A Questionable Shape
a novel by
*Bard Fiction Prize 2014
*The Believer Book Award Finalist
*One of the Best Books of 2013 —Complex Magazine, Book Riot, Slate, The L Magazine, NPR's 'On Point', Salon
"A Questionable Shape is a novel for those who read in order to wake up to life, not escape it, for those who themselves like to explore the frontiers of the unsayable. [A Questionable Shape] is more than just a novel. It is literature. It is life."
Mazoch discovers an unreturned movie envelope, smashed windows, and a pool of blood in his father’s house: the man has gone missing. So he creates a list of his father’s haunts and asks Vermaelen to help track him down.
However, hurricane season looms over Baton Rouge, threatening to wipe out any undead not already contained and eliminate all hope of ever finding Mazoch’s father.
Bennett Sims turns typical zombie fare on its head to deliver a wise and philosophical rumination on the nature of memory and loss.
A Questionable Shape by Bennett Sims =
* In most cases, none of these writers endorse this book. Our math formulas are supposed to be amusing anecdotes, similar to shelf-talkers in bookstores that say "If you like X, you might enjoy Y," or "This Book is like Cormac McCarthy writing an episode of Saved by the Bell with a soundtrack by Philip Glass."
"Equal parts David Foster Wallace and Richard Matheson [...] A Questionable Shape is certainly the first Proustian zombie novel, but hopefully not the last horror novel of ideas."
"[An] extraordinary novel."
—Los Angeles Review of Books
"A Questionable Shape is a rewriting of the genre in rather literal sense. Sims’s zombie novel perhaps contains the highest proportion of great descriptions of light per page since Proust. The zombie installs at the heart of the novel a perspective from which the polymorphous dynamics of the human experience of light disappear."
—Los Angeles Review of Books
"Sims allows us at least a glimpse of the monstrous weight we all lug on our individual trudges through daily life."
"Ambitious [and] thoughtfully rendered. Sims's debut is essential reading."
"So many layers of brilliant."
"Bennett Sims has embarked on a unique literary journey; join him now and fight the bite."
"The smartest zombie novel since Colson Whitehead's Zone One."
—Ron Charles, Washington Post
"A Questionable Shape presents the yang to the yin of Whitehead’s Zone One, with chess games, a dinner invitation, and even a romantic excursion. Echoes of [Thomas] Bernhard’s hammering circularity and [David Foster] Wallace’s bright mind that can’t stop making connections are both present. The point is where the mind goes, and, in that respect, Sims has his thematic territory down cold."
—The Daily Beast
"Evokes the power of David Foster Wallace with a narrative that's cerebral, strangely beautiful, philosophical, and pretty, well, brilliant."
"Unlike anything I’d ever read. Underlying the seemingly quirky subject matter of Sims’s novel is a notable linguistic dynamism and impressive command of philosophical challenges. Sims’ work has a life of its own."
"A Questionable Shape places a new spin on zombie fiction, so very much recommended."
—Midwest Book Review
"Sims brings a supercharged literary erudition to that initial story idea and manages to take A Questionable Shape in a direction very different than its cinematic and literary precursors. A Questionable Shape is downright infectious."
"Compressed, copiously footnoted and literary, Bennett Sims' A Questionable Shape focuses on a zombie outbreak's effect on a young man and his girlfriend in a single week, in which he and his best friend undertake a quixotic, zombie-strewn search for a missing father."
—Los Angeles Times
"Bennett Sims is insanely talented. Over and over again, Sims demonstrates astonishing skill with image. In the details of his characters, Sims is nothing short of brilliant. [A Questionable Shape is] an extraordinarily prodigious debut novel."
—Electric Literature's 'The Outlet'
"A thinking fan's zombie novel... one that asks the question: Do we lose our humanity when the world starts to crumble?"
"My favorite novel of 2013... complex, erudite, and profoundly affecting. A Questionable Shape, Sims’ debut, reveals him to be a writer of great range, depth, and intelligence, who has only just begun to show us what he has to say... Groundbreaking."
—The American Reader
"Yes, it's a zombie novel, but also an emotionally resonant meditation on memory and loss."
—San Francisco Chronicle
"Sims demonstrates he isn’t just smart—he’s brilliant; his book’s not beautiful—it’s gorgeous. It’s sensitive, insightful and ruminative, which aren’t always things you get to say about zombie fiction, let alone most books."
