Monthly Archives: January 2018

An Ideal Citizen: ‘The Accusation: Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea’ by Bandi

The cover of The Accusation: Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea (248 pages; Grove Press) boasts a brightly colored piece of North Korean propaganda featuring six luminous, smiling faces. The seven stories in the collection, however, offer something very different: heart-wrenching accounts of a brutal life inside the country’s borders. The Accusation’s journey to publication is miraculous in itself. Its author, Bandi (a pseudonym meaning “firefly”), smuggled his manuscript out of the country with the help of a defecting family member. For more than four years, he secretly wrote the manuscript, entirely in pencil, and remains in North Korea where …Continue reading

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

Interoffice Memorandum 1/15

Date: ​January ​15​ To: All Quest Industries Employees From: Mid-Level Management Subj: Live Plant Policies in the Office A short note on office policy regarding potted plants and floral bouquets: a) If you enjoy the company of a potted plant on your desk, please water it as needed in order to keep it from becoming an unsightly and dispiriting brown heap of tendrils, leaves, stalks, stems, pistils, stamens, husks, pods, and/or roots. b) If you have received a bouquet and are keeping it at your desk, please do not, under any circumstances, balance it on the edge of your cubicle wall where it will inevitably be bumped and dislodged by a passing coworker and …Continue reading

Posted in Fiction | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Future Shock: ‘The Transition’ by Luke Kennard

With frequent moments of insightful social commentary, Luke Kennard’s first novel, The Transition (328 pages; FSG), takes us to an exaggerated version of our current society—a dystopian world of recognizable stress. Karl and Genevieve are both university-educated and hold decent jobs. Genevieve works as a teacher, and Karl has a dubious career as a fake product reviewer and ghostwriter for lazy college students who can afford his services. In the first few pages of the novel, we learn things have gotten to the point where the “average age of leaving the parental home drifted into the early forties.” At the …Continue reading

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

Letting the Light in: ‘Recent Changes in the Vernacular’ by Tony Hoagland

Tony Hoagland, like Jack Spicer, is a master of wielding the needle of irony to inject you with the pain of being an aware human being. (Re-reading Spicer’s letters to Graham Macintosh in the July 1970 issue of Caterpillar reminded me of their shared sensibility.) Hoagland has a particular ability to pinpoint the ills and contradictions of the American psychic landscape using deadly serious humor. This was already evident in poems such as “Hard Rain,” “Dickhead,” “Foodcourt,” “At the Galleria Shopping Mall,” and “America.” Perhaps no one else in the contemporary poetry landscape creates such pitch-perfect expositions of our national …Continue reading

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

Creating Tintypes at the Skate Park: Q&A with Photographer Jenny Sampson

Using an anachronistic 4×5 view camera—the kind where the photographer stands draped under a dark cloth—Jenny Sampson has been steadily creating tin-type portraits of skateboarders she encounters at local skate parks, mainly in California, Oregon, and Washington. The resulting portraits are beguilingly fraught with melancholy atmospherics, their distressed tactility an implicit rebuke to the sterile, antiseptic images saturating daily life in a digital age. (Several such tin-types were recently featured in ZYZZYVA No. 111.) Sampson’s practice has allowed her to meaningfully engage with the skaters themselves, and obliquely teach them a bit about her antique photographic technique. (Paradoxically, the process …Continue reading

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

Truth in a Glass: ‘The Wine Lover’s Daughter’ by Anne Fadiman

In The Wine Lover’s Daughter: A Memoir (272 pages; FSG), Anne Fadiman, the author of Ex Libris, At Large and Small: Familiar Essays, and, most notably, her prize winning work of nonfiction, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, writes about her famous father, Clifton, or Kip, Fadiman. She centers her memoir, her first book in ten years, around her father’s love of wine, a love affair that begins on his first trip to Paris with an inexpensive bottle of white Graves. Although Kip Fadiman’s love of wine was sincere—he found pleasure in the taste and complexities of wine, …Continue reading

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

‘Still Life with Cacography’ by Dean Rader: ZYZZYVA No. 111, Winter Issue

  Dean Rader is a professor of English at the University of San Francisco. His most recent poetry collections are “Self-Portrait as Wikipedia Entry” (Copper Canyon Press) and “Suture” (Black Lawrence), written with Simone Muench. You can see him in conversation with other ZYZZYVA contributors tomorrow at East Bay Booksellers. Two of Rader’s poems are featured in ZYZZYVA No. 111. Presented here in its entirety is the poem “Still Life with Cacography”: “If some of those wonderful people had guns strapped right here— right to their waist or right to their ankle—and one of the people in that room happened to have …Continue reading

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

‘Understanding, Misunderstanding, and then Sitting Down to Write’ by Andrew Tonkovich: ZYZZYVA, No. 111

Andrew Tonkovich is the co-editor of the anthology “Orange County: A Literary Field Guide,” published by Heyday, and editor of the Santa Monica Review. To ring in the new year, we’re presenting in its entirety his essay “Understanding, Misunderstanding, and then Sitting Down to Write” from ZYZZYVA No. 111:  The following is an edited version of the closing talk given at the Community of Writers Workshop at Squaw Valley in July, 2017.  “I live in terror of not being misunderstood.” —Oscar Wilde I’m proud of at least the title of this talk, and the epigraph. If the rest of it falls …Continue reading

Posted in Excerpts | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment