I’m not the only one who’s noticed. Zombies are everywhere. And sometimes in the most unexpected places. I mean, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? Who would have ever thought that that would be available? (The cover is really cool, but there really is a disappointing lack of zombie carnage.) There are even high-school courses on Zombie Preparedness.
Living in Pittsburgh, of course my zombie awareness has been heightened by George Romero’s zombie cult classics Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, movies that have defined the genre. I still can’t walk through a graveyard without thinking of the possibility of zombie attack.
Zombie storytelling has even branched out into what might have seemed an impossible direction: romantic comedy, Warm Bodies being quite a smart update of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet – honestly, I didn’t see that one coming….
So given that I am a die-hard Walking-Dead-fan-from-episode-one, I am eager to read Max Brooks’ World War Z, more interested in the book version than the movie given that a) Brooks did not write the screenplay, b) Brad Pitt’s character does not exist in the book, and c) zombies really should NOT be moving at crazy lightning speed. Besides, I was intrigued that the book is a series of oral (yes contradictorily written down) survival tales, post-apocalypse.
Last week, I read an article in the New York Times that interviewed Brooks, who also wrote The Zombie Survival Guide about a decade ago. “I’ve never seen a zombie movie where someone drank from a puddle and died of explosive diarrhea,” he point out. He is adamant that most of us would not die from a bite but rather would die very quickly from lack of clean water. Or from the inability to outrun someone else. Remember the opening scene from Zombieland? If not, check out this link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KO9ZwrANzlI.
Perhaps the fatal effect of dehydration is not so unexpected. What did surprise me, however, was learning that the former president of the US Naval War College had put W.W.Z. on a reading list and that Brooks himself had lectured at many army bases. He also has lectured at colleges and other locations over the past decade around the world.
Brooks takes the possibility of apocalypse very, very seriously. His novel is, despite the presence of zombies, considered by NYT writer Brodesser-Ankner, to depict an “elaborate, chilling, too-real world.” Brooks has stated that his books should be in the Self-help section or the How-To section and not in Humour, where they are likely to be found. Still he is grateful that they were not placed on the horror shelf. He abhors horror because he cannot understand why someone would believe themselves safe enough, comfortable enough, or bored enough, to want to be jolted and terrified by imaginary monsters when real ones exist.
For Brooks, we wrestle with enough monsters. While he was writing W.W.Z., there were complications during his son’s birth, an emergency C-section and a collapsed lung leaving both his wife and son, respectively, in hospital for many weeks. Brooks divided his time between them, writing his tale at night as he sat next to his sleeping son. At the same time, his mother, the actress Anne Bancroft, was undergoing chemotherapy for uterine cancer. “The zombies aren’t comedy. It has to do with life-and-death survival, the modus operandi for the need to survive. Not to be happy – that’s something else. To survive,” says Mel Brooks, Max’s father. Bancroft died two months later. The zombies are those things that come into our lives and rip them to shreds.
– Eleni Anastasiou