We don’t normally reprint letters from the editor here, but on the eve of Issue No. 100’s publication date, we’d like to share with you our thoughts about the journal—why we think the work is important (and why its print format is essential), and where we hope to take it.
Ours is an era of profligate noise. Content and images clamor for our attention at every turn, in every medium. Opinion masquerades as information; information floods our senses. Distractions abound. The cacophony is merciless, and rapid fire.
At times it seems a literary journal may be hopelessly out of step with contemporary culture. It is a radically unhip project; a gentle kind of counter-cultural movement. Yet our endeavor here at ZYZZYVA answers an urgent need in this time and place—and here in San Francisco, at the relentlessly energetic heart of technological innovation, we have a distinct perspective on that need. We risk becoming strangers to ourselves amid this noise. It is all too easy, too seductive, to succumb to a perpetually distracted state. We need a space for quiet, for reflection. We need room to recognize what is meaningful, to linger for a moment in quietude, in sadness, in uncertainty, in joy.
From our offices in downtown San Francisco, we believe we are producing a literary journal that provides such a space. Since we started in 1985, our offices have moved from one city locale to another, but our view on the world has always been, and will remain, a distinctly San Franciscan perspective. Fueled by all that our greatly diverse, culturally driven city has to offer—an international yet American community; a place of wealth and prospects as well as poverty and despondency; a marvel of natural beauty and a landscape of urban grit; comical and heart-rending, imperiled and brave—we embrace our mission: to publish art and literature that speaks to the deepest wells of life’s struggle and joy, that acknowledges the mysteries of existence and sifts for glorious moments of revelation.
So now, at 100 issues in, having persevered through many a difficult time and many a close call, our hope is to keep this journal thriving and vibrant for as long as we can. With your help, we will continue the project that our founding editor’s vision and labor began, and honor this unique institution, the inimitable publication that introduced readers to Haruki Murakami and Jim Gavin; the journal of Richard Diebenkorn and Sandow Birk; of Kay Ryan and Sherman Alexie, Raymond Carver and Adam Johnson, Wanda Coleman and Elizabeth Spencer.
In an environment crowded with dazzling and questionable new technologies, ZYZZYVA asserts the cerebral and tactile pleasures of reading, of holding a well-bound book in your hands, of losing—and finding—yourself in the pages of a story. We value the technology of print and the way words on a page remove us, if just for a moment, from more immediate interaction with the rest of the world, allowing an incomparable depth of concentration.
We assert the value of the solitary reader, communing with humanity through text, through literature; and we will continue to do our part in fostering a culture that brings writers and readers together, to convene in the same room and share ideas.
We hope you will join us in celebrating 100 issues of preeminent and daring literary publishing, of Pulitzer winners and poet laureates, of the finest contemporary minds and astonishing raw talent, and twenty-nine years of cultivating a cultural community around the arts and letters.
Laura Cogan and Oscar Villalon