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‘On the Road’ by Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch: ZYZZYVA No. 105, Spring

The thing you’d think she would’ve been good at
was sitting still but Madame Tussaud
spent thirty-six years touring the country
in a horse-drawn cart packed with wax
effigies of the nearly-dead, the long-dead
and those whose heads were freshly off the block.
Hers was both travelling newspaper and a show
whose cast stayed motionless at all her gigs. Alone
but for her set of replicas jolting at every pothole,

she’d take each face between her hands
and kiss it sweet goodnight in Leicester, Sheffield,
Inverness, give talks on wax: the facts
(don’t model outside). For those who’d fallen
out of favor she’d chisel off their heads.
In Marylebone Road right now people are
standing in lines to pay to file past people standing in lines
who’ve been dead for years but made to look alive.
To make the dead appear living, the living dead

without quite meaning to, is a skill I cannot
yet take in and one that started life in death
masks where she’d reanimate the guillotined.
Before you go, did you know Madame herself
was shipwrecked once off the west of Ireland
and all her wax companions dived wide-eyed
to the seabed only to pop to the surface one
by one when the vessel rotted away and startle
the fish who’d thought this lot already dead?

Order your copy of Issue No. 106 here.

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In the Spring/Summer Issue

Issue No. 106 offers for your enjoyment more of the country’s finest stories, poetry, essays, and visual art:

Ariel Dorfman’s “Amboise”: A long-time couple’s trip to France, in which perhaps only one of them will return from.

Soma Mei Sheng Frazier’s “Clutter”: A riot of memories and thoughts pulls a stroke victim through the past and the present.

Lou Mathew’s “Last Dance”: Can a widower find it in himself to grant his annoying neighbor (who makes a mean tamale) a beseeched courtesy?

Ashley Nelson Levy’s “Auntie”: A teen daughter makes room in more ways than one for her mother’s dying friend.

And introducing our newest feature: author interviews and profiles. We begin with John Freeman on poet Kay Ryan.

Plus, nonfiction from Rivka Galchen (on ronin, Keanu Reeves, and having a newborn) and Andrew D. Cohen (Hemingway on the way to dropping off the kids at school), and fiction from Dallas Woodburn, Gregory Spatz, Ron Carlson, and the late Alan Cheuse (“The Burden”: on a boy’s first acquaintance with hard liquor).

Also, work from artists Stephen Albair and Jonathon Keats, and poetry from Ruth Madievsky, Paul Wilner, David Hernandez, Jeff Ewing, Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch, and First Time in Print writer Etan Nechin.

You can get a copy of No. 106 here, or order a subscription to ZYZZYVA and we’ll start you off by shipping you the Spring/Summer issue.

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ZYZZYVA Interview Series: Tom Bissell

Tom Bissell (whose story “Love Story, With Cocaine” appeared in ZYZZYVA No. 92) is the award-winning author of several books, including the story collection God Lives in St. Petersburg, the memoir The Father of All Things, the essay collection Magic Hours, and Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter. His newest book is Apostle: Travels Among the Tombs of the Twelve (Pantheon). Kirkus (in a starred review) described Apostle as a “rich, contentious, and challenging book …  a deep dive into the heart of the New Testament, crossing continents and cross-referencing texts.”

ZYZZYVA Managing Editor Oscar Villalon spoke with Bissell about his new book at Green Apple Books in the Park in San Francisco in mid-March.

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ZYZZYVA Interview Series: David L. Ulin & Gary Kamiya

David L. Ulin (whose work has appeared in ZYZZYVA Issues No. 100 and 104) is the author or editor of eight previous books, including The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time and the Library of America’s Writing Los Angeles: A Literary Anthology, which won a California Book Award. A 2015 Guggenheim Fellow, he is the former book critic of the Los Angeles Times.

ZYZZYVA Managing Editor Oscar Villalon, along with Gary Kamiya—executive editor of San Francisco Magazine and author of Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco—discussed Ulin’s latest book, Sidewalking: Coming to Terms with Los Angeles (University of California Press), at the Mechanics’s Institute in San Francisco in January. The conversation explored how we understand cities, what makes a place “authentic,” and the similarities between Los Angeles and San Francisco—two major cities in a state of flux.

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Lucia Berlin: The Art of Phantom Pain

Lucia Berlin (photo by Buddy Berlin)

Lucia Berlin (photo by Buddy Berlin)

I met Lucia Berlin in 1977, the year her first small book appeared, but it wasn’t till I published her collection Phantom Pain that we became great friends (Tombouctou Books, Bolinas, 1984).

Lucia was working at Alta Bates Hospital then, in Berkeley, at the switchboard and in the waiting rooms. Hospital work suited her. She was interested in extremities, in gossip, in contrary people with serious complaints, who also felt relieved to be alive. It was hard, low-paying work. She would have preferred to be writing, but she almost never said so. She did produce several new hospital stories (“Emergency Room Notebook”, “My Jockey,” “Private Branch Exchange,” “Temps Perdu,”) during this time. I imagine her composing them at night and on the weekends, and then stealing time at work to edit. We often spoke of stealing time, as though it were a necessary concomitant of creation. All but one of these pieces went into the new book of 15 stories and a play.

