Beth RevisDarkest Mercy by Melissa Marr
Beautiful Book Covers of 2011
293rd out of 638 books — 4,254 voters
Bluets by Maggie NelsonReady Player One by Ernest ClineWe Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley JacksonAsk the Dust by John FanteZazen by Vanessa Veselka
Underdog Literature: 2011
5th out of 133 books — 7 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Kris
Nov 25, 2012 Kris rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kris by: Proustitute
I went to work and a guy I wait on said he was leaving. He said everyone he knew was pulling out.
“Canada is just not far enough. Mostly Mexico. A bunch to Thailand. Some to Bali.”
He always orders a Tofu Scramble and makes me write a fucking essay to the cook. No soy sauce in the oil mix, no garlic, extra tomato, no green pepper. Add feta. Potatoes crispy and when are we going to get spelt. He holds me personally responsible for his continued patronage. I hope he dies. I’d like to read about it.

M
...more
Nataliya
Apr 13, 2013 Nataliya rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nataliya by: Kris
Shelves: 2013-reads
"Sometimes you just need to be someone else, someone who doesn’t care about anything at all. I know I do. I want emptiness but I can’t have it."


I read this book because of the amazing review Kris wrote, and she truly has an impeccable taste in books. The memory of her praise of this slim volume was what kept me from giving up through the first third of the story, until finally the book gripped my heart and insisted that I continue with it, until I finally was powerless to put it down.
"Lately
...more
Mary
The world is a violent child none of us will get to see grow up.

The writing in this book is unlike anything else I can think of. Veselka has her own style, her own voice. And it’s awesome.

This book is like a constant panic attack. The tension chokes you.

Della, our protagonist, is sharply observant and enjoyably critical of all these things in the world today. You know, tofu and de-caf and soy and vegan and

yoga.

The woman behind the counter was wearing a tank top that had “Namaste!” written acro...more
Richard
When I saw video from the Japanese tsunami, it struck me how badly Hollywood gets it wrong when it comes to depicting disasters. Hollywood always shows bystanders standing in awe or running away hysterical, while the Japanese video showed people looking so sad at the sight of ocean waves flowing through their city streets. It’s that kind of emotional realism that drives Zazen, and what sets Vanessa Veselka apart from other novelists setting their stories in post-911 ‘life during wartime’-style l...more
Emma
Somewhere in Della's consumptive, industrial wasteland of a city, a bomb goes off. It is not the first, and will not be the last .

A few pages into this book I said to myself ‘oh dear, this one is not for me’. I had no idea where I was and everybody was speaking in tongues. I had an hour to kill before my body pump class and thought I may as well carry on. I’d abandon ship though, defo, just a few more chapters and then I’d get on with my day.

I ended up skipping my gym class, skipped lunch, skip...more
Ryandake
i'm going to do something i never thought i'd have cause to do.

ready?

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 fo...more
Drew
Nearly every review of this that I skimmed through is glowing, but I didn't think it was that great. For one thing, it's populated almost solely by hippies and wannabe eco-terrorists, and Veselka crams it with so many hippie buzzwords that it makes one gag. Yoga, yerba mate, "namaste," rallies, leaflets, community organizing, veganism, artisan craft movements, indigenous medicine, co-ops, biodynamic farming, and other hippie affectations pervade throughout. This is clearly no accident but it gra...more
Hadrian
The world is a violent child none of us will get to see grow up.

Zazen is a tidal wave of a book. It moves with a slow inevitability, an immense power which grinds down all in its path.

I'm overwhelmed enough that I can't give this book the praise it deserves, so I will defer to my friend Kris' review here. I advise you read it.
Mosca
Nov 28, 2012 Mosca rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Good Friends
Recommended to Mosca by: Siiri
-----------------------------------------

Almost anything I say will insufficiently describe this book. But I will say a few things that will, hopefully, do this book some justice.

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,...more
Stephen P
Jun 08, 2014 Stephen P rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Stephen by: P, and Kris's Review
Brilliant writing flaring into bursts of flame and explosion of wildfire. This is a first novel, eye opening, jaw dropping for the apparent talent and promise. When she is soon able to corral the kindling of associations leading to other brilliant associations, not to limit, but to organize the lightning into a clearer sense of what she wants to say, she will be at the top of current literary writers.
Richard Thomas
[This review was originally published at The Nervous Breakdown.]

