Monthly Archives: August 2014

Green Shirt: ZYZZYVA No. 100

David L. Ulin is the book critic at the Los Angeles Times, as well as the author of the books The Myth of Solid Ground: Earthquakes, Prediction, and the Fault Line Between Reason and Faith and The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time, the novella Labyrinth, and the editor of the Library of America’s Writing Los Angeles: A Literary Anthology. He is also a ZYZZYVA contributing editor.

For the 100th issue, Ulin contributed “Green Shirt,” a riveting essay about (ostensibly) a deep-seated fear of flying and how the writer preps himself for boarding a plane. Erudite, roving, and surprising, “Green Shirt” touches upon Death Cab for Cutie and Elvis Costello, Kurt Vonnegut and Philip Roth, Gretel Ehrlich and Twiggy. “What are the rituals,” he writes toward the end, “… that contain us, even (or especially) if we cannot be contained? This is why stories are important; yes, they may be contradictions, but contradictions are what we have.”

The following is an excerpt from “Green Shirt.” The piece can be read in its entirety in the 100th issue, which you can get here.

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Hacks: ZYZZYVA No. 100

Jim Gavin, the author of the critically acclaimed story collection Middle Men (which was long-listed for the 2014 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize), first appeared in ZYZZYVA No. 63 (“Recommendation”). For the 100th issue, he contributed a hilarious piece of nonfiction, the stinging “Hacks.”

The story of Gavin’s stint as a young man in the world of community newspapers, “Hacks” recalls the grubby lifestyle that comes with being a grunt on the sports desk: attending endless high school meets, living off of Mountain Dew and Del Taco, working with colleagues who could stand a shower. But it is also an early glimpse into what the writing life can mean—a calling of shabby nobility, a difficult vocation in which one tries to “record and instill with grandeur the lives of people who will never be famous.”

The following is an excerpt from “Hacks.” You can read the piece in its entirety, of course, in the 100th issue, which can order here.

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Normal Problems: ZYZZYVA No. 100

Erika Recordon’s work first appeared in ZYZZYVA back in Issue No. 91 (Spring 2011), with the publication of two of her charmingly off-kilter yet genuinely serious stories, “Evolution” and “Our Brave Little Soldiers.” The elan that characterizes those short works is evident once again in her new (and much longer) story for our 100th issue, “Normal Problems.”

The tale—or perhaps even a fable?—of a woman trying to make her relationship work with a great guy who’s only fault is a long past as a serial killer (a literal “lady killer”), “Normal Problems” revels in dark humor. Incredibly, the story goes much deeper than this set up might lead one to believe is possible, freshly evoking the anxious rationalizations we make for wanting to stay with someone, for wanting to see what we so badly need to see.

 

The following is an excerpt from “Normal Problems,” which, of course, can be read in its entirety in Issue No. 100.

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The Pull of Another’s Obsession: ‘Preparing the Ghost’ by Matthew Gavin Frank

Matthew Gavin Frank retells the thrilling tale of the first photograph taken of a giant squid in Preparing the Ghost (Liveright; 282 pages). In his unique and captivating work, Frank incorporates memories from his own life with the unlikely story of Moses Harvey, the Newfoundland reverend who captured a giant squid on film in 1874. Among the personal threads Frank weaves throughout the book is that of his Poppa Dave, his maternal grandfather who was born prematurely and small, so was force-fed by his mother, eventually becoming a chronically obese and diabetic adult. As a grandfather,  “perhaps the sequence of …Continue reading

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We’re Going to Need More Than Bake Sales: Lewis Buzbee’s ‘Blackboard: A Personal History of the Classroom’

Lewis Buzbee uses his experiences in education—as student and professor—as the backbone for his newest book, Blackboard: A Personal History of the Classroom (Graywolf Press), which formulates a critique of the current state of the California public school system. The book is divided into two sections: “Orientation” and “Matriculation,” the first presenting us with the “simple” years—kindergarten to sixth grade—and the second focusing on seventh grade and beyond. Though each chapter is built upon Buzbee’s own experiences in each grade, the histories of the school system in the U.S.—such as the beginnings of kindergarten in 1837—as well as the histories …Continue reading

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