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A Questionable Shape New Classics Edition (FORTHCOMING)

a novel by
Bennett Sims


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A Questionable Shape, a novel by Bennett Sims (Two Dollar Radio - The New Classics Edition, March 2024)

The Two Dollar Radio "The New Classics" edition features an original introduction by Carmen Maria Machado and will be released on March 12, 2024.

*Winner of the Rome Prize for Literature, 2018-19
*Winner of the Bard Fiction Prize, 2014

*The Believer Book Award Finalist
*One of the Best Books of 2013Complex 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."
—Susan Hazen-Hammond, The Millions


Synopsis

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 =

A Questonable Shape by Bennett Sims = David Foster Wallace + Zombies + Nicholson Baker

* 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."

Reviews

Scroll to bottom for Goodreads reviews.

"A criminally underrated novel."
—Carmen Maria Machado, author of In the Dream House, Lit Hub
"26 Books From the Last Decade that More People Should Read"

"Bennett Sims delivers a disquisition on the idea of the zombie, combining low and high culture in a firework display of extended metaphors, obscure vocabulary and intellectual sparks. With a heavy debt to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and vigorous nods to Nabokov, Heidegger, Tarkovsky, Shklovsky, Levinas and Proust, to mention a few, the book is ambitious and thought-provoking. Sims displays a positively Will Self-ish love of words (the illuminated head of the man on a "Walk" sign is "syncarpous and starlit, a perfect oval of refulgent drupelets") as he focuses in on the philosophical conundrum of undeath, seemingly yearning for its impossible state that is neither "Being" nor "Nothingness". An existentialist meditation."
—Jane Housham, The Guardian
(Read the full review)

"The smartest zombie novel since Colson Whitehead's Zone One."
—Ron Charles, Washington Post
(Read the full book review of A Questionable Shape)

"A Questionable Shape made me feel like nobody else had really thought zombies through until this book: what it would be like to pass into undeath, what it would be like to lose a loved one to undeath, and what prickly moral conundrums would arise after the threat had been mostly contained... a meditation on love—filial, romantic, even bromantic—as well as life and death, memory and deterioration."
—Joe Sacksteder, New Orleans Review
(Review of A Questionable Shape in New Orleans Review)

"A Questionable Shape takes place over the course of one week, during which Vermaelen is mostly occupied in assisting his friend Mazoch in the search for Mazoch’s father, who vanished from his home amidst signs of a struggle, and is now most likely one of the undead shambling from place to meaningful place in his former life... Sims is ultimately true to both his narrative and the one found in his footnotes, where both intellectual musings and horror set pieces can coexist. The resulting novel both satisfies and upends familiar tropes, reassuring even as it offers numb potential and a bleaker tomorrow."
—Tobias Carroll, The Los Angeles Review of Books
(Read the review, "The Thinking Man's Zombie")

"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."
—Adrian Van Young, Slate
(Read the full review)

"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."
—Susan Hazen-Hammond, The Millions
(Read the full review: "At the Frontiers of the Unsayable")

"[An] extraordinary novel."
—Patrick Nathan, Los Angeles Review of Books
(Read the essay "The Unliving")

"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."
—Michael W. Clune, Los Angeles Review of Books
(Read the full review: "Pop Disappears")

"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."
—Meredith Turits, Full Stop
An 
Interview with Bennett Sims
 (June 18, 2013)

"Sims allows us at least a glimpse of the monstrous weight we all lug on our individual trudges through daily life."
—Michael Jauchen, The Collagist
(Read the full review)

"In his intellectually sportive debut novel, Bennett Sims regards the undead as a source of existential unease as well as an immediate danger. Sims’s narrator is both delightfully clever and realistically exasperating as he frets his way through a promise to help find a friend’s missing father. But the elusive patriarch has almost certainly joined the ranks of the zombies plaguing the South, and the approaching hurricane season makes the already risky search desperately unsafe. A Questionable Shape delivers the thrills of a familiar zombie story, but a broader treatise on the nature of death, or un-death, unfolds in the narrator’s ample footnotes and parenthetical asides. This mashup of genre and philosophy funny, smart, and singular."
—Daley Konchar Farr, Milkweed Bookstore (Minneapolis, MN)
"Read This Next: Daley Recommends (August)" 08/30/2017

"Ambitious [and] thoughtfully rendered. Sims's debut is essential reading."
—Publishers Weekly

"So many layers of brilliant... Sims is Sims is Sims, and A Questionable Shape is a testament to the singular voice and range of this writer, whose work I think deserves a lot of attention and if everyone is already talking about it and it is only me who didn't know that, good. "
—Diagram
(Read the full review)

“Bennett Sims’s amazing new novel is about zombies the way Moby Dick is about whales. What we have in this book is the zombie as springboard to that rarefied air of higher planes of thinking.”
—David Breithaupt, NewPages
(Read the full review)

"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."
—J.T. Price, The Daily Beast
(Read the full review: "Zombies, Zombies, Everywhere: What’s a Novelist to Do?")

