Zod Wallop

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Sat Feb 28 12:44:34 EST 2004

On Sat, 28 Feb 2004 18:00:31 +1100, Abe Gross wrote:

>Melissa wrote (with rest of stuff snipped):
>> (Right now we're in the middle of a long set
>> of serious books:  _Life of Pi_, _Zod Wallop_ and _The Blind Assassin_.)
>I'm curious to know what you think of _Zod Wallop_ when you've read it.
>Haven't read it myself, but it was recommended to me by someone.

I've read it already--I was the designated guinea pig to decide whether we
wanted to read it as a group.

Plot summary:  A famous children's writer named Harry Gainesborough went
slightly nuts after his daughter's death by drowning and went into a mental
hospital.  There he wrote a very dark and horrifying book called _Zod
Wallop_, which he later rewrote to have a happy ending and had published to
great acclaim.  However, a young fellow inmate, Raymond Story, read the
original and is convinced that it represents reality...and that it's
actually coming true.  Most of the book involves a quest that arises out of
the young man's delusions--or are they?  It's hard to say more than this,
because the essence of reading it is discovering how reality intersects with
fantasy and what, exactly, is the truth behind _Zod Wallop_--both the
manuscript and the book by William Browning Spencer.

It's very interesting.  I'd put it at the high end of literary fantasy; it's
more lyrical than Jonathan Carroll but less mythic than, for example,
_Little, Big_, if that means anything to anyone.  The descriptions are
phenomenal.  It was like a really vivid waking dream in parts.  I think the
descriptions were what drew me in; the first scene is of a bizarre wedding,
complete with monkey, and you can see everything as clearly as if you were
standing there with the groom's flabbergasted parents.  The invented world
of Zod Wallop is wonderfully dark and horrible, made more so because the
reader rarely gets to read the actual manuscript--it's all revealed in what
the characters recall, and that makes it creepy.  One woman in my reading
group who also finished it said she had nightmares for several days because
of one of the horrific creatures from the book.

Aside from the beauty of the language, what makes it work is that it's not a
typical example of its kind.  In most books where the hero (in this case, by
the way, it's the author Harry Gainesborough, which is not immediately
clear) is dropped from our world into a fantasy world, he spends way too
much time in denial when it's clear to the reader that the fantasy world
does, in fact, exist, and he's really there.  In _Zod Wallop_ there's a
measure of doubt for the first several chapters about whether Raymond is
right or not, and Harry's doubts make perfect sense because this is clearly
our world--but then one weird thing happens, and another, and the reader is
drawn in just as gradually as Harry is.  I like that.

The ending is fantastic.  Partly because it *is* a happy ending after pages
and pages of awful stuff, and partly because there's a point where I
realized just what the center of the book really was, and the ending fit so
well.  It's just what I'd hoped for everyone involved.

I have trouble knowing who to recommend _Zod Wallop_ to.  If it were the
kind of literary fantasy that relied solely on language, it would be easier.
But the fantasy plot is so well done that I think it would appeal to most
readers who like complicated fiction.  _Zod Wallop_ is out of print and
relatively difficult to find; we've been passing the library's two copies
around ourselves.  If you *can* find a copy, I'd say it's worth reading.

Melissa Proffitt

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