Monthly Archives: June 2013

A Poet Survives China’s Prison: Liao Yiwu’s ‘For a Song and a Hundred Songs’

Violently quashed protests, wrongful imprisonment, book banning, torture—these acts have become almost expected within the context of political rebellion and its suppression. The painful, familiar components of modern repression are given new perspective, however, in Liao Yiwu’s memoir and new book, For A Song And A Hundred Songs: A Poet’s Journey Through a Chinese Prison (New Harvest Press; 404 pages), translated by Wenguang Huang. In his book, Yiwu, a Chinese poet, tells the story of his time in prison following the Tiananmen Square protests of June 4, 1989. Though not a protestor or even, as he admits, particularly interested “in …Continue reading

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Skulking in the Comments Section: Travis Nichols’ ‘The More You Ignore Me’

Travis Nichols’ hard-to-describe second novel, The More You Ignore Me (Coffee House Press; 211 pages), takes the form of a single, rambling blog comment—a decade-spanning, bitterly confessional manifesto written in response to a recipe posted on the fictitious BrendaCookingFun.com. Its author, the narrator—who goes unnamed except for two screen names: Linksys181 and Linksys157—resorts to commenting on a cooking website only because he’s been banned from doing the same on Charlico.com, a website dedicated to a wedding the narrator is deeply consumed with preventing. The reason for this obsession, and the nature of Linksys181’s relationship to Charli Vistons, the female half …Continue reading

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Scottish Storytelling, Elvis, and Perfect Moments: Q&A with John Mercer

Oakland writer and actor John Mercer is a British expat from Leeds, in Yorkshire, who is a member of Berkeley’s Shotgun Players. He recently appeared on their Ashby Stage in Tom Stoppard’s Shipwreck and starred as Vladimir Nabokov in The Divine Game. His one-man show, Swearing in English: Tall Tales at Shotgun, directed by Christy Crowley, was set to premiere this month, but was postponed after he was diagnosed with viral encephalitis in May. The rollicking, profound pieces in Swearing in English take readers on a wild ride, from Mercer quitting law after getting his degree (and taking acid) to …Continue reading

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Buffeted in His Father’s Wake: Kelly Daniels’ ‘Cloudbreak, California’

“The pure products of America go crazy,’’ William Carlos Williams memorably wrote, and from Aurora to the weird kid lounging at the register of the local 7-Eleven, we see the proof of his perception all around us. In ‘70s Southern California, Kelly Daniels grew up amid such strangeness as the son of a drug-dealing, surfer-bum dad (who was ultimately convicted of killing a drug-dealing cousin) and a well-intentioned and loving mom, who signed up with a cult called the Church of the Living. Although he found temporary refuge with his wealthy grandparents, Daniels grew up, understandably, confused and angry. With …Continue reading

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A Cowboy Crosses the Border in Silence

Diego Enrique Osorno is the author of El Cartel de Sinaloa: Uno Historia del Uso Politico del Narco (The Sinaloa Cartel: A History of the Political Use of the Narco) and La Guerra de Los Zetas (The War of the Zetas). Osorno was awarded the Proceso International Journalism Prize in 2011, and his nonfiction on Mexico’s drug war, “The Battle of Ciudad Mier,” was published in ZYZZYVA’s Spring 2012 issue.

His nonfiction piece about his beloved deaf-mute uncle Geronimo, “A Cowboy Crosses the Border in Silence,” appears in the Spring/Summer issue of ZYZZYVA. It’s a thoughtful examination of a singular life, and a rare look into the world of deaf Mexican immigrants and their community in the United States. The work is translated by Emma Friedland, who is the editorial director of the website the Borderland Chronicles. The following is an excerpt.

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Easy Rawlins Searches the Sunset Strip: Walter Mosley’s ‘Little Green’

Little Green (Doubleday, 304 Pages), the new crime thriller from Walter Mosley, is the eleventh installment in the Easy Rawlins series, which kicked off with 1990’s Devil in a Blue Dress. Easy is now older and edgier, navigating the reader through a layered mystery set against a racially tense Los Angeles in 1967. The story opens with Easy recovering from a near-fatal car accident. Enlivened with a voodoo concoction called Gator’s Blood, the private eye gets right back to work, helping his stalwart friend Mouse find Evander “Little Green” Noon, a young man who went missing after dropping acid on …Continue reading

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Cardioplegia

Dani Shapiro is the author of the bestselling memoirs Devotion and Slow Motion, and the author of five novels, the most recent being Black & White and Family History. (Her newest book, Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life (Atlantic), comes out in October.)

