Monthly Archives: November 2016

Donald Trump Reviews Ingmar Bergman’s ‘The Seventh Seal’

Stars: 10/10 Bergman. You know, people said he wasn’t as good as Dreyer. They said it. They said he couldn’t do it. He did it, though. He really went and did it. I mean, people are worried about death. Capital-D Death. They want answers, they’re dying, they’re not happy. So this guy, big handsome-looking Norwegian guy, European guy, you know, he plays chess with Death. Death doesn’t know what to do, he’s like, “I’ve never seen anything like this before.” It’s true, folks. Never before—no one’s ever seen this before. They keep playing, they’re on a beach, it’s great. There’s …Continue reading

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In the Winter Issue

Our Winter issue features fiction, nonfiction, and poetry: “Throwback Thursday” by Joshua Mohr: online, it’s the appearance of happiness that matters most. “Revision” by Mar Colón-Margolies: on assignment covering Texas’s abortion laws, a journalist considers the line between his humanity and his profession. “Wild Kingdom” and “World Away” by Octavio Solis: the tenacity of adolescent memories reveal themselves in a father’s explosive anger and in a school production of “The Diary of Anne Frank.” “Operator, Information” by Glen David Gold: picking up from Issue No. 100’s “The Plush Cocoon,” we offer another installment from Gold’s forthcoming three-volume memoir. “Flood Control,” …Continue reading

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The Push and Pull of Forming an Identity: ‘Swing Time’ by Zadie Smith

If it weren’t for the prologue in Zadie Smith’s new novel, Swing Time (464 pages; Penguin Press), a reader might be confounded by the many undulations the narrative takes as it kicks off in the present then looks back upon a past traumatic incident, excavating it. What could have been off-putting proves to be an adventure zig-zagging from public housing to brownstones, from England to Senegal, from 1982 to 2008, filling in the gaps in time and place and creating a definitive arc, albeit one completely warped. Relationships, and the action that subsequently alters them, form the novel’s backbone, cementing the nonlinear …Continue reading

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Obsessions: Authoritarian Kitsch

I am strongly drawn to Camp, and almost as strongly offended by it. —Susan Sontag, from her essay “Notes on Camp’” (1964) Charles Bronson steps away from the dinner table, a Norman Rockwell tableau of elderly friends, gravy boats, and stuffed cabbage. He folds his napkin and politely excuses himself. On the street below, he discovers two gang members removing the stereo from his Cadillac Seville, a vehicle he bought several scenes earlier for the express purpose of enticing criminals. After a brief exchange with the thieves, one remarks, “We’re stealin’ the fuckin’ car, what’s it to you?” Bronson retorts, …Continue reading

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Where to Donate Your Abilities: A Sampling of Bay Area Community Organizations

These are difficult days for writers, editors, teachers, and intellectuals of all kinds. Faced with fresh evidence of Auden’s claim that “poetry does nothing,” in the persona of President-elect Donald Trump, the temptation we face is to turn toward despair and disengagement. Yet this is the time we were made for. Now we must help each other to find our voices in the public sphere. What we’ve found to be helpful is combining our abilities—as storytellers, witnesses, and listeners—with a community commitment. The Bay Area has a surfeit of both literary talent and social justice work. The local organizations we’ve …Continue reading

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Solidarity: A Letter from the Editors

Friends, In general, we keep partisanship and day-to-day politics out of the journal. We hope we can provide a space for thoughtful contemplation of all aspects of contemporary life through art—a way of thinking which, while engaged with the political, is not political in its mode and does its work well outside the 24-hour news-cycle. But we are now compelled to speak to you directly about this election. On November 8, this nation succumbed to the greatest threat that faces any democracy: that a sizable number of its people may find democracy itself—with all its imperfections—too unpalatable, and choose instead …Continue reading

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Finding in Music What Language Lacks: ‘A Greater Music’ by Bae Suah

Communication, or a lack thereof, is front and center in A Greater Music, (128 pages; Open Letter Books; translated by Deborah Smith) Bae Suah’s latest novel to come out in English. Our music-loving narrator is an unnamed Korean woman living on and off in Berlin and Korea, struggling to learn German. Her difficulties in the structure and rigor of academia are documented throughout, up until she meets M, an unconventional tutor who teaches with wild disregard of basic grammar and syntax in favor of a higher learning and exchange of ideas. Presented near the novel’s conclusion is their initial meeting. …Continue reading

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ZYZZYVA Interview Series: Patrick Hoffman

Patrick Hoffman was born in San Francisco, where for a decade he worked as both a private investigator and an investigator for the Public Defender’s Office. His first novel, The White Van, was a finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award and was named a Wall Street Journal best book of the year. His new novel is Every Man a Menace, which Kirkus, in its starred review, called “a nasty tour de force” and a “strong and original addition to the crime fiction genre.” Hoffman spoke to ZYZZYVA Managing Editor Oscar Villalon about his new book at the Booksmith …Continue reading

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Possession of the Wheel: ‘The Red Car’ by Marcy Dermansky

Marcy Dermansky’s newest novel, The Red Car (206 pages, Liveright/Norton), moves much like the car it features: fast and unpredictable. It covers three stages and sixteen years of narrator Leah Kaplan’s life, beginning with her as a college freshman, then leading to her bumbling entry into adulthood, and finishing with her early thirties, when she’s a writer living in Queens with a possessive husband whom she does not love. Through it all Leah is a mess of contradictions; sexually open though terrified of affection, in earnest pursuit of her dreams but displaying a tendency for self-sabotage, “floating in unexplainable melancholy” …Continue reading

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