Monthly Archives: August 2012

In the Fall Issue

“Zyzzyva is a snouted beetle, as any dictionary kid knows. It’s a word that nearly can’t be played in Scrabble, on account of all the Z’s. But those are novelty uses. The real meaning is this superb literary journal, which has real meaning. If you want to learn the things that literature can do with language, read it.” —Ben Greenman The latest issue of ZYZZYVA adds another dimension to the journal’s mission of spotlighting the West Coast’s best writers and artists. This Fall we present “Expats,” a selection of new work by John Freeman, Dagoberto Gilb, Edie Meidav, and Luis …Continue reading

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ZYZZYVA Makes Best American Short Stories 2012 Notables List

We’re happy to announce two stories published in ZYZZYVA last year—Tom Bissell’s “Love Story, With Cocaine” and Andrew Foster Altschul’s “The Violet Hour”—made the Notables list for Best American Short Stories 2012. Bissell’s story (you can read an excerpt here) appeared in ZYZZYVA No. 92 (Fall 2011) and Altschul’s story in ZYZZYVA No. 93 (Winter 2011). Among the other stories named to the Notables list are pieces from The New Yorker, Harper’s, Tin House, and McSweeney’s and work by such authors as Jonathan Franzen, Alice Munro, and T.C. Boyle. Of special note to our readers: ZYZZYVA will be publishing or …Continue reading

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Keep Writing

Cristina Rivera Garza is a Mexican novelist and two-time winner of the Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz Prize (the only writer to have won the prestigious award twice). A professor at the University of California at San Diego, she writes a weekly column for the newspaper Milenio in Mexico.

“Keep Writing,” her essay in ZYZZYVA’s Spring 2012 issue, originally appeared in Milenio in October 2010. Translated into English by John Gibler, the piece tries to answer the question, What is the point of being a writer amid times of madness, whether it be Mexico’s drug war or other, similar episodes of violence and despair? Garza Rivera offers as many reasons she can, not least among them being, “Because through that rectangular artifact that is the book, we communicate with our dead. And all dead are our dead.”

The following is an excerpt from her essay.

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Get In And Toss the Gun in Back

Mauro Gallardo is a writer and ukulelist living in Monterrey, Mexico, and recently completed his first novel, I Liked You Better When You Were A Junkie.

In Gallardo’s short story in ZYZZYVA’s Spring 2012 issue, “Get In and Toss the Gun in Back,” translated by ZYZZVA Managing Editor Oscar Villalon, we encounter a narrator who relies on good humor and quick thinking to deal with the mayhem that has come to define his city. (Monterrey is Mexico’s third largest city and one of the hardest hit by the ongoing drug war.) Coming back from a disastrous date, he diverts a carjacking into something like a joyride. Funny and surprising, Gallardo’s story could be viewed as one young man’s way of staying human amid a wretched situation.

The following is an excerpt from his story.

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A Haunting in Houndstitch: ‘Inukshuk’ by Gregory Spatz

Despite the presence of rotting teeth, oozing sores and cannibalism, Gregory Spatz’s novel Inukshuk (Bellevue Literary Press, 192 pages), which charts the struggles of an emotionally disjointed family, is much more haunting than horrific. Exploring the gradual breakdown of a family abandoned, it’s a strange, hallucinatory tale of loss that still manages to keep itself grounded in the real world. Uprooting his teenage son Thomas to the small Canadian oil town of Houndstitch after he is left by his wife, John Franklin must battle his own demons while also dealing with Thomas’s concerning obsession with explorer Sir John Franklin’s doomed …Continue reading

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Internet Terror: ‘Four New Messages’ by Joshua Cohen

In his new collection of stories, Four New Messages (Graywolf, 208 pages), Joshua Cohen portrays lives that are predicated on and destroyed by the Internet’s world of screens and static. Portaging an understanding of his generation’s ethos (the author is 31), Cohen fleshes out young characters struggling with an increasingly electronic lifestyle. Cohen’s stories, which range from about 30 to 70 pages in length, take some time to get into, but settling into them is something to be relished. His sentences, spare of commas and loaded with improvised structure and vocabulary, have a frenetic yet hypnotic quality. Through layers of …Continue reading

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In a Way That Satiates

The writing on Mexico’s drug war in ZYZZYVA’s Spring 2012 issue featured some harrowing pieces of reportage by young authors and journalists Diego Enrique Osorno and Marcela Turati. (You can read their pieces in full here and here.) But it also featured impressive pieces of fiction, such as this short story by the internationally-acclaimed Mexican author Daniel Sada (1953-2011).

