cover image Zazen


Vanessa Veselka. Cursor/Red Lemonade (, $15.95 trade paper (256p) I

The deeply disaffected young woman narrator of Veselka's taut debut must decide whether to flee a dystopian America or try to endure it, and, in the process maybe help save it a little. Della is a waitress with an obsessive interest in self-immolation, a sharp wit, and a dwindling hope in humanity. When a bomb goes off in an office building in her faceless industrial city's downtown, Della finds that the distant wars the country's been fighting are coming closer to home. At first she considers leaving like many others, but then the chaos becomes attractive to Della and she calls in a series of phony bomb threats around town, taking big delight in watching people scramble from, for instance, a mall-church complex. But when someone starts setting off bombs at places from her list of "targets," Della realizes that she might be part of something bigger than her own absurd protest. Veselka's prose is chiseled and laced with arsenic observations, and though she unleashes some savage social satire, her focus is more on the hypocrisy, heartache, and confusion that drive Della and those around her. But don't be distracted by the chaos and disorder: Veselka makes a case for hope and meaning amid sheer madness. (May)