Monthly Archives: October 2015

‘Infelicities of Style’: 2015 Best American Essays Notable, Issue No. 102

Concluding the roster of work in ZYZZYVA that earned eleven Notables from the Best American series this year is Laura Esther Wolfson’s “Infelicities of Style”–one of five ZYZZYVA essays recognized as a Notable in the 2015 Best American Essays anthology. Wolfson tells the story of being a young stringer–a dance critic–for the local paper near her college. “Infelicities” is a mediation upon creating art, being excluded for one reason or the other from its creation, and a reckoning with the vagaries of fate.

Laura Esther Wolfson lives in New York City, where she works as a translator of Russian, French, and Spanish to English. Her writing has appeared in Bellingham Review, Gettysburg Review, The Rumpus, The Sun, and elsewhere; and has been repeatedly listed as Notable in Best American Essays. The following is an excerpt from “Infelicities of Style.”

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Far Off the Band: A Q&A with Scott Hutchins and Octavio Solis

I met Scott Hutchins and Octavio Solis at a writers conference in Pebble Beach, in the center of what must soon be on record as the longest summer in California’s long, hot history. Hutchins is the author of the novel A Working Theory of Love. He is a former Truman Capote fellow in the Wallace Stegner Program at Stanford University, where he currently teaches, and his work has appeared in Story Quarterly, Five Chapters, The Rumpus, the New York Times, Catamaran Literary Reader, and Esquire, among other places. And Solis is a playwright and director. His work has been mounted …Continue reading

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‘Traffic’: 2015 Best American Essays Notable, Issue No. 101

Jim Krusoe’s short but powerful “Traffic” is the second essay from Issue No. 101 to receive a Notable—in this case, from the 2015 Best American Essays anthology. In only four or so pages, Krusoe lays out a childhood memory and takes it apart, seeing clearly a truth about his parents (and a car accident involving a child) that he sensed but hadn’t articulated before.

Krusoe, who lives in Southern California, is the author of the novels “Parsifal” (Tin House), “Girl Factory” (Tin House) and “Iceland” (Dalkey Archive), as well as books of poetry and story collections. He is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund. The following is “Traffic” in its entirety.

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‘A Daughter’s Letter to Tamsen Donner’: 2015 Best American Nonrequired Reading Notable, Issue No. 101

Jill Logan’s essay, “A Daughter’s Letter to Tamsen Donner,” is one of two essays in Issue No. 101 recognized as a Notable by the Best American series this year—by the 2015 Best American Nonrequired Reading, to be exact. A conversation of sorts between Logan and one of the members of the ill-fated Donner Party, “A Daughter’s Letter” is a humorous but insightful meditation on family.

Logan, a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, has had fiction published in Meridian, Bellingham Review, Crazyhorse, Quarterly West, Michigan Quarterly Review, Cimarron Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Santa Cruz, where she is working on a novel and a short story collection about her native Oklahoma. The following is an excerpt of “A Daughter’s Letter to Tamsen Donner.”

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‘Bank Repos for Sale,’ 2015 Best American Short Stories & Best American Nonrequired Reading Notable, Issue No. 101

Elena Mauli Shapiro’s story “Bank Repos for Sale,” which appeared in Issue No. 101, accounts for two of the eleven Notables earned by our contributors from the Best American series this year—having been recognized by both Best American Short Stories and Best American Nonrequired Reading. It is a darkly comic story set in an America that, as its title suggest, couldn’t care less about a skyrocketing stock market or the newest app.

Shapiro is the author of two novels, “In the Red” and “13 rue Therese” (both published by Little, Brown). This is her second story published by ZYZZYVA. Her story “Commuting” was published in Issue No. 94. The following is an excerpt from “Bank Repos for Sale.”

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In the Face of Absurdity, Macro & Micro: ‘Cries for Help, Various’ by Padgett Powell

Of the various genres travestied by the entertainment industry, perhaps comedy has become the most befouled. With a few notable exceptions, inane millennial hi-jinx, “awkward” situations and encounters, and mundanely quirky characters flit across American television and computer screens with an unsurprising steadiness. In the face of this, a writer like Padgett Powell is of the greatest importance, as reminder of what comedy, specifically literary comedy, can be. Wry, strange, and with a sense of tragedy only partially concealed by the stories’ peculiar and surrealistic narratives, Cries for Help, Various (200 pages; Catapult) exhibit’s a comedy which is still in …Continue reading

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‘Hold On’: 2015 Best American Short Stories Notable, Issue No. 100

Scott O’Connor’s “Hold On” is the third work of fiction from our Issue No. 100 to be named a Notable in the 2015 Best American Short Stories anthology. It is a story that movingly probes a fear specific to anybody living near a fault zone (which, in the U.S., means anybody living anywhere on the West Coast): namely, having to endure what an earthquake can wreak.

