Zazen’s protagonist, Della, exists somewhere between memory, fever dream, and mental illness. She’s flamed out of her doctoral work and is working at a vegan restaurant, the child of wannabe west-coast revolutionaries and surrounded by people she loathes for the way they wear their politics in everything they do. To say Della is surrounded by Social Justice Warriors is a bit of an understatement. She yearns to do more than just talk or just shop according to impossible principles, and she loathes the status quo. One day, she starts calling in bomb threats, and then, to her surprise, her made up targets get blown up for real.
To say much more about Zazen would spoil it. There were moments when I nodded along to what she was labeling and identifying in her colleagues and friends, and other moments where I grimaced from the recognition. She makes things up in her head, and seems to add flourishes of her imagination to her description of events and places. The prose is deft, and at times inspiring, but I noticed there was a drop off in the more evocative language towards the end of the book- maybe because Della gets a bit clearer in focus, or maybe because Veselka has admitted the book took her 4 and a half years to write, and these impulses change with time.
I do think Veselka has fallen a bit victim to her length. She’s a long-form article writer, and has written some great stuff, but she maybe needed to parse her own intentions down to keep the whole thing tighter and stronger. It took me a long time to read, because at times it just lingered in the wrong spots. I feel like it would be a really bad book for me if I was in a bad head space. I also noticed a lot of typos and some absent words or letters here and there- I think the publisher, while small, maybe needs to be a bit more thorough in their proofing. I do applaud the publisher, red lemonade, for trying to be carbon neutral, but they need to devote more attention to proof reading.