Naked, Zakin's newly released collection of short fiction and nonfiction does exactly the opposite. The commonality amongst these pieces is the inclusion of humans in the picture. In fact, it is exactly at the junction of human society and the natural world that Naked lives. And it's not always pretty.
Alexandra Fuller's prose is visceral as she recalls her childhood years in Africa:
Scottish writer, A.L. Kennedy weaves a tale of an attempted suicide who finds respect for life in the bull-fighting ring and L.A. Weekly editor, Joe Donnelly, in an epiphany at the Raging Waters Waterpark, shatters the illusion of the human ego to uncover our true nature: "Things like phlegm, boogers, dandruff, loose toenails, pubic hair, psoriasis, seborrhea, earwax, scabs, blood, pathogens..."
A handful of Edward Abbey's letters, a stretch of road from Vietnamese-American writer, Andrew Pham, a sexual encounter with a dolphin from hallucinatory-fiction writer, Ted Mooney – Naked pokes and prods at the various spaces, real or imagined, where our Tevas meet the Earth. Among my favorites is a T.C. Boyle story about the new girl's unnatural fascination with the canine and its impact upon her nice suburban neighbors.
"At some golf courses in the Southwest, the saguaro cactuses are reported to be repaired with green paste when balls blast into their skin. The saguaro can attempt to heal themselves by growing over the balls, but this takes time, and the effect can be somewhat... baroque. It’s better to get out the pastepot. Nature has become simly a visual form of entertainment, and it had better look snappy."
Far from a collection of pretty calendar images, Naked often scrapes the bottom of that which is the human experience, yet, at times, alludes to the highest qualities in our nature. Zakin sets out to "uncover the way we live on Earth." She does exactly that, and it is by casting such a wide net upon that experience that she neither condemns nor condones us, but sets forth an artist's view for our own interpretation.