Author Archives: me

Interoffice Memorandum 2/15

Date: 15 February To: All Quest Industries Employees From: Judy Kemper, Vice President of Marketing Subj: Lost cardigan—please help! I seem to have misplaced a very important sweater and I’m almost certain I left it here in the office this past Friday. If you have seen my lime green Laura Ashley cardigan, size M, with pearl buttons, a small-to-medium gravy stain on one sleeve (left), and one frayed cuff (right), please tell me where you spotted it, and if this information leads to its recovery, I promise to give you a reward of your choosing, up to $10 in value. …Continue reading

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Strength of Kindness & Reason: Q&A with ‘Winter Kept Us Warm’ Author Anne Raeff

San Francisco writer Anne Raeff’s new novel, Winter Kept Us Warm’’ (304 pages; Counterpoint Press), officially out next Tuesday, is an ambitious, multi-generational tale that deals with the interlocking lives of three characters—Ulli, Leo, and Isaac—who meet in Berlin shortly after World War II has ended. A departure of sorts from Raeff’s 2015 story collection, The Jungle Around Us, winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, it shares a similar interest in the complexities of character, motive, and human nature, albeit on a different palette. (In a coincidence of fate, Raeff’s wife, Lori Ostlund, previously won the O’Connor …Continue reading

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Now & at the Hour of Our Death: Q&A with ‘The Immortalist’ Author Chloe Benjamin

I refuse, as a rule, to consult all fortunetellers, palm-readers, and tarot-card diviners. I won’t so much as glance at a horoscope; routinely, I forget what my own astrological sign might be. It’s not so much that I believe or disbelieve in what a fortuneteller might have to tell me, but that I distrust myself, not knowing how my future behavior might change in response to what any would-be oracle has to say. Chloe Benjamin’s second, much-lauded novel, The Immortalists (352 pages; Putnam), follows four siblings who, as children, go to a fortuneteller to learn when they’ll die. Afterward, tensions …Continue reading

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The Demands of Story: Q&A with ‘Outside Is the Ocean’ Author Matthew Lansburgh

In 2011, I was living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where I spent two years as the Kenan Visiting Writer shortly after the release of my first book, a story collection. One of these stories, “Bed Death,” appeared in the PEN/O.Henry Prize Stories, and it was this publication that led to my meeting Matthew Lansburgh. He sent me an email after reading it, and we struck up a friendship. In 2012, I moved back to San Francisco, and during a quick trip to New York in 2015, I finally met Matthew; we spent two days together, during which time he …Continue reading

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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

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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

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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

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Become a Member-Level Donor and Get a Copy of Fred Lyon’s ‘San Francisco Noir’

If you make a Member-level donation of $100 to ZYZZYVA before the end of the year, do we have a nice surprise for you. We’ll send you a copy of acclaimed photographer Fred Lyon’s gorgeous San Francisco Noir, published by Princeton Architectural Press, for free. But we have a limited supply of books, so don’t delay! Just enter SFNOIR in the “Write a note” field on the donation page to receive your copy. All of our Member-level donors also get a complimentary four-issue subscription to ZYZZYVA and have their generosity acknowledged by name in both the journal and on our website. …Continue reading

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Get a Subscription to ZYZZYVA, New England Review, & Rain Taxi for Just $70

This holiday season treat yourself or somebody you know to a year’s worth of acclaimed writing from three of the country’s best journals—for one low price. We’re teaming up with NER and Rain Taxi to offer our readers what we think is a deal too good to refuse. All year you’ll get prose and poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and reviews and essays from prestigious journals located on the West Coast, the East Coast, and in the Midwest—giving you a rich sense of the work being produced across the country. All for just $70. This offer expires December 22. So order now!

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A Delicious Cocktail of Topics, Tones: ‘In the Shape of a Human Body I Am Visiting the Earth: Poems from Far and Wide’

Because I love poetry, I always open a new book with some trepidation. I so much want it to be good, to be transformative, and as I turn to the first page I brace for disappointment. But from its intriguing title to its diminutive footprint In the Shape of a Human Body I Am Visiting the Earth: Poems from Far and Wide (McSweeney’s; 184 pages) sparkles. Honed from the archives of Poetry International by a trio of editors (Ilya Kaminski, Dominic Luxford, and Jesse Nathan), the poems span centuries and countries. Poets range from standbys such as Baudelaire, Celan, Neruda, …Continue reading

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The Great Blank at the Center of It All: ‘theMystery.doc’ by Matthew McIntosh

On page after page of Matthew McIntosh’s theMystery.doc (Grove Press), redactions black out key words, crucial questions, and even whole sections of text. I don’t know how far I had gotten through the 1,660-page novel before I stopped expecting the eventual, climactic unveiling of the hidden words, the code-break that would deliver me from all my head-scratching. Surely, it was hundreds of pages after the flip-book sequence that begins on Page 73 with a voice shouting, “>HEY” (flip page) “>DO YOU THINK YOUR SAVIORS COMING BACK” (flip page) “>WHATS HE LOST DOWN HERE”—before I stopped looking for whatever it was …Continue reading

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Frost Bit

Some say the world will end in fire, Some say Vanilla Ice From what I’ve tasted of desire, I’m thinking of a funeral pyre. But if you had to ask me twice, I’d throw the dice. Bring Kid Rock over for a round or two, Burn one or two or three or four, Look out for lice. Watch the backyard Barbecue glow. Orange in the night. Let’s do it twice.

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