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November 20, 2011 / The Promiscuous Reader

Zombies, etc.

I’m currently reading Colson Whitehead’s book Zone One.  It’s fabulous and lives up to the hype.  So well-written with dense and unique metaphors, it has slowed me up, quite honestly.  I feel like I’m reading in another language.  (This was one of the lessons I learned early on reading literature in Spanish—it doesn’t go quite as quickly as in English, at least if I want to understand it.)

I love apocalyptic literature and try to imagine myself in the scenario. This may just be a remnant of my general paranoia about modern life.  I’ll often find myself, while driving through suburbia or sitting at the local Starbucks, looking for escape routes, imagining what I’d do if I was boxed in by gunmen, strategizing how I would react in case of a kidnapping.

These imagined scenarios, however, don’t fully examine the root question in zombie or other apocalyptic genres.  The question, really, is not what would you do in this situation, but what would you be willing to do.  Somewhere, I’ve read that to survive a desperate situation, one needs to put the idea of survival above all else.  This makes sense, and this focus allows the survivor to go beyond those cultural niceties that make modern life more palatable.  The line of interest, is when does erasing cultural niceties cross over into erasing moral imperatives.  Are there moral  imperatives that one should not cross when all of society disintegrates?  What are they and who decides what they are?  I’m hoping this excellent book will offer one glimpse into this complicated web of issues.

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