A Questionable Shape
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"The smartest zombie novel since Colson Whitehead's Zone One."
-Ron Charles, The Washington Post
"A Questionable Shape presents the yang to the yin of Whitehead’s Zone One, with chess games, a dinner invitation, and even a romantic excursion. Echoes of [Thomas] Bernhard’s hammering circularity and [David Foster] Wallace’s bright mind that can’t stop making connections are both present. The point is where the mind goes, and, in that respect, Sims has his thematic territory down cold."
-The Daily Beast
"A thinking fan's zombie novel... one that asks the question: Do we lose our humanity when the world starts to crumble?"
"Yes, it's a zombie novel, but also an emotionally resonant meditation on memory and loss."
-San Francisco Chronicle
"Compressed, copiously footnoted and literary, Bennett Sims' A Questionable Shape focuses on a zombie outbreak's effect on a young man and his girlfriend in a single week, in which he and his best friend undertake a quixotic, zombie-strewn search for a missing father."
-Los Angeles Times
"Evokes the power of David Foster Wallace with a narrative that's cerebral, strangely beautiful, philosophical, and pretty, well, brilliant."
"A Questionable Shape is a novel for those who read in order to wake up to life, not escape it, for those who themselves like to explore the frontiers of the unsayable. [A Questionable Shape] is more than just a novel. It is literature. It is life."
"Brilliantly sensitive, whip-smart... Sims’ genius lies in how he builds a terrifically engrossing and utterly unique novel, not in spite, but rather because of the familiarity of the material. A book that is just as touching and funny as it is riotously smart."
"Bennett Sims is a writer fearsomely equipped with an intellectual and linguistic range to rival a young Nabokov's, Nicholson Baker's gift for miniaturistic intaglio, and an arsenal of virtuosities entirely his own. A Questionable Shape announces a literary talent of genre-wrecking brilliance."
Mazoch discovers an unreturned movie sleeve, a smashed window, and a pool of blood in his father's house; the man has gone missing. So he creates a list of his father's haunts and asks Vermaelen to help track him down.
However, hurricane season looms over Baton Rouge, threatening to wipe out any undead not already contained, and eliminate all hope of ever finding Mazoch's father.
Bennett Sims turns typical zombie fare on its head to deliver a wise and philosophical rumination on the nature of memory and loss.
Bennett Sims was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. His fiction has appeared in A Public Space, Tin House, and Zoetrope: All-Story. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, he currently teaches at the University of Iowa, where he is the Provost Postgraduate Visiting Writer in fiction.
meat, I wince a little.34 Matt sees me staring: ‘You’re looking at me like a starving person. Why don’t you order something?’ ‘Do you know how nervous it makes me just to watch you eat? I’m not going to order a dish of infected food for myself. With a side of infection. And who knows what in the water, which probably it’s not even bottled, just straight from the tap.’ ‘Not even the tap: squeezed fresh from an infected’s lesions.’ I cringe. I’m remembering the footage of this one Youtube video,
being watched, she turns her head over her shoulder to face me now, smiling, and I understand that she’s having a truly pleasant time with this. This exercise delights her. She’s treating it as an opportunity to turn certain memories over in her mind, to meditate on the moments in her life when she’s been most present. ‘Where would my reanimated body return to?’ she asks herself, and it is a happy question. As in: where would my body be happiest to go? Where would it want its afterlife to take
speech that we both know I am supposed to have been preparing as well. How he’s getting desperate. How we set the deadline for a reason. How I’ll quit if he doesn’t. But I find that I cannot say this, any of it. At least not here, not yet. Not after all the disappointments of today, not with Matt meekly avoiding my eye, and not mere moments before he has to make his descent, braving the katabasis of the safety ladder, to climb down into that hellish, heartbreaking parking lot, where once again
now—aiding and abetting him in what certainly seems like murder—she couldn’t bear to live with me. Yet staying home isn’t an option either: if I call it quits without trying to intervene—if I simply dust my hands of Matt and Mr. Mazoch, looking the other way on a potential patricide—she will hold me partially to blame for whatever happens. I shake my head in disbelief: ‘You make it sound like I want him out there. Like I approve of all this. What, do you think I’d help him hide the body?’ ‘Like
be coming back. Not here, not if he hasn’t already. And not only that, but who knows where he even is by now. Matt knows that. Something in his hunched posture suggests to me he’s accepted this: the windows, the missing shirt, the closing in. He’ll never see his dad again. In this moment, he really does look finished. Leaning forward, fingers buried in his hair, he’s staring beyond the far wall without blinking. He looks like a statue of something: one of those bronzed embodiments of abstract