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So the title for this post is actually from The Submission, however the focus is on The Zero. I just wanted to write a short post, basically to see if anyone else felt the same way I did. While reading The Zero I couldn’t help but feel like it was making fun of the tragedy of 9/11. Although the idea of making a thriller out of the book could itself be considering making a play of it, there were three things in particular that I found insulting.

1) Edgar pretending his dad died and his mom being okay with it – “Apparently you’ve been telling everyone at school that your father died the other day, in the…well…in the event of the other day?” (26)

I feel like this would be insulting to someone who really did lose someone. How could anyone else possibly know that pain, and what gives him the right to even think he could know that pain?

2) The “tours” they gave of the site – “Impossible? Hell, if I decide I want to do it, I’ll get the Jets and the Sharks down there!” (42)

Again, I feel like this idea of giving a tour of the site, especially days afterward, is really insulting. I understand that there is this big obsession with prominent people going to places struck with disaster and helping out, but the way this action was staged made it seem more like a museum tour… It just seems like a very sick concept to me.

3) The commercial – “The agent says I’ll do gigs until the movie market matures for my kind of story.” (113)

I guess it should be expected that there was some form of broadcast concerning the event, however I feel like the fact that his commercial was a cereal commercial was an odd choice, especially since he was excited about having the marshmallow kind… Had he starred in something serious, I don’t think I would have been quite as insulted…

Does anyone else feel the same way I do? Or am I overreacting?


3 Responses to ““Which of these things is not like the other””

  1. Kasey: Thanks for this post. I’m a bit concerned about the reasoning you apply here. You state, “While reading The Zero I couldn’t help but feel like it was making fun of the tragedy of 9/11.” It’s certainly true that this book is satirical, which is a form of comedy, though it’s also a form of intellectual questioning, analysis, and criticism. And it’s certainly true that there are characters in the novel who behave reprehensibly, even immorally. But you seem to confuse these attributes of the characters with the thematic thrust of the book. This book makes fun of — and, more importantly,holds up for careful inspection — those who respond to the tragedy of 9/11 in self-aggrandizing ways. It also satirically examines the ways in which the government and the military can respond to such a tragedy as bureaucratic entities rather than as effective protectors of freedom and safety.

  2. Olivia says:

    Kasey — I think that these uncomfortably exploitative incidents make up an important aspect of the book to evaluate. Yet, at risk of repeating aspects of JGB’s above comment (albeit with less eloquence), I do have a question after reading your post: do you mean to say that Jess Walter is literally being insensitive and offensive and making light of 9/11, or do you think he is offering up examples of the exploitation of tragedy to be considered by the reader?

    • stewart15 says:

      I don’t think it was his intention to be offensive. I think it was much more in the way that I read it. Although, JGB’s comment really made me understand what it actually is, that Jess Walter used these examples to show how some people did respond to it. Whether one finds that offensive is basic interpretation. I hope that answered your question!