“From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”
—Karl Marx

One of the first books released by Red Lemonade, the visionary new press brought to life by ex-Soft Skull patriarch Richard Nash, Zazen by Vanessa Veselka is a powerful, political, sometimes humorous, often frightening portrait of a parallel world that lurks in the near future in all of its dystopian glory. Della is caught in an emotional battle, deciding...more
Guy
Portlandia meets Children of Men for a third wave feminist Fight Club. Veselka excels at satirizing the escapist antics of organic radicals in an age of perceived U.S. decline. But in doing so, does she paint herself into a corner? The resolution - to make peace with our absurd and symptomatic reactions, to perhaps even love them - hazards a rescue of the titular stance from irony to the best mode of response.

It is still easy to fall for Veselka's prose. The final lines stunned me. But I am amb...more
Megan
this is like a queer feminist fight club, a million times more complicated and interesting. i have not seen contemporary radical/anarchist politics handled so effectively in fiction, except in scifi, and i guess there's a touch of that here. this future is near, though. it's like, tomorrow. i am particularly impressed by how veselka sets up different ideological systems via character, with some systems/characters rendered unstable by della's limited knowledge and changing allegiances. people app...more
Lena
Zazen is a novel set in an slightly alternate reality, a place where Portlandia quirkiness takes on a dark edge in a nation bracing for the onslaught of an impending war.

The story is told to us by Della, a PhD paleontologist who, after leaving school under unexplained circumstances, finds herself living with her brother and his pregnant partner in a rainy, bridge crossed city where consumerism has been elevated to a religion and riot police and curfews are used primarily to ensure shopping can c...more
Tuck
dystopian new/now future novel of usa after haliburton does truly take over. or was it wal mart? Main character Della has gotten her phd in geology (i think she got it) but is traumatized by a school bombing, so is chilling in the city working at a cafe. when bombs and threats of bombs start going off in the city, Della starts freaking out a bit, but meets some off-the-griders and so moves out to the country to chill. But then THEY turn out to be bombers too. etc etc
why 5 stars? author's turn o...more
Kalen
I loved this book and all of its creativity, but typos got in my way. I'm surprised to have found as many as I did, given the public curation aspect of Red Lemonade. The plural of bus is buses, not busses (that's the plural of buss), cars have brakes and not breaks, and the activist was named Valerie Solanas, not Valerie Solanis. Maybe this sounds nitpicky, but these errors--albeit small ones--seemed so out of place in a book such as this.

The story and characters are fantastic and Veselka's wri...more
Ryan
On a very rare occasion do you open a book and know after the first few lines that you’ve stumbled on a new species, something fresh and unapologetic and completely wild. Such is Vanessa Veselka’s iconoclastic debut novel Zazen. It is a work that not only challenges world views, but one that pushes you through to the other side—through the prison bars of Old Honduras—where everyday injustices, as seen on a shopping trip to Walmart, take on a stark new dimension.

Keep reading at nthWORD Shorts
Riona
I think this is the type of book that people will either love or hate. It has the distinction of being the only book I can think of that involves twenty-something angst, domestic terrorism, hipper-than-thou vegans with names like Mirror and Devadatta, BDSM sex parties, paleontology, and a papier-mâché bust of John the Baptist constructed out of junk mail. It's also full of ridiculous conversations like this:

'It's supposed to be sexy," she screamed, "not some hippy soft porn garden scene. Nobody
...more
Patrice
Dec 12, 2011 Patrice rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who's lived in Oregon
Shelves: 2011, oregon, portlandia
This book reminded me so much of living in Oregon. It felt good to read this book and connect with the scenes, characters, language, and plot.

I felt like I had met some of the characters in this book while living in Ashland, Oregon and Portland.

Set in a dystopian society possibly in the future - possibly in the present this book is a must read for anyone who has spent any time living in the Pacific Northwest.

The main character, Della is up at odds with the state of her world. Mix in anarchist...more
Steve
It took me a while to get involved in Zazen, and there was a pronounced difference between my investment in the first half of the novel and the second. The second half was so strong, though, that I ended up really liking it, and being challenged in the ways I like fiction to challenge me: it made me think, and not just abstractly. I was reminded quite a bit of both Joy Williams and and Helen Garner, especially Garner's Monkey Grip which is also set deeply within a particular countercultural mili...more
Lori
Read 7/21/11 - 7/29/11
5 Stars - Highly Recommended / The Next Best Book
Pgs: 257
Publisher: Red Lemonade

The first title published under Richard Nash's newest publishing platform is a poetic, obsessive, unsettling novel that details the chaotic small town life of Della, a twenty seven year old waitress dealing with the fear and anxiety of a country on the edge of war.

Zazen, by Vanessa Veselka, is a powerful look at what society could do to itself in uncertain times. In dystopian America, where it's...more
Cari
I finished Zazen two days ago (devoured it in two days) and I can't stop thinking about it. I won't call it perfect, because what's a perfect novel and really who would want to read such a thing. What it is is that rare work of art that is completely, precisely itself.

