While writing for another blog post, I stumbled upon an interview with the author of Zulus, Percival Everett. A man who I often considered to be a bit odd before looking into his other works. In this particular interview he is being interviewed by a woman named Sylvie Bauer. She correlates pieces of Everett to the alphabet and associates him with an abecedary.
Almost instantaneously Everett is asked about the idea of nonsense and a sense of not knowing within his books. He says, “…I’m not so much interested in writing sense that sounds like nonsense, what I really want to do is write nonsense that actually does make sense,” I find this slightly ironic, only because after reading Zulus I had completely missed what was happening, and it felt like nonsense to me. I rarely, almost never, read science fiction by choice and almost never read anything of the genre in school.
The interviewer replied to him, “There is a sense of not knowing in your books, for most characters,” which he follows up later by saying, “…it’s interesting to have this landscape of possibilities, not knowing.” Everett replies by saying how is just how life goes. I am fond of his explanation because I find the answer to be truly accurate. You never know what could or is going to happen, just like his books.
Zulus left me confused because I hadn’t necessarily read the book, though I did certainly read it, I don’t believe I truly understood and comprehended the story-line. Particularly, Alice Achiptoel and her head in the box had left me lost. Everett tends to leave you lost at the end of his books, is Alice still technically alive after the gas is released? What truly happened to the world? It is all left a mystery which he never explains the end to. A blog post by my fellow classmate Ariana Vidal titled “Zulus: A -Z” discusses two separate ways on how to read the book. She states how you can begin with the headings/titles or completely disregard them (as we both had). I thoroughly enjoyed how she had gone back and reread them, to understand the book at a more in-depth level, which I hadn’t thought to do.
“L is for Language. Language is central to your work: you play with it, you destroy it, you can manipulate it; it manipulates and puzzles the reader,” the interviewer had said. Within Zulus, there were many words I had never heard of and certain ways of reading the book that I didn’t understand as thoroughly as I expected I would. This made me realize that the English language is so unique and complex that regardless of how advanced of a reader one may be, there may always be a novel that they don’t fully understand or can’t grasp the true meaning behind. That ideal was true with me in relation to this book and Everett’s writing style, as he is a well renowned author with such unrealistic scenarios and a foreign writing style.