Translated by Katherine Silver, “In a Way That Satiates” tells of a narco-party that goes sideways when three heads are discovered in an ice chest otherwise full of beer. It’s a striking piece of fiction, both funny (“At first the drinks were cola sodas: Coca and Pepsi, each according to his preference, but then they brought out the Fantas, Mirindas, and Orange Crushes. Not a lot of diversity, one might say.”) and sinister (“Female wake-weeping that waned with time, it had to; especially because the mental always ends up defeating the sentimental. That’s the way of the world.”).

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On the Drug War in Mexico: An Introduction

From mid-August through mid-September, the Caravan for Peace will wend its way across the United States, having started in San Diego and eventually arriving at Washington, D.C.  Part of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, an organization in Mexico “dedicated to giving voice to the families of victims of [the drug war] and to publicizing the real costs of this war,” the MPJD believes “it is the Mexican government’s responsibility to provide justice and reparations” to the thousands upon thousands of victims of the drug war and is doing what it can to hold that government accountable.

The Caravan for Peace seeks the same from the United States, and will be traveling the country, meeting with various folks and organizations that agree several urgent issues must be addressed here, too, to help end the chaos. They are “the need to stop gun trafficking; the need to debate alternatives to drug prohibition; the need for better tools to combat money laundering; and the need to promote bilateral cooperation in human rights and human security in two priority areas: promotion of civil society and safety, as well as protection and safety for migrants.”

With that in mind, this month ZYZZYVA will run excerpts from our section on the drug war in the Spring 2012 issue. (The section is available as an ebook, too, from Byliner.) We begin with journalist and author John Gilber‘s introductory essay, presented in full. Gibler’s essay gives context to the various works appearing in the section (a couple of which he also translated). Published in April, the themes of the essay still hold true (though you can read an update to the essay here.) The statistics are grim, but they do not occlude the fact that there are valiant people–among them, poets, writers, and artists–peacefully seeking a change.

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The Sasquatch Poems

In ZYZZYVA’s Summer 1996 issue, there appeared a long poem on an unusual topic by Sherman Alexie, whose work had already appeared in Issues No. 26 and 39. (His eighth book, the novel “Indian Killers,” would be published by Grove/Atlantic that fall.)

Despite its seemingly jokey title, “The Sasquatch Poems” is anything but. Humorous, yes, but also a sharp consideration of the cultural presumptions behind the dismissal of the Pacific Northwest’s creature of legend. As the poem’s speaker suggests, “Indians can only be proven superstitious/ if non-Indians are proved to be without superstition.”

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A Frank Investigation of Her Family: Q&A with Paula Priamos

In her recent memoir, The Shyster’s Daughter (Etruscan Press; 250 pages), which was excerpted in ZYZZYVA 91, Paula Priamos investigates the death of her lawyer father and paints an unapologetic portrait of her family, with characters both perverse and loving. Priamos peers into the motivations of her family members with a rare and enticing frankness that distinguishes her work from that of other memoirists. Beyond the title, Priamos hints at the type of story she’s about to tell in the first page with a description of her father, who’s phoning her. She can easily imagine him being “somewhere far sleazier” …Continue reading

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From Iguala to Los Angeles, the Making of a Writer: Q&A with Reyna Grande

Each year thousands of children are left behind as their parents cross the border into the United States looking for work. Often these children set out on journeys of their own in hopes of finding their parents. These terrifying treks, and their devastating effects on families, have been chronicled by others. In 2006, journalist Sonia Nazario wrote a spellbinding account of a young boy’s trek from Honduras to the United States in Enrique’s Journey: The Story of A Boy’s Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite With His Mother. In 2009, the documentary film Which Way Home captured the plight of two young …Continue reading

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