By Beth McCoy
I just finished re-reading Colson Whitehead’s Zone One (2011). I read it the first time last summer while on a family trip. Actually “read” is the wrong verb. I devoured it. Getting through the book became a compulsion. I plowed through it with dread and excitement, its images trailing behind me in a haunting wake. I wasn’t good company.
The second time through was no different. In reading the novel again, I can attend more carefully to its magnificent structure, the way the novel’s tributary language of liquid--of blood, water, and capitalism--crests as the protagonist bearing the nickname “Mark Spitz” walks through this second Door of No Return. It is no accident that the novel’s three days unfold in the zone below Canal Street, the heart of the African slave trade in New York City.
Zone One is my first zombie text. It’s likely my last. The novel is stupendous, but I’m not a fan of the genre. Understanding the zombie as vodoun's "answer to being dead in law,” to borrow Joan Dayan’s words, I fail to understood the pop culture attraction. I have yet to attempt The Walking Dead, stayed away from Shaun of the Dead, watched not one George Romero movie.