Torea Frey

Editor, writer, photographer, observer on the street.

Zazen, Vanessa Veselka

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I loved the narrator's voice in Zazen, a book that looks at one young woman's sorting out of the world in an unnamed city in an indeterminate year, when bombs are going off across the country and the sands seem to shift beneath her feet.

She tries to map the world by tracking stories of people immolating themselves, crafting small memorials to them on the slips of paper found inside fortune cookies: such an odd detail, and yet so perfectly graspable (so many odd ways in which we try to make sense of the spaces we inhabit). She reflects on images of people burning:

"I took a few breaths and tried to calm down. Raina says nothing's ever really wrong it's just the story we tell ourselves. I think it's the other way around. But I tried anyway. The woman crouching in the smoke had pockets full of bobbleheads. The man and the young girl had just shared a hot dog and arena nachos. It wasn't the war. It was just a game. But of course it was the war, I could hear it breathing under the net."

The story drags at times, sure, but the book overall is strangely compelling. And though often bleak, Veselka's message is ultimately one of hope; amid violence, disappointment, disaffection, you can choose love nonetheless.