ALU Book Club: Zolitude Discussion

July 11, 2018

Last week, you met July book club pick  Zolitude by Paige Cooper, and heard what Biblioasis editor John Metcalf had to say about the collection. This week, it's Team ALU's turn in the saddle: we commiserate over what we loved about this book, and even end up reading some of our favourite parts aloud. Download our reading guide to host your own book club discussion, and scroll on to see and listen to what we had to say about the book (warning: there are some spoilers in the Soundcloud links below!).

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Check out some spoiler-free highlights from our discussion below, or listen to the full audio of our (not spoiler-free!) discussion on Soundcloud.


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1.Some of the settings in Zolitude are reality-adjacent, wide-ranging, and unusual. What effect did this have on your reading of the stories?

“It made me feel less certain – you think you’ve got a handle on it, you think you understand, at least where things are happening or how the society works and then a detail will be thrown in there that makes you go WHAT???” –Tan

 “Everything about every story, there’s something just slightly off, and you can’t trust anything…Is this real? Am I supposed to believe what’s happening?”–Will 

“The settings were unusual, but the themes were really universal – love, heartbreak, things like that – it made me look at those things in a new novel way, and the settings contributed to that for me.” –Mandy

“Beyond that cliché of ‘setting is a character in the story’ – it’s an actor in the story, it’s creating events that really affect how the characters move through those spaces and realities.” –Lauren


2. It’s safe to say Cooper has a talent for writing incredibly striking descriptions. What were some of your favourites and why?

“When you stick with that for ten seconds, it feels like that description can’t be anything else. It’s so perfect and at the same time, so alien.” –Will

“It made me stop. I stopped reading at that point… I needed a moment to absorb it.” –Mandy


3. It’s been argued that characters should be relatable or that their motivations should be understood. Cooper subverts those expectations in these stories. How did this resonate with you?

 “We shouldn’t always want characters to necessarily to be good in our fiction…it can be incredibly boring when characters are relatable to you…speaking as a white straight man, I don’t need characters to be relatable to me, I’ve seen enough of that.” –Will

“I liked that they weren’t really relatable in that…they were all cohesive…by the end of the story, you could understand that person’s world and viewpoint a little bit, even if it might be so far beyond yours. They were whole characters, really well developed.” –Tan

“I don’t think in any of the stories there’s physical descriptions…it’s more of an active read because you have to imagine this person, moving through the space that they’re in.” –Mandy

“What’s cool about the characters is how pure their intentions are…I think you could pinpoint their motivation, but the way they go about getting it is heretical.” –Lauren


4. Many of the stories in Zolitude don’t end in a conventional way one would expect a short story to end – sometimes things aren’t neatly wrapped up. How do you feel about this?

“All of those decisions are so intentional. You have to go back and think about what just happened, leading into the end of the story. Instead of collections where things are neatly tied up…this collection is not that. At the end you have to take a’s a thought-provoking choice [Cooper’s] made in her writing.” –Tan

“Cooper doesn’t apologize for how intelligent her writing is, it demands so much from the reader.” –Will

“With a lot of the stories I feel like she’s just handing it off to you, and you’re the one that’s sort of thinking what’s next…You’re just given this new information and then the story ends, and that’s what you’re reckoning with.” –Lauren


5. Address the comment that collection editor John Metcalf made, that Cooper “has the most apocalyptic mind he’s ever come across.” How does this manifest in Zolitude?

“Even when it seems like things are mundane and everyday, there’s something weird and slightly askew.” –Will

“The characters…the way that they yearn for things it almost seems like this is the last thing that they’re going to get to do, before some unspoken thing happens to them. There’s such an urgency in how everyone operates.” –Lauren

“There’s a strange intensity…an element that has an intensity to it and the rest of the story forms around that...Bringing in the animals, the wildlife and natural aspects of these worlds she’s created are taken to another level.” –Tan

“The language is also apocalyptic. As a reader, you have an expectation of where that sentence is going to go and at the end of it you are not where you expected to be.” –Mandy






The team talks Paige Cooper's Zolitude.


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All Lit Up Book Club will be back next week with an interview with Zolitude author Paige Cooper – in the meantime, why not treat yourself to 15% off the book so that you can discuss with your own book club? And don't forget to follow us on  Facebook and  Twitter for further, impromptu discussion. Hop on the hashtag #ALUbookclub to send us comments and questions!


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