The title, Phantom Pain, refers to the haunting ache an amputee feels for a missing limb. The phrase neatly sums up Lucia’s work for me. Many of her best stories transform life’s fleetingness and loss into deeply felt—yet comedic—memories, more real than life, without coloration or emotional distortion. The haunting ache they deliver to the reader is tempered by tenderness and bemusement. Her style may appear to be offhand, an accretion of detail. It is anything but.

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‘Chumship’ by Kristopher Jansma: ZYZZYVA No. 105, Winter 2015

billboard_latestissue_cover_16winter_largeThe first thing he ever told me was that Clark wasn’t his real name. They’d stuck him with his father’s name, but the minute he turned eighteen he’d be changing it officially from “James.” In the meantime, he wanted everyone to call him Clark. He’d explained this to everyone in a short essay he read aloud on the first day of Adventures for Young Writers, our weeklong summer camp, held at the local community college. That summer I had already done Model Rocket Engineering, Soccer II, Ocean Exploration, and “I’ll See You in Court!” Adventures for Young Writers was my favorite; I took it every summer, and all year looked forward to the hours I’d spend counting sestina syllables, making up short stories, and banging away on the word processors at the typing lab.

Clark and his friend Sam were the only other boys in the group that year, and we sat together at lunch without any prior agreement. Sam was pudgy and short, with a bowl of straw-colored hair that was too long in the front. Clark was something else altogether. My height, with a cleft chin and a constant smirk. He wore khakis, a braided brown belt, penny loafers, and a pastel green polo shirt. Even when we weren’t writing, he gripped a black pen in one hand—a gesture of admiration, I’d later learn in another essay, for then-presidential-candidate Bob Dole. He and Sam were a year younger than me, about to enter the eighth grade a few towns over. We had no friends in common outside of camp, which wasn’t surprising; none of us had many friends to begin with.

When I joined them at the cafeteria table, they seemed to be playing some kind of game: casually eyeing a nearby table of older girls, sporty types, with ponytails and headbands.

“They’re Bulgarians,” Sam whispered.

How did he know? They were speaking English, I pointed out.

“They’re Bulgarian spies,” Clark answered. “Pay close attention.” Without staring, I tried, but could pinpoint nothing especially suspicious or Eastern European about them.

“You see it, right?” he asked.

I nodded.

 

Every day Clark typed up a short, one page humor piece, “Clark Talks Back,” with great care given to the choice of fonts, borders, and clip art available in Word Perfect. These were short observational pieces, somewhere between a Dave Barry column and a Letterman monologue.

There’s a sharp new look in Freehold County fashion these days, namely the Enormously Baggy Pants, which as we speak are sweeping the floors of the mall for free and getting caught in the revolving glass doors at the main entrance. At any time of day now you will be sure to find two or three clueless teenagers stuck inside, perplexed as to how this “totally whack” situation has occurred. While it is inconvenient for the rest of us to have to use the regular doors now, many find they enjoy getting the chance to play Boxer Short Bingo, by keeping track of the different colors of underwear hanging out of the backs of these pants, which can be seen as you pass by on your shopping trip. Try to find all seven colors in the rainbow!

Before the Bulgarian Spy incident, I’d never have expected Clark’s sense of humor to run in this direction. He was always so stiff, so polite to both the teachers and the other students. But on the page he was a whole other person.

“What’s up?” You surely know that this is a typical greeting these days in the halls of William McKinley Middle School, but what you may not know is that the question is meant sincerely. Most young people these days are unable to look in a skyward direction anymore, because they are so concerned about tripping over the hems of their long pants, or their unlaced high tops, and so are forced to ask each other constantly for information about anything going on above their exposed navels…

There were certain themes to which he’d often return. Girls wore too much makeup. The English language was generally imperiled. Rap music and Ren and Stimpy were racing to bring about the end of civilization. Newer, edgier superheroes like Spawn and Hellboy would never, in a million years, be better than Superman. I’d assumed these ideas must be trickling down from his parents, but when I began spending most of my Saturdays at his house, I discovered he had little in common with either of them. His much-hated father was a bristle-mustached ex-Marine, now a well-paid contractor for the DOD. I never heard him speak, not to me or to his son. His mother was an indulgent, lovely woman, always eager to drive us to the nearby mall. By the end of the summer, Clark and I were getting together nearly every weekend and speaking on the phone most weeknights. Together we wrote six episodes of a sitcom, featuring ourselves as middle-age men, bantering like Seinfeld and Costanza. He sent the pilot to ABC studios and was baffled when, a few weeks later, we received a form letter saying that they did not consider unsolicited material.

Everything about Clark said that he did not want to be fourteen, but forty-five. He loved The Beatles (pre-Revolver only) and believed Nintendo rotted your brain. He intended someday to become either the President of the United States or the host of The Tonight Show. One night as we talked on the phone while watching Letterman, he grew quiet. “I just realized we’re going to live to see that man die. I don’t know if I can take that.” I’d never met anyone like him before.

 

Clark had an imaginary girlfriend named Caroline. He’d confided this to me just a few days after our friendship began.

“Look,” he said, “It’s a fact. If you’ve never dated anyone before, girls think you’re a loser, so they won’t go out with you. So what are you supposed to do?”

This felt accurate, given my experiences thus far with Miranda, a girl at school that I adored, but who only spoke to me when she and her boyfriend, Junior, were broken up. This happened two or three times a month, but my intermittent heartbreak-counseling didn’t seem to be getting me any closer to earning the boyfriend spot myself.

“Tell her you’re dating