Monthly Archives: January 2012

Bile

Christine Lee Zilka‘s story, “Bile,” appeared in the Fall 2003 issue of ZYZZYVA. Written from the point of view of the youngest of two children living in Pasadena, the story examines the passing of bitterness from one generation to another, as a Korean father bred on battle forces his children to appreciate his harder life growing up through war. Zilka portrays through a first-generation American family how the culture of war —the “ancestral fear” that chases a new age — cannot be properly digested.

“Bile” is framed by the ritualistic tasting of a gall bladder, something the father procured from a trapped bear. The narrator witnesses her brother, Eugene, being forced to lick the bladder, saying, “I can only tell you the before and the after, because I did not watch them feed Eugene the bile.”

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Melinda, Doing Her Best

Herbert Gold is the author of such novels as Birth of a Hero (1951), The Man Who Was Not With It (1956), and Fathers (1967), as well as of the nonfiction works Haiti: Best Nightmare on Earth (2001) and the memoir Still Alive! A Temporary Condition (2008).

“Melinda, Doing Her Best,” which appears in ZYZZYVA’s Winter 2011 issue, is a story set sometime in ’90s San Francisco, back when Moose’s was open in North Beach and when dot-com money was pouring into the city. That the title character is a computer programmer on the outs, then, is particularly striking. It’s tempting to read Melinda as a harbinger of the high tech good times gone sour. But the story is primarily a troubling depiction of a woman everybody wants something from, a person truly alone.

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Enter Harlow

Karen Joy Fowler is the prize-winning author of many books, including the novels Sister Noon, Wit’s End, and the best-seller The Jane Austen Book Club. Her most recent book is the story collection What I Didn’t See (Small Beer Press).

“Enter Harlow,” her new fiction in ZYZZYVA‘s Winter issue, is further testament to what Michael Chabon has said about her work: “No contemporary writer creates characters more appealing, or examines them with greater acuity and forgiveness, than she does.” Set at UC Davis during the ’90s, the story, which comes from the opening pages of a novel-in-progress, follows a young woman “meandering” through her fourth year of school. “Enter Harlow” tells how that meandering is suddenly, spectacularly interrupted — in the school cafeteria. The following is an excerpt from the story.

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Get Lost

Faith Gardner is a writer and musician living in Oakland. She plays guitar and sings in the bands Hooray for Everything and Dark Beach, and performs solo as Scarlett O’Hara. Her writing has appeared in PANK, Word Riot, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and many other places.

“Get Lost” appears in the Winter 2011 issue of ZYZZYVA. About a young woman who is suddenly without her best friend, who moved with her to San Francisco, Gardner’s story is appealingly downbeat, somewhat sinister, and surprisingly humorous as it follows a person gone adrift in an unfamiliar city and looking everywhere for her bearings. The following is an excerpt from the story.

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The Twelve Friends of Rodolfo and Mimi

My husband settles back on the couch with his coffee. “I’ve been indulging this bizarre, wacko fantasy,” he says. Oh, dear. He’ll want to fly to his hometown’s soccer field for Christmas. (Blackburn, Lancashire: identification with the home team is tribal.) Or start ballroom dancing lessons. Rip out the grass and plant cactus in the yard. Kayak the Nile. It’s the first day of November’s last week. He takes twenty minutes to “thaw out” in the morning, as my dad used to term it, before hopping on his bicycle to go to work. I am doing yogic stretches on the …Continue reading

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Appealing More and More to the Ear: Literature and Audio Books

Dear reader, I did not intend to get the audio book. When I walked into the Berkeley Public Library a few months ago, looking for a copy of Alan Hollinghurst’s first novel, The Swimming Pool Library, I don’t think I had intentions toward any particular format. If pressed at the time to reveal my implicit biases, I would probably have said I was looking for a physical, bound paper-and-cloth book, a book-book. (For the sake of simplicity, I will refer to such objects as “books”). Unfortunately, The Swimming Pool Library and The Line of Beauty—Hollinghurst’s Booker prize-winning fourth novel—were both …Continue reading

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