Scott O’Connor is the author of the novels “Half World” (Simon & Schuster) and “Untouchable” (Tyrus Books), winner of a Barnes & Noble Discover Award, and the novella “Among Wolves.” He lives in Los Angeles. The following is an excerpt from “Hold On.”

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ZYZZYVA Interview Series: Lori Ostlund

Lori Ostlund (whose story “Clear as Cake” was published in ZYZZYVA No. 97) is the author of two books—the story collection “The Bigness of the World” (winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award, the Edmund White Award, and a California Book Award), and most recently, “After the Parade,” her first novel. Shortlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, “After the Parade” tells the mostly funny but also unhappy story of Aaron, a man who feels compelled to leave his older partner and stable life in New Mexico for a new start in San Francisco. As he teaches English to …Continue reading

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The ‘Choice’ Between Freedom & Security: ‘The Heart Goes Last’ by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood knows a thing or two million about the dystopian novel. Atwood’s latest, The Heart Goes Last (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday; 320 pages), begins familiarly: in the midst of a dire economic and social depression, a young couple chooses between freedom and chaos or comfort and constraint. As The Heart Goes Last develops, though, the form evolves from sociological study to fable. People and places turn out to not be what they seem, offering complexity but also dream-like distortions. Stan and Charmaine, the couple at the center, discover that the pressure for them to choose between good and bad, right …Continue reading

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‘The Dead Ones’: 2015 Best American Essays Notable, Issue No. 100

Edie Meidav’s essay “The Dead Ones” is one of three in our 100th issue to receive a Notable from the 2015 Best American Essays. (The others are Katie Crouch’s “To Bloom, to Burst, to Blaze” and David L. Ulin’s “Green Shirt,” which we’ll be excerpting soon.) In richly textured prose, Meidav relates a homecoming to Berkeley and the end of life of a beloved mentor. “Then the question remains: must we carry the hearts of everyone until our heart,” she writes, “like a ship crowded with the memory of those who have left, eventually also sinks like they all did?”
Edie Meidav is the author of the novels “The Far Field,” “Crawl Space,” “Lola, California,” and the novel-in-progress “Dogs of Cuba.” She is the recipient of a Lannan Fellowship, a Howard Fellowship, the Kafka Prize for Best Fiction by an American Woman, the Bard Fiction Prize and other citations, and she teaches in the UMass Amherst MFA program.
Her essay “Cuba+Kids-Water” appeared in Issue No. 95. The following is an excerpt from “The Dead Ones.”

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The Denial of What We Can Least Deny: ‘My Feelings’ by Nick Flynn

“Who / can tell me where I will fall next, where / the thorn will enter?” asks Nick Flynn in “Beads of Sweat,” a poem in his fourth poetry collection, My Feelings (Graywolf Press, 89 pages), which was released this summer. Placed early on in a six-part meditation on fatherhood, pain, and loss, the poem recalls the feeling of unknowability, the same feeling that even Moses encountered when he stared into the burning bush. “Up there he heard / a voice, When I speak you will know from where it comes / & you will turn into it.” Throughout My …Continue reading

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‘One Quarrel’: 2015 Best American Short Stories Notable, Issue No. 100

Three stories from our milestone Issue No. 100 received a Notable from the Best American Short Stories 2015 anthology. “One Quarrel” by Ron Carlson is one of them.

Ron Carlson is the co-director of the MFA Program in Writing (Fiction) at UC Irvine. He is the author of nearly a dozen books of fiction, most recently the novel “Return to Oakpine” (Penguin). His short stories have appeared in publications such as Esquire, Harpers, and Ploughshares. “One Quarrel,” his exquisitely evocative tale of young love set on a college campus in winter, showcases the craftsmanship for which Carlson has long been praised. This is the second story by Carlson published in ZYZZYVA to be named a Notable by the Best American Short Stories. His first was “Line from a Movie,” published in Issue No. 96.

The following is an excerpt from the story.

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