Zone One: Colson Whitehead's Modern Day Classic

Zone One: Colson Whitehead's Modern Day Classic

Beautiful prose, complex narrative, and zombies.

Colson Whitehead (who has expressed disdain that his celebrity look-alike appears to be "that creepy teacher" from season 1 of The Killing) is the author of 6 major novels, including the critically acclaimed "The Underground Railroad."

He writes as a literary author, or as Glen Duncan, author of the New York Times's article " A Plague of Urban Undead in Lower Manhattan," someone who, "writes with the intent of using more complex forms of language to express difficult ideas and who expects the reader to take time to follow the complexities incorporated in the author's work."

That's what makes "Zone One" so interesting. Clearly a piece with all the trademarks of a sci-fi, the novel has a persistent complexity that is often lacking in genre fiction. Combing genre and literary fiction isn't something commonly seen in the literature scene, and Duncan describes Whitehead's genre-bending as "an intellectual dating a porn star," while also asking the question, "what's in it for the porn-star?" Or, more plainly, why would a literary author write in genre fiction? Toying with the idea of chalking it up to increasing the size of Whitehead's readership, writer Glen Duncan states that "[Whitehead] is always going to have more to [plot] than the dictates of genre allow… we get, in short, an attempt to take the psychology of the premise seriously, to see if it makes a relevant shape."

"Zone One" takes place over three days, though Whitehead takes his readers through a story that spans far past that brief plotline. The novel focuses on Mark Spitz, a sweeper (a part of the new citizen military) tasked with exterminating leftover zombies (termed "skels") from Manhattan.

Spitz is a strict adherent to mediocrity, prone to introversion and flashbacks even in the most intense situations. Existential, poignant, and often tragically longing reflections on society, on the self, and circumstance pervade the novel from beginning to end. As Charlie Anders writes, "'Zone One' shows how life after the zombie apocalypse turns everybody into a kind of zombie." In a Kafkaesque manner, Whitehead manages to establish the hum-drum within a post-apocalyptic world. Survivors are prohibited from looting goods from companies who have not "sponsored" the revitalization effort. While Spitz acknowledges some surely have caches of hoarded loot tucked away within the sweep zones, the climate of the novel conveys a tangible feeling of the burden of bureaucracy, of rules preventing the uninhibited human nature present even within a society with a government that is barely operational.

In one particularly clever analogy, audiences can't help but see the similarities between "stragglers" and survivors. Stragglers are skels that the survivors have established to pose no risk to humans. Instead of attacking humans, they simply stand frozen in place. Spitz reflects on the meaning of these places to the stragglers. Was this someplace important to them, or just perhaps a random spot they managed to find before the virus burned through their nervous systems?

Stragglers come to represent the dangers of "clinging to the past." In fact, the past is brought up again and again. Time to loses meaning as flashbacks blend fluidly into developing situations, leading the audience to experience a sort of second-hand trauma induced Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder (PASD) present within all survivors.

Personally, "Zone One" took me on a not-so-lucid journey through the life of someone managing to eke out a living in a world filled with hostile empty faces, individuals hollowed out by the stress of living, and harrowed, lifeless husks anchored to an arbitrary point in the past, waiting for this life to pass. Whitehead creates an environment where time is not so much linear, but instead acts as a dimension through which the protagonist escorts us as he would a visitor around a house. He gives an incoherent tour, with the smallest details spawning entire pages of digression. Yet this digression seemed particularly relevant; it was the story. Whitehead creates a palpable distance between Spitz and the audience, and transforms this distance to reflect an individual's distance to society, posing the question, "within a societal context, of what importance is the story of the individual?" The horrific and, as always, beautifully written, conclusion to the novel (no spoilers) suggests, quite flatly, that it might not.

"Zone One" was a brilliant, dizzying, and thoroughly devastating novel that poses existential questions not found within the world of genre fiction. The blending of literary and genre work done by Whitehead has been very successful and has resulted in one of my favorite reads.

Cover Image Credit: Morgadu

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12 Signs You're Addicted To Grey's Anatomy


Oh, "Grey’s Anatomy." We have been through so much together. Through the years, we have taken on bombs, shooters, plane crashes, and everything in between. You have loyally stood by me even when I hated you for killing off my favorite characters, or making Merideth and Derek break up. I know that some people may read this and call me crazy, but the real Grey’s fandom can relate. We are the most dedicated group of people you will ever find, almost to the point of insanity…or definitely to the point of insanity. Thinking of diagnosing yourself with Grey's-o-mania? If you meet these 12 criteria, time to strap on your surgical mask and scrub in because you are addicted.