"Evokes the power of David Foster Wallace with a narrative that's cerebral, strangely beautiful, philosophical, and pretty, well, brilliant."
—Caroline Goldstein, Bustle

"A Questionable Shape places a new spin on zombie fiction, so very much recommended."
—Midwest Book Review
(Read the full 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."
—Iowa Press-Citizen

"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
(Read the full review)

“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… an extraordinarily prodigious debut novel.”
—Benjamin Rybeck, Electric Literature
(Read the full review)

"A thinking fan's zombie novel... one that asks the question: Do we lose our humanity when the world starts to crumble?"
—Rosalind Bentley, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
(Read the full review)

"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."
—Nathan Goldman, The American Reader
"A Zombie Novel Without Zombies: An Interview with Bennett Sims"

"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."
—Mesha Maren, The Rumpus
(Read the full review: “A Questionable Shape,” by Bennett Sims)


"[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."
—Casey Peterson with Marisa Atkinson, Book Riot
(Read the full review)

"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."
—Tottenville Review

"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."
—Eryn Loeb, Poets & Writers
INTERVIEW: "THE PRACTICAL WRITER: First: Bennett Sims’s A Questionable Shape"


"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."
—Rob Cline, The Gazette

"This ain’t your granddaddy’s zombie-apocalypse. Everything in Bennett Sims’s stunning debut courts 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."
—Zachary Tyler Vickers, HTML Giant
(Read the full review)

"I’ve never read a zombie novel, and after reading A Questionable Shape, the debut novel from Bennett Sims, which has been described as a zombie novel, I still haven’t. We see glimpses of rabid zombies on grainy mall security cameras, ghost-like versions in a field, and zombies crowding a police car, but the book is more about retracing our memories, how to deal with loss, and ultimately, how to live in a world falling apart around us. It’s a philosophical mind-fuck of a novel filled with illuminating sentences and dark footnotes. Bennett and I traded emails to discuss his time as a student of David Foster Wallace, paranoia, insecurities, influences, and push-ups."
—Shane Jones, HTML Giant
INTERVIEW: "The Doorknob Passage – A Conversation with Bennett Sims" (May 21, 2013)


"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."
Wells Tower, author of Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned

"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."
Benjamin Hale, author of The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore and The Fat Artist and Other Stories

"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."
Charles D'Ambrosio, author of The Point and Other Stories, The Dead Fish Museum, Orphans, and Loitering: New & Collected Essays

"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."
Kevin Brockmeier, author of The Ghost Variations: One Hundred Stories

"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."
Aaron KuninCold Genius: A Book of Poems

Author

Bennett Sims, author of A Questionable Shape (Two Dollar Radio - The New Classics Edition, March 2024)

Bennett Sims was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He is the author of the story collection Other Minds and Other Stories (2023), the novel A Questionable Shape (2013), which received the Bard Fiction Prize and was a finalist for The Believer Book Award, and the story collection White Dialogues (2017), winner of the Rome Prize for Literature 2018–19 and named a best book of 2017 by Bookforum. He is a recipient of a Michener-Copernicus Society Fellowship. His fiction has appeared in A Public Space, Conjunctions, Electric Literature, Tin House, and Zoetrope: All-Story, as well as in the Pushcart Prize Anthology. He has taught at Bard College, Grinnell College, and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Carmen Maria Machado is the author of the bestselling memoir In the Dream House, the graphic novel The Low, Low Woods, and the award-winning short story collection Her Body and Other Parties. She has been a finalist for the National Book Award and the winner of the Bard Fiction Prize, the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction, the Lambda Literary Award for LGBTQ Nonfiction, the Brooklyn Public Library Literature Prize, the Shirley Jackson Award, and the National Book Critics Circle's John Leonard Prize. In 2018, the New York Times listed Her Body and Other Parties as a member of "The New Vanguard," one of "15 remarkable books by women that are shaping the way we read and write fiction in the 21st century."
Her essays, fiction, and criticism have appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, Granta, Vogue, This American Life, Harper's Bazaar, Tin House, McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, The Believer, Guernica, Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy, Best American Nonrequired Reading, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and has been awarded fellowships and residencies from the Guggenheim Foundation, Yaddo, Hedgebrook, and the Millay Colony for the Arts. She is the former Abrams Artist-in-Residence at the University of Pennsylvania and lives in Brooklyn.

Sneak Peek

Enjoy a sneak peek read of A Questionable Shape here, on Issuu, and get a serious look inside the book:

info

FORMAT: Two Dollar Radio - The New Classics Edition ("The Ambassadors" cover)
The New Classics edition features an original introduction by Carmen Maria Machado.
LIST PRICE: $18.95
PAGES: 242
PRINT ISBN: 9781953387493
DIGITAL ISBN: 978-1-937512-10-1
RELEASE DATE: 3/12/2024
SIZE: 5.5" x 7.5"

FORMAT: Original Paperback Edition (orange cover; sold out)
LIST PRICE: $16.50
PAGES: 242
PRINT ISBN: 9781937512095
DIGITAL ISBN: 978-1-937512-10-1
RELEASE DATE: 5/1/2013
SIZE: 5.5" x 7.5"

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