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Who said it: Émile Zola or Zola the queen of trap storytelling?
They’re more alike than you think.
Zola changed everything.
In just 150 tweets, modern storytelling has been put to shame by a young woman who may or may not actually be a stripper from Detroit, who maybe had the craziest road trip to Florida ever known to humanity (and that’s saying a lot), who maybe crafted the whole narrative because she is a marketing genius trying to sell her first novel, who may or may not actually exist. It is Twitter, after all.
We know almost nothing about Aziah King, the self-described “angry black hottie” scribe of Twitter. But we do know that her 140-characters-at-a-time modern epic threw the Internet into a deep rabbit hole on Wednesday. The tale of two strippers on a seemingly innocent working vacation in Florida quickly turns into a passion play with unforeseen levels of drama in which pimps shoot each other in the face, girls are snatched into hotel closets, sensitive boyfriends jump off balconies, and a whole lotta cash exchanges hands.
There hasn’t been such a hungry, captivated audience since NPR aired the first season of Serial. On Wednesday morning, King had a couple thousand followers. By 5pm ET, that number was nearing 50,000.
But what of that earlier Zola? When #Zola began trending wildly on Twitter, some readers were a bit confused. Why was a social network suddenly so obsessed with a dead French adherent to the literary school of naturalism? Many of Émile Zola’s works are available in English, online, through the Project Gutenberg collection: titles like Terese Raquin, The Downfall, The Fat and the Thin, and Fruitfulness have no doubt enraptured a fair share of readers in their time. But they haven’t exactly gone viral.
There’s more likeness than you might think between the two great Zolas, each of whom has inspired civilization with stories of endurance, resolve, and selling puss for way too cheap. In his time, Émile Zola was embroiled in all kinds of scandal: he cheated on his wife with a seamstress she hired and became a baby daddy to two secret kids, he was put on trial for criminal libel after his essay J’Accuse went viral on the cover of a Parisian newspaper, and he had to flee France and go into hiding in England. In other words, he was a bad bitch.
There you have it. Two controversial literary figures—one living today, one who died in 1902—who have inspired legions with their badassery. See if you can tell these quotes apart. Who said it: Émile Zola, or Zola (Aziah King) the accidental trap madam?
- “If you shut up truth and bury it under the ground, it will but grow, and gather to itself such explosive power that the day it bursts through it will blow up everything in its way.”
- “The truth is on the march and nothing will stop it.”
- “BUT we don’t pull up to the four seasons bitch. We pull up to a raggedy ass motel. So I said REAL QUICK ‘I’m not staying here Hun.'”
- “I am an artist… I am here to live out loud.”
- “So we working. It was king of slow (it was early Friday night) the club had HELLA rules which I’m not use to (Ima full nude typa bitch).”
- “He handed her a trap phone. So i am mind blown at this point. . So then we get to the room. Nice as fuck. Just me & jess & i start GOIN OFF.”
- “If I cannot overwhelm you with my quality, I will overwhelm you with my quantity.”
- “So when they finished he gave her $100. I said ‘jess, u sellin puss for $100???? Pussy is worth thousands. U trippin’ she goes ‘i dont make the prices.'”
- “How could anyone expect a court martial to undo what another court martial had done?”
- “Starting haviny deep convo. He really wasnt a bad dude. But he was bipolar. VERY bipolar…so I understood his outburst a little more.”
- “As for the people I am accusing, I do not know them, I have never seen them, and I bear them neither ill will nor hatred.”
- “Im around the corner. So i just hear everything…next thing i know i hear some shuffling & a gun goes off..once again I TAKE OFF.”
- “I said ‘Florida? Muder? U have the wrong number!’ She screams ‘ASK JARRETT TO BAIL ME OUT, He wont answer my collect call.'”
- “My fiery protest is simply the cry of my very soul. Let them dare, then, to bring me before a court of law and let the enquiry take place in broad daylight! I am waiting.”
- “He goes ‘if u do this again jess. I will kill myself. I love u 2 much’..I was like this nigga lost in the sauce & his bitch lost in the game.”
- “So she cleans herself up & theres a knock at the door…i open the door & some fat white man goes ‘im here for the white girl.'”
- “I am being brief, for this is but the abridged version of a story whose sordid pages will some day be written out in full.”
- “The two murderers contemplated one another, stupefied, pale, and trembling.”
- “‘I swear I didn’t set u up Zola. I never intended for u to trap. Thats why u didnt! I hope we can be friends after.'”
- “When she had freed herself from his hands, she violently wiped her mouth, and spat in the fire. She had not said a word.”
Answer Key: 1) Émile Zola 2) Zola 3) Aziah King 4) Zola 5) King 6) King 7) Zola, 8) King, 9) Zola, 10) King, 11) Zola, 12) King, 13) King, 14) Zola, 15) King, 16) King, 17) Zola, 18) Zola, 19) King, 20) Zola.
Illustration by Max Fleishman
Mary Emily O'Hara is an LGBTQ reporter. Her work has appeared in Rolling Stone, NBC Out, Daily Dot, Broadly, Vice, the Daily Beast, the Advocate, Huffington Post, DNAinfo, Al Jazeera, and Portland's Pulitzer Prize-winning newsweekly Willamette Week, among other outlets.