Books of the Dead
Reading the Zombie in Contemporary Literature
From The Walking Dead to World War Z, a serious study of the zombie in literature
The zombie has cropped up in many forms—in film, in television, and as a cultural phenomenon in zombie walks and zombie awareness months—but few books have looked at what the zombie means in fiction.
Tim Lanzendörfer fills this gap by looking at a number of zombie novels, short stories, and comics, and probing what the zombie represents in contemporary literature. Lanzendörfer brings together the most recent critical discussion of zombies and applies it to a selection of key texts including Max Brooks’s World War Z, Colson Whitehead’s Zone One, Junot Díaz’s short story “Monstro,” Robert Kirkman’s comic series The Walking Dead, and Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Within the context of broader literary culture, Lanzendörfer makes the case for reading these texts with care and openness in their own right.
Lanzendörfer contends that what zombies do is less important than what becomes possible when they are around. Indeed, they seem less interesting as metaphors for the various ways the world could end than they do as vehicles for how the world might exist in a different and often better form.
Tim Lanzendörfer’s Books of the Dead makes a significant contribution not only to the growing body of literature surrounding the popular culture figure of the zombie, but to conversations in the dynamic and expanding fields of popular culture and contemporary literary studies more generally. While there has been a good deal of scholarship on the figure of the zombie in film and television, far less attention has been offered to the recent, and to some surprising, rise of the figure to a new prominence in contemporary fiction. It is to this shortcoming that Books of the Dead responds, offering original, insightful, and far-reaching readings of a rich array of zombie narratives in a number of different genres and forms. I am confident the book will be of great interest to a wide readership and make an excellent addition to the superb body of work in popular culture and literary studies published by University Press of Mississippi.- Phillip E. Wegner, author of Life between Two Deaths, 1989-2001: U.S. Culture in the Long Nineties and Shockwaves of Possibility: Essays on Science Fiction, Globalization, and Utopia
Tim Lanzendörfer proves himself both a masterful writer and a master teacher as he opens up some of the most popular and powerful texts in zombie literature to show how and why this narrative has overrun the planet. Books of the Dead is essential reading for those who read zombie literature, but it also suggests why all of us should be reading it.- Greg Garrett, author of Entertaining Judgment: The Afterlife in Popular Imagination and Living with the Living Dead: The Wisdom of the Zombie Apocalypse