Monthly Archives: April 2014

Books, Not Just the Characters, Are the Point: Rodrigo Rey Rosa’s ‘Severina’

In his introduction to Rodrigo Rey Rosa’s Severina (Yale University Press, 112 pages), poet and translator Chris Andrews writes that for readers expecting the “baroque exuberance” of fellow Guatemalan writer Miguel Angel Asturias, Rey Rosa’s fiction will come as a surprise. Not only does Rey Rosa eschew the colorful language of his predecessor for more restrained and economical prose, he allows dreams, fantasies, and hallucinations to regularly puncture his character’s worlds. In this respect, Andrews observes, the writer who Rey Rosa remains the most in debt to is Jorge Luis Borges. Reading Severina—only the fifth of Rey Rosa’s many works …Continue reading

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An Elegy and a Testament to a Culture: Joan Naviyuk Kane’s ‘Hyperboreal’

“I could make passage / A thousand obscure, / Contradictory ways,” claims Joan Naviyuk Kane in “Mother Tongues,” a poem from the collection, Hyperboreal (University of Pittsburgh Press, 65 pages), winner of AWP’s Donald Hall Prize in Poetry. In five precise, prosodic quatrains, the poem navigates vast and difficult territory, memorializing both the poet’s mother and her mother’s native tongue, the King Island dialect of Inupiaq. An Inupiaq/Inuit, and among the last living speakers of the King Island dialect, Kane contends with biological, cultural, and political threats to her ancestral community, including climate change, language death, and the diaspora prompted …Continue reading

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All the Lost, Autobiographical Novels

Years ago, when novelist Alexander Chee couldn’t sell his first book, a literary agent told him, “The first novel you finish isn’t always the first novel you publish.” The agent was right. Hunter S. Thompson, for example, wrote his first novel, the autobiographical story of a boozy Kentucky boy in the city titled Prince Jellyfish, in his early twenties. After numerous literary agents declined it, Thompson shelved the manuscript and finished a second novel called The Rum Diary, which Simon & Schuster released in 1998, nearly four decades after he had completed it. And just last month, De Capo Press published Jack Kerouac’s lost, semi-autobiographical …Continue reading

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The 100th Issue: Letter from the Editors

We don’t normally reprint letters from the editor here, but on the eve of Issue No. 100’s publication date, we’d like to share with you our thoughts about the journal—why we think the work is important (and why its print format is essential), and where we hope to take it.  Dear Readers, Ours is an era of profligate noise. Content and images clamor for our attention at every turn, in every medium. Opinion masquerades as information; information floods our senses. Distractions abound. The cacophony is merciless, and rapid fire. At times it seems a literary journal may be hopelessly out …Continue reading

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In the Spring & Summer Issue

In our newest issue, we gather contributors past and recent: Rebecca Solnit’s “Grandmother Spider”: A meditation on the paintings of Ana Teresa Fernandez and the ways women are made to disappear from history. Daniel Handler’s “I Hate You”: The story of a souring young man at a birthday dinner with old friends in Oakland. (The party is over.) Elizabeth Tallent’s “Mendocino Fire”: The peripatetic life of a young female tree-sitter, raised, and perhaps forsaken, in the wilds of the forest. Katie Crouch’s “To Bloom, to Burst, to Blaze”: An essay on Sylvia Plath, and a haunting failure of friendship set …Continue reading

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The State of the Bracket

The NCAA’s Men’s Basketball Championship will be played next Monday. The field of sixty-four college teams has been whittled to four. Warren Buffet’s $1 billion bounty for correctly predicting the winner of each game in the tournament will go unclaimed. And for weeks, people asked—they had to ask—the question, How is your bracket? So, how are your brackets, dear ZYZZYVA friends and contributors? Kate Milliken: I’m offended by the question. Ben Greenman: The way this tournament has gone, the only way to look at brackets is philosophically. What is victory, really? What is loss? Who can say for certain that …Continue reading

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