—The L Magazine
"Brilliantly sensitive, whip-smart... Sims’ genius lies in how he builds a terrifically engrossing and utterly unique novel, not in spite, but rather because of the familiarity of the material. A book that is just as touching and funny as it is riotously smart."
"[A Questionable Shape is] much more W.G. Sebald than George A. Romero. And I loved it. Bennett Sims: you are a brilliant writer. A Questionable Shape was a huge success for me. It’s easily one of the best books I’ll read this year."
"With nods to Hamlet and Orpheus (not to mention Tarkovsky and Wittgenstein), Sims’s novel is a learned debut informed not just by erudition, but by nature, desire, and the persistence of memory."
—KRUI Lit Show
"Spectacular... makes us turn the pages faster than a scene of survivors frantically boarding up a farmhouse ever could."
"Deeply thoughtful... Full of footnotes and digressions, the novel is both a dark adventure story and a meditation on what it means when someone you love is lost to you."
—Poets & Writers
"A Questionable Shape is the best book I have read this year. I suspect it will still hold top honors when the year comes to a close many months hence. A Questionable Shape is unquestionably a major accomplishment."
"This ain’t your granddaddy’s zombie-apocalypse. Everything in Bennett Sims’s stunning debut court s a topographical and invasive examination of the human condition through our inverse. The architecture of zombie-logic is rewired, and the undead become symbolic for what it means to exist in all its physical and existential, its beauty and brutality."
"Bennett Sims is a writer fearsomely equipped with an intellectual and linguistic range to rival a young Nabokov's, Nicholson Baker's gift for miniaturistic intaglio, and an arsenal of virtuosities entirely his own. A Questionable Shape announces a literary talent of genre-wrecking brilliance."
"Bennett Sims' A Questionable Shape is a book I feel like I've been searching for for years but have yet to find, until now. Sims' humble, cerebral, and addictively engaging narrator, comfortable expostulating on videogames as well as Wittgenstein against the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse, marries highbrow to low, blends genre conventions with a ravenous intellectual curiosity and depth, and delivers one of the bravest, funniest, and strangest narratives I've come across in recent memory. At times you'll find yourself comparing it to Thomas Bernhard, David Foster Wallace, or Nicholson Baker, and then find the comparison lacking, not because this book is in any way inferior to these writers, but because it is as good or better, and moreover, unlike them in that it is its own bizarre animal, idiosyncratic and utterly new."
"In A Questionable Shape everything is questioned—love, family, memory, the way we lead our lives. Even loss itself seems obsolete in these worn out Zombified days. And yet, out beyond the margins of genre, two young men embark on a search as worthy as Walker Percy’s in The Moviegoer, taking us into a fascinating textual netherworld of footnotes full of Heidegger and haiku, leading us on a journey as ancient and true as a son’s desperate search for a father whose undead life may not be worse than the broken existence he left behind. Bennett Sims brings an allusive genius energy to everything from YouTube to Euripides in this inquiry into what survives the onslaught, in a world–our world, we come to recognize—suffering a major case of apocalypse fatigue."
"A Questionable Shape is part George A. Romero, part Thomas Bernhard—as much an epistemology of the zombie as it is a thriller. So fascinating are its—and, within the constraints of its topic, so wide-ranging - that reading it I often had the unusual experience of pausing to wander down some byway of thought and finding myself unable to say whether I had ventured there independently or was remembering a footnote from earlier in the book. It's playful, absorbing, bittersweet, and intelligent, and, like a bite, it gets under your skin."
"How would the textures of ordinary life be altered by the return of the recently dead? What would zombie consciousness itself be like? Would it gravitate toward the most powerful memories and impressions of life? Or is a zombie a creature on whom habit operates more powerfully than novelty? In A Questionable Shape, the spectacular horror of zombies has been removed to the background. Instead, this novel is about walking, driving, reading, waking up, going on dates, taking care of friends and parents and children, grocery shopping. It also includes some of the most exquisite descriptions of light that I have ever read. Striking, beautiful, funny, and not like anything else."
Bennett Sims was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. His fiction has appeared in A Public Space, Tin House, and Zoetrope: All-Story. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he is currently the writer-in-residence at Bard College.
Read an interview with the author here:
LIST PRICE: $16.50
PRINT ISBN: 978-1-937512-09-5
DIGITAL ISBN: 978-1-937512-10-1
RELEASE DATE: 5/1/2013
SIZE: 5.5" x 7.5"