Disclaimer: Spoilers ahead!

1. It has made you want to become a surgeon.

You are lying if all of the drama and medical lingo hasn’t made you consider changing your major at least once.

2. It has also made you NOT want to become a surgeon.

...but then there is all of the blood and the long hours.

3. You compare every guy you meet to Derek Shepherd.

The biggest mystery in all of "Grey’s" is how Meredith took so long to put a ring on that?! I mean, c’mon girl.

4. Hearing the names “Lexie” or “George” may result in an emotional breakdown.

These deaths left us with an open wound that even Mark Sloan’s sutures couldn’t repair.

5. You feel personally attacked every time a character is killed off.

Please refer to #4.

6. You feel like you could actually perform neurosurgery.

I have watched Derek clip so many aneurisms, I could do it in my sleep. Hand me a scalpel and sign me up for a clinical trial, I am ready.

7. You even sat through the musical episode.

Owen Hunt singing around the OR? A little too awkward for most people.

8. Your iTunes library is filled with songs from the show.

“How To Save a Life” by The Fray brings on all kinds of new feels now.

9. The new interns have to prove themselves to you.

Every couple of seasons, they decide to throw us a new crop of interns. This fandom is just as tough as Dr. Bailey when we decide whether these characters have what it takes for "Grey’s Anatomy" though.

10. When a friend is sick, your first thought is to start chest compressions.

After 11 seasons, I am fully prepared for all medical situations. Push one of Epi! We need a crash cart!

11. You have an immediate bond with anyone who says they watch the show.

…Did we just become best friends?

12. You frequently ask yourself “what would Christina Yang do?”

No major decision should EVER be made without asking this first. Of all of the people who have left "Grey’s," her absence is the most strongly felt. No one can replace Christina Yang.

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The Breath of Solitude

A Poem With A Prologue // Polar Viewpoints.



She smacks your parted lips,

sucking the dry,

open cracks to a seal.

Pumping energy into your chest

and sending a continuous shiver

from lung to navel.

You can't help but cough,

as your lungs tighten and twist.

Ringing the frosty sensation out –

slipping through your parted lips.

The same parted lips that

allowed her deliberate fingers

to crawl inside

where she can escape her own dimension

of solitude.

The Breath of Solitude

All I know

is solitude.

We chat

every day

in conversations that circulate

behind the backs

of the present.

Solitude grinds my coffee beans,

as we sit

with our legs crossed,

waiting for dawn

to explode over our opaque landscape.

Solitude runs my bath,


as the Sun crashes

against the diminishing horizon.

But none of this is reality.

I am above

the dimension of reality.

Not theoretically,

but physically.

I am only a tool

to be used in the dimension

of your reality.

Drifting in and out,

twirling through your negative space.

My only purpose

is found through your breath;

but what do I do

when you stop breathing?

I wait for your fingers,

less deliberate than mine,

but filled with that

that I lack.

I cannot see the blood

that sloshes through the veins

in your innocent hands.

The blood that energizes

those fingers

upon which I wait.

But I know

the blood is there.

It isn't

what you do.

It isn't

the way you move.

Simply put,

it is

the way

that you exist.

The sheer fact

that you have a bursting burgundy waterfall


not only through your fingers,

but engulfing all of you

in its rich,



The only waterfall

that I encompass

is the waterfall

that you imagine.

I have no blood;

I have no way to exist.

And so I

wait for your fingers,

less deliberate than mine,

but filled with that

that I lack.

I wait for your fingers

to filter the heat

to a state of regulation,

a state of production,

a state in which I can exist.

The peach fuzz

that sleeps on the bridge of your nose

begins to rise

when your fingers initiate the flame.

The temperature reacts,

as would my heartbeat,

if I had a bursting burgundy waterfall,

or some type of life source

inhabiting my chest cavity.

As the heat

starts to melt

my metaphorical skin,

I become reality.

I don't have a face to smile,

or eyes to produce tears.

But I have thoughts.

I have words to say,

I have feelings to express.

I still can only drift,

in and out,

twirling through your negative space,

but now spiraling

into your positive space,

as well.


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