Monthly Archives: May 2013

L.C. Smith and Bros., Makers of Fine Guns and Typewriters, Advertise

Alexandra Teague is assistant professor of poetry at the University of Idaho and the author of Mortal Geography (Persea), which won the 2009 Lexi Rudnitsky Prize and the 2010 California Book Award for poetry. Two of her poems appear in the Spring/Summer issue of ZYZZYVA.

The poems come from her manuscript in progress, The Wise and Foolish Builders, which, Teague says, “branches out from the story of Sarah Winchester, Victorian heiress to the rifle fortune, and the six-acre house she build in San Jose, California.” The poem “L.C. Smith and Bros., Makers of Fine Guns and Typewriters, Advertise” takes its verses from the sort of advertising copy employed by various companies of the era (e.g., Remington) to sell their typewriters and firearms. The following is the poem in full.

Continue reading

Posted in Latest Issue | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Clear as Cake

Lori Ostlund is the San Francisco author of the story collection The Bigness of the World (University of Georgia Press), which was awarded the California Book Award for First Fiction, the Edmund White Debut Fiction Award, and the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction.

As she points out in her bio, Ostlund “took a rather circuitous route to becoming a writer. I did not do an MFA program, though my intention was always to be a writer.” Her story, though, in ZYZZYVA’s Spring/Summer issue is set in an evening writing class at a Minnesota college. At a recent reading of “Clear as Cake” at Vesuvio, Ostlund had the crowd shaking with laughter. The story, we think you’ll find, is not only hilarious, but wise, too. The following is an excerpt.

Continue reading

Posted in Latest Issue | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Captivating Voice of an Irish Traveller: Gavin Corbett’s ‘This Is the Way’

Over the past few years, thanks in part to a TLC reality show, many of us have become fascinated with Irish Travellers, a group of unsettled people that moves about Ireland in caravans. For the most part, Travellers are a secretive culture, wary of outsiders, and in turn are viewed with a certain amount of disdain by “settled” people. In his second novel, This Is The Way (Faber and Faber; 230 pages), Irish writer Gavin Corbett explores the trials and tribulations of an Irish Traveller in an increasingly rooted world. Anthony Sonaghan fears a rekindled feud between the two halves …Continue reading

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A Refreshing Story Set in a Rundown Town: Michelle Tea’s ‘Mermaid in Chelsea Creek’

In a post-Twilight, post-Hunger Games world, the Young Adult literary scene is fraught with sparkly neutered vampires, teens struggling against the shackles of their dystopian societies, and bland heroines who are somehow sucked into irritating love triangles. This new YA craze has even spawned a Paranormal Romance sub-section in the Young Adult shelves of Barnes and Noble, crammed tight with the types of book covers you cannot help but judge. There is hope, however, and it comes in the form of Michelle Tea’s newest protagonist, a thirteen-year-old, dirt-layered, scabbed-knee girl named Sophie Swankowski. In her first installment of a YA …Continue reading

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Self-Doubt, Rage, Compassion in Measured, Perfected Poems: Jason Bayani’s ‘Amulet’

Amulet (Write Bloody Books, 89 pages), the first poetry collection from East Bay Area native Jason Bayani, is a blistering examination of American life, as seen through the lens of a poet struggling to define himself. The poems are lyrical yet direct, with a clear voice that evokes humor while scuffling with questions of racism and artistic identity. Bayani, who’s Filipino American, doesn’t shy from the blunt racism he’s experienced. In “Playgrounds and Other Things,” he writes: “And the old lady leaning into the wood / at the corner of Sutter and Stockton: / I heard her tell it like …Continue reading

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Absurdity of War, the Absurdity of the Media: Robert Perisic’s ‘Our Man in Iraq’

Originally published in Croatia in 2007, Our Man In Iraq (Black Balloon; 202 pages), Robert Perisic’s finely crafted and witty novel, is now the first of his books to be translated into English (with translator Will Firth). American readers should delight in discovering Perisic’s work, while lamenting this inexplicable delay. The novel opens in 2003. Toni has patched together a promising life: the Economics editor for PEG, an independent local newspaper, he lives in Zagreb with his beautiful girlfriend, Sanja, an actress who has just landed her first major stage role. Marriage seems to be on the horizon, and perhaps …Continue reading

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Hairline Fractures of Relationships: Gregory Spatz’s ‘Half as Happy’

Half as Happy (Engine Books, 186 pages), the new story collection from novelist Gregory Spatz (Inukshuk, Fiddler’s Dream, No One But Us), examines faltering relationships and the unhappy people struggling to hold them together. The collection’s eight stories are remarkably honest, driven by moments both funny and painful that uncover deep rifts in the lives of Spatz’s characters. In “No Kind of Music,” Patrick is drawn to the symphony after his wife leaves him for a younger, one-legged man. Most of the excitement remaining in Patrick’s life is centered on his eclectic neighbors, an elderly couple raising their rebellious daughter’s …Continue reading

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A Cult Built Out of Anguish and Desolation: Fiona Maazel’s ‘Woke Up Lonely’

Woke Up Lonely (Graywolf Press, 336 pages), the new novel from author Fiona Maazel (Last Last Chance), is an imaginative thriller about a cult leader and the ex-wife in charge of spying on him. By balancing humorous adventures with an indictment of our modern world, in which solitude reigns despite all the new methods of communication, Maazel delivers a wild read teeming with emotion. Thurlow Dan is the founder of the Helix, a cult based on the principle that lonely people need someone with whom they can share their feelings. At the start of the novel, the Helix has grown …Continue reading

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment