Percival Everett’s Zulus is an unavoidably thought-provoking piece that has the tendency to trip and mystify the reader as pages turn. As we’ve been trekking forth on our journey in this book, I’ve found myself really enjoying it. There’s something about dystopian literature that, more often than not, appeals to me. My own thoughts as to why this happens with me would be that it has to do with the mystery; those deep, black caverns spanning that – often vaguely explained – void between what we experience in real time today and what whichever book claims our future to be. In the dystopian literature I’ve been exposed to, that question is a constant cloud over most of the story. I could include Zulus in this category. Although the bulk of the mystery has been implied to, this air of secrecy and puzzlement is heavier in this than in most other books I’ve encountered. When trying to understand and analyze Everett’s piece, I find I can only laugh in my bemusement.
On the last page of his book Interdisciplinarity, Joe Moran sums everything up quite clearly: “Interdisciplinary study… means that people working within established modes of thought have to be permanently aware of the intellectual and institutional constraints within which they are working, and open to different ways of structuring and representing their understanding of the world” (181). I could only see the direct relationship that such a claim had to our current classwork when the part of the novel in which Alice broke out of her old body was discussed. When it was brought up that Everett’s use of metaphor between Alice and meristem existed in an eerily relevant way, I could feel the whole class furrow their brows and recognize something; in order to truly understand and properly analyze this book, we would need to put on multiple tool belts from multiple areas, even those that seem far away from our lovely English land.
I would give Percival Everett, right then, the award for Best Trip-Me-Up book. Dr. McCoy said something in class along the lines of Everett thinking, “You want to do a close-reading of literature? Close-read this.” What a challenge. But I’ll accept it, with not merely my SUNY Geneseo English student obligation, but with my own literary and intellectual nosiness.
Let the fun begin!