“Cardioplegia” is her new story, published in the Spring/Summer issue of ZYZZYVA. The title refers to the deliberate arrest of the heart during an operation so that surgery may be performed upon the organ. In her story, it also refers to the thawing of her protagonist’s soul, a middle-aged man who “had been dying a little bit each year” … “had been feeling numb from the neck down, a head bobbling along on a set of insensate shoulders, all brains and no heart, just getting through day after day.” The story finds him reluctant at a mind-body retreat out West with his much younger (and new) love, recovering from a triple bypass and trying to make sense of it all. The following is an excerpt.

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From a Kurdish Mountain Town, to Streets of L.A.: Laleh Khadivi’s ‘The Walking’

Laleh Khadivi’s The Walking (Bloomsbury; 258 pages), the second novel in her projected trilogy about Iran, follows two Kurdish brothers who escape Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution in search of a paradise that doesn’t exist. Khadivi’s mellifluous prose traces a gripping journey, one ranging from the fleeing of a mountain town to traveling across a desert, the making of an overseas voyage on a freight ship, and, finally, arriving on the unforgiving streets of Los Angeles. This is a story about illusions. The two brothers worship different ones that goad them onward — Ali betrays his family to defend his hopelessly ravaged …Continue reading

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Life Span

Molly Giles is a novelist and short-story writer. Her books include the novel “Iron Shoes” and “Creek Walk and Other Stories.” She has been awarded the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and taught at San Francisco State University. A former professor at the University of Arkansas, Giles has recently retired and moved back to the Bay Area.

Her story in the Spring/Summer issue of ZYZZYVA, “Life Span,” could be looked at as a work of homecoming. It’s a meditation on a life rooted in Northern California, one in which the Golden Gate Bridge looms large in the narrator’s memory, becoming a steady presence throughout the many changes detailed in the story. The following is an excerpt.

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Out of Notebooks

W.S. Di Piero, who lives in San Francisco, is the author of several acclaimed books of poetry (his most recent being Nitro Nights (Copper Canyon)) and is the recipient of many awards and honors, including the 2012 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation of Chicago.

Di Piero’s poetry has appeared in ZYZZYVA’s Fall 2011 and Spring 2012 issues. (His poem in the Spring issue, “There Were Such Things,” received a 2013 Pushcart Prize.) And now his nonfiction can be read in ZYZZYVA’s Spring/Summer issue. “Out of Notebooks” is an essay of sorts, a collection of thoughts and observations, ranging from subjects such as physical pain to the nature of poetry, and taking as its settings places such as a BART car or a museum room. The following is an excerpt.

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Adventures in Language School

Joseph Di Prisco is the author of several books, including novels—the most recent of which is All for Now (MacAdam/Cage)—and two poetry collections. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Prairie Schooner, and The Threepenny Review, and his poetry was published in the Winter 2011 issue of ZYZZYVA.

Two new poems by Di Prisco appear in ZYZZYVA’s Spring/Summer issue: “Symptomatology” and “Adventures in Language School.” Here we present the latter, which is characteristic of the humor and the warmth that imbues Di Prisco’s charming poetry.

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The Question of Existence: Gary Amdahl’s ‘The Intimidator Still Lives in Our Hearts’

The Intimidator Still Lives in Our Hearts (Artistically Declined Press, 295 pages), the new book from author Gary Amdahl (Visigoths, I Am Death), is a collection of stories that features a startling range of settings and characters (a writer, a bookstore employee, a philosopher, and a gambler, to name a handful). But each story is connected through the philosophical questions Amdahl’s dense, sweeping prose addresses, a trait of serious-mindedness not found in many modern story collections. Of the book’s nine stories, several feature a first-person narrator, including “Breezeway.” In that piece, the narrator reflects on the breezeway between the garage …Continue reading

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