This is where I reveal myself as a lousy book reviewer because I can't explain it better than that. What is it, exactly, that makes Zazen such a remarkable book for me? I mean, yeah it's super smart and the prose is gorgeous and t...more
Aidan Watson-Morris
sold me on a lot of things i had previously considered not really my thing. probably the most important book re: 'my generation' i can think of. very fun read.
Heather
This is one of the best books I’ve read this year. I immediately connected with Della because I know exactly how she felt. Every time I check the news I get more depressed about what I view to be the state of this country. I read about murders, social injustice, a**hole politicians, all of the -isms, you name it–and sometimes it’s really hard for me not to say “f*ck it” and throw in the towel. There are days when all I really want to do is sit on my couch and stare out the window for hours at a...more
Owen
This book smells so good. Like Wegmans and cologne. Too bad the copy I read is from the library.

Going into this book, I didn't know exactly how weird it was going to be. It is very very weird.

The world of Zazen is like ours but different. You could call it a parallel Earth, or a scary possible future earth. The main character, Della, lives in a world in which governments try to hide wars from the general public and bombs are constantly going off in the city. It is sort of a dystopian world, with...more
Kaila
Undeniably bittersweet reaction to this book. A number of reviewers here have said what a hard time they had getting into it, but after a while they were completely sucked in. For me, it was the opposite. I thought the first 50 pages absolutely brilliant and it kept making me want to cry. Somewhere along the line, though, it lost me. I stopped being able to sympathize with Della and started smacking my head saying STOP BEING STUPID.

But it's hard to be smart when there are bombs going off everywh...more
jess
this was my first book of 2012. i decided to re-read it as one of my last books of 2012, so i'll be revisiting it soon. i don't think i've ever read a book twice in one year in my entire adult life, so that's big.

I have actually spent the past eleven months trying to figure out what to write about this book. I wanted to wordsmith the perfect things to make you understand it, to understand me. holding this book and reading it, i felt a way that i haven't felt since the first time i read geek lov...more
Linda Robinson
In the woof of this book there is the unidentified sound you can barely hear, cannot locate and is driving you crazy cell after cell. The warp and weft, page by page is expertly handled. Walk along an electrical tower easement for some distance and you'll feel the experience rather than hear or see. Your dog will start whining, then howling. You'll pick up your pace, ending your walk running. Your hair will be waving in the air, your clothes crackling, and there will be a taste of old metal and...more
Kari
It helps that I saw a lot of this book being written, right across the table from me as I was writing mine. Biases aside, this is a great book. The main character, Della, leaps off the page and into your psyche whether you want her to or not. It's a poignant comment on the state of our world today and, better yet, the state of our hearts. Everyone is different, but I bet the experience at the end is the same: impact. You will feel changed, in some way, just by taking the time to read this book....more
Proustitute
Capsule review from first read, 25 Jan 2012, edited to add link to Kris's review:

A fantastic debut that makes me less worried about the future of fiction. This is a book like no other, and Veselka's prose is raw, poetic, gritty, and tapped in to social anxieties and political unrest in almost prophetic ways.

Kris's review is well worth reading, so I will direct you there.
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Red Lemonade: Ask Vanessa 33 74 Mar 18, 2012 12:12AM  
  • Ice
  • Damascus
  • How to Get into the Twin Palms
  • The Correspondence Artist
  • Us
  • There Is No Year
  • The Slynx
  • Bohemian Girl
  • The Great Frustration
  • Nevada
  • Promising Young Women
  • Sister Spit: Writing, Rants and Reminiscence from the Road
  • Blueprints of the Afterlife
  • Zipper Mouth
  • The Fortunate Fall
  • Locos: A Comedy of Gestures
  • When Fox is a Thousand
  • Aurorarama  (The Mysteries of New Venice, #1)
2580711
Vanessa Veselka is a writer and musician living in Portland, Oregon. She has been, at various times, a teenage runaway, a sex-worker, a union organizer, a student of paleontology, an expatriate, an independent record label owner, a train-hopper, a waitress, and a mother. Her work has appeared in Bust, Bitch, Maxmum Rock ’n’ Roll, Yeti Magazine and Tin House. Zazen is her first novel.

A special not...more
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“I looked at the woman crying over the doll and felt something else. I was sick of people acting against their own interests. Mooing about how to refinance the slaughterhouse. Putting skylights in the killing pen and pretending the bolt in the brain was a pathway to a better field. I paid my bill. Save your fucking pennies for a gun and a history book, I thought.” 8 likes
“Some things are so sad that they have no name. I have tried to name them and I can’t.” 5 likes
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