Monthly Archives: September 2017

L.A. Story: ‘Cake Time’ by Siel Ju

In 1985, Lorrie Moore announced her arrival on the literary scene with “How to be the Other Woman,” the provocative opening salvo that began her first story collection, Self-Help; she has since gone on to become one of the most revered voices in literary fiction. For writer Siel Ju (who appeared in ZYZZYVA No. 81) to start her novel-in-stories Cake Time (192 pages; Red Hen Press) with the similarly titled, and similarly told-in-second-person story “How Not to Have an Abortion” is a bold move, to say the least. Yet Siel Ju’s voice rings clear as her own, thanks in part …Continue reading

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

ZYZZYVA Interview Series: Ellen Ullman

Ellen Ullman wrote her first computer program in 1978. She went on to have a twenty-year career as a programmer and software engineer. Her essays and books have become landmark works describing the social, emotional, and personal effects of technology. She is the author of two novels: By Blood (published by Picador), a New York Times Notable Book; and The Bug (Picador), a runner-up for the Pen/Hemingway Award. Her memoir, Close to the Machine (Picador), about her life as a software engineer during the internet’s first rise, became a cult classic. Her new book, Life in Code: A Personal History of Technology (MCD), tells a continuing story of …Continue reading

Posted in Interviews | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Family in the Wild: ‘A Loving, Faithful Animal’ by Josephine Rowe

After the recent death of a beloved family pet, I was looking forward to reading something sweet and poignant. A Loving, Faithful Animal (Catapult; 176 pages) by Josephine Rowe promptly disabused me of any such hope. The titular loving, faithful animal is ripped to shreds in the first few pages. Rowe’s book, set in a small town in Australia, radiates with a sense of danger, but not in the expected ways; it’s not concerned with being wickedly subversive or delivering an emotional sucker-punch. It’s a family story, narrated in several parts by five family members. The premise is simple: an …Continue reading

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Last Man in the West: ‘A Texas Trilogy’ by Larry McMurtry

I once talked to Larry McMurtry on the telephone. I was doing a piece for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, pegged to Terms of Endearment, on why his works were so compulsively suitable for adaptation to the big (and little) screen – this was after Hud and The Last Picture Show, but before Lonesome Dove or Brokeback Mountain. I was getting nowhere trying to reach him, until a friend tipped me off that he was staying at the Beverly Wilshire with his son, on a stopover before a skiing trip. When I got connected to McMurtry’s room, and explained what …Continue reading

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Everything All the Time: ‘Life in Code: A Personal History of Technology’ by Ellen Ullman

Essays about the perils of the Internet are common, as are the many books hawking cynicism about the “Information Age,” the “iGeneration,” or start-up culture. But Ellen Ullman’s Life in Code: A Personal History of Technology (303 pages; MCD/FSG), stands above the pseudo–science crowd; she draws us into the world of computer programming from the inside, showing us what she’s learned since the beginning of the Internet. The memoir, comprised of some of Ullman’s previous essays as well as several new ones, is arranged somewhat chronologically (from 1992 to January 2017) and thematically as Ullman describes what her title suggests: …Continue reading

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ZYZZYVA Labor Day 2017 Playlist

We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming for the first ever ZYZZYVA Labor Day Playlist! Here you’ll find a series of songs our staff chose for their resonance in this fraught (and often emotionally exhausting) moment. Music is always an essential source of inspiration and solace, and these are some of the songs we’ll be listening to over this long weekend. We hope you may enjoy them, too, perhaps in the background of your holiday barbecue, or after the guests have departed when you’re left with some quiet moments of contemplation. And who knows, maybe we’ll have to make the ZYZZYVA …Continue reading

Posted in What We're Reading | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment