Monthly Archives: September 2014

A Hard Swim Toward Redemeption: ‘Barracuda’ by Christos Tsiolkas

In Christos Tsiolkas’ new novel, Barracuda (429 pages; Hogarth Press), we get an enormous book with enormous themes, and a surprising narrative form featuring a protagonist who can be shockingly unlikeable. A contemporary Bildungsroman set amid a vast landscape of social and political issues, Barracuda nonetheless centers around one man—a sports hero—whose personal respect and dignity are what truly are at stake. Danny Kelly is a talented teenage swimmer from a working-class neighborhood outside of Melbourne. His life is uprooted once he enrolls in an elite private school (which he refers to as “Cunts College”) on a swimming scholarship. There …Continue reading

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Strange Folk Tales, Recognizable Troubles: ‘Walker on Water’ by Kristiina Ehin

Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water (88 pages; Unnamed Press), translated by Ilmar Lehtpere, marries magical realism with oral tradition to create modern folklore about the complexity of romantic relationships. Ehin is an award-winning Estonian poet, having authored six volumes of poetry as well as three story collections and a book retelling Estonian folk tales—all of which noticeably influence Walker on Water. Primarily, these stories remain in the realm of the magical: In the title story, the protagonist practices walking atop the sea while her husband is at work. He is the director of the Climate Change Monitoring Department at the …Continue reading

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ZYZZYVA in the 2014 Best American Series, Pushcart, and Best New Poets

The annual anthologies recognizing the best work among the hundreds of U.S. literary journals and magazines have once again been very kind toward ZYZZYVA. As we joyously reported on our Facebook page back in June, two marvelous works of fiction we published in 2013—marking the print debuts of young writers Daniel Tovrov and Rebecca Rukeyser—received major nods. Tovrov’s story “The News Cycle” (issue No. 99) will be appearing in the Pushcart Prize 2015 anthology, and Rukeyser’s story “The Chinese Barracks” (No. 97) will be included in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2014. Now we can add to that list Jacques …Continue reading

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The Twisting Paths of Survival: ‘Wolf in White Van’ by John Darnielle

Wolf in White Van (224 pages; Farrar, Straus & Giroux) marks a tremendous literary achievement by the artistically and lyrically inclined John Darnielle, guitarist and lead singer of the Mountain Goats. Darnielle is already praised for the writing in his songs, so his fans may not be surprised to see him succeed in his more literary pursuits. But the novel—given its complexity of craft, its deftness, and movement of prose—is not something to be taken for granted by anyone. In Wolf in White Van, we follow the life of Sean Phillips, who lives an isolated life due to an injury …Continue reading

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Writing the Novel as He Simultaneously Narrates It: Ben Lerner’s 10:04

Ben Lerner’s new novel, 10:04 (244 page; Faber and Faber), is at once nonfiction, fiction, and poetry, a rumination on the relation of the three, a work flickering in the liminal spaces among these forms. It asks of its readers that they allow the traditional structure of the novel—including the presence of plot—to momentarily leave center stage and that they make room for a form perhaps more engaging, one that sings “existential crisis!” Lerner, who is first and foremost a poet, is a writer’s writer. His first novel, Leaving the Atocha Station, came out to great acclaim in 2011. He …Continue reading

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In the Fall Issue

Issue No. 101 offers for your enjoyment more of the country’s finest stories, poetry, essays, and visual art: Vauhini Vara’s “We Were Here”: Betwixt the fancy turkey meatballs and Ava Gardner (no, not that one) dying down the hall, there exists in an apartment building all that could ever matter. Matt Sumell’s “Gift Horse”: Break into mom’s house, make sure you see Grams at her nursing home, and please, please try to keep it together. Soma Mei Sheng Frazier’s “Mr. Chompers”: Honey, the single mother asks her hypothetical husband, why can’t it be enough that her young daughter’s smart? Why …Continue reading

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