Monthly Archives: April 2011

‘The Docks’ Reveals the People Inside the Behemoth Port of Los Angeles

The Port of Los Angeles has earned the not so inviting nickname of the Diesel Death Zone, due to the tons of particulate matter it produces. Yet it’s a facility of such monumental importance, that if disrupted the disturbance “would cause an economic heart attack for the country.”  The Docks (University of California Press; 341 pages) is Bill Sharpsteen’s wildly enlightening trek through this mammoth, messy, and mesmerizing spot. A journalist and a photographer who possesses a penchant for stories with heft, Sharpsteen honed his narrative skills in Dirty Water: One Man’s Fight to Clean up one of the World’s …Continue reading

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Our Brave Little Soldiers

How to describe this beautifully strange story by Erika Recordon? It’s brief, but it’s haunting. “Our Brave Little Soldiers,” one of two stories by Recordon in the Spring 2011 issue of ZYZZYVA (which you can buy here), is dream-like in the truest sense: familiar yet alien, operating by an elusive yet recognizable logic. Along with Matthew Dickman, her fellow Portland, Ore., writer and ZYZZYVA contributor, Recordon reads tonight at the Rumpus event in San Francisco.

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My Father in Russia

Portland, Ore., poet Matthew Dickman won the 2008 APR/Honickman First Book Prize and the 2009 Stafford/Hall Award for Poetry (Oregon Book Awards) for his first poetry collection, “All-American Poem” (American Poetry Review). His second book of poems, “Maykovsky’s Revolver,” will be published by W.W. Norton & Co. in 2012.

The Spring 2011 issue of ZYZZYVA (you can buy a copy here) features three new poems from him, including “My Father in Russia,” an ecstatically comic vision of the new East (and of the West, for that matter). He’ll be reading with his fellow Portland writer and Spring 2011 contributor Erika Recordon at the Rumpus in San Francisco on Monday, April 11.

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The Kangaroo Communique

When ZYZZYVA published a Haruki Murakami story in its Spring issue of 1988, it was notable for a couple of reasons. It marked the first publication in English of a story from the soon-to-be award-winning and internationally known author. And his by-line read “Murakami Haruki.” J. Philip Gabriel, who would go on to translate Murakami’s other works, including the novel “Kafka on the Shore,” for which he won a PEN prize for translation, was a graduate student at Cornell then. He now teaches at the University of Arizona.

‘The Kangaroo Communique’ is suffused with a tristesse found in much of Murakami’s fiction, particularly his novel “Norwegian Wood.” It’s also slightly sinister and otherworldly, another characteristic of Murakami’s work. This story originally appeared in his first story collection, Slow Boat to China (1983), which along with a couple of novels, had yet to be translated into English in 1988.

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Lady Grey (in ever lower light) and Other Plays by Will Eno: Theater Review

In Lady Grey (in ever lower light), one of three new short plays by Will Eno performed together by San Francisco’s Cutting Ball Theatre, the title character never introduces herself.  The only person mentioned by name in the piece is a little girl named Jennifer — because according to Lady Grey (Danielle O’Hare)  “a story needs a girl, and a girl needs a name.” As the piece develops and we learn of Jennifer’s difficult day at show-and-tell, we come to think of Lady Grey as the name given to a collection of verbal tricks designed to protect and conceal Jennifer. …Continue reading

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Otherwise Known as Piercing Perception

Geoff Dyer, the British novelist, critic and essayist, sums up his new collection of essays and reviews from the past 25 years, “Otherwise Known as the Human Condition” (Graywolf; 432 pages) as “a glimpse of a not-unrepresentative way of being a late-twentieth-early-twenty-first-century man of letters” — one who writes on assignment, covering a vast range of subjects, in addition to creating fiction. “It’s a job for life; more accurately, it is a life,” he writes in the introduction, “and hardly a day goes by without my marveling that it is somehow feasible to lead it.” Dyer’s gigs include magazine essays, …Continue reading

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The Photosynthetic Restaurant

Artist and writer Jonathon Keats says he’s honestly surprised no one has ever thought about it before he did. “For nearly a half billion years, plants have subsisted on a diet of photons haphazardly served up by the sun and indiscriminately consumed, without the least thought given to culinary enjoyment. Frankly, it’s barbaric.” From April 16 to July 17, Keats will be addressing that oversight by running a restaurant for plants at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento. “The Photosynthetic Restaurant: Gourmet Sunlight for Plants as Catered by Jonathon Keats” will feature colored acrylic panes arranged throughout the museum’s gardens, …Continue reading

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Busted Brackets

Can it get worse before it gets better? Yes, it can. Heading into tomorrow’s men’s basketball Final Four (for those of you unversed in semi-pro college athletics, we refer to the 2011 NCAA Tournament), millions of people are holding worthless brackets in their hands, their dreams of snagging the office-pool booty long turned into ash. Butler, Virginia Commonwealth University, Kentucky, and Connecticut were on just about nobody’s list as the teams to make the semi-finals. Before the Sweet Sixteen match-ups were played, some authors were queried on the state of their picks, and asked to describe them in ten words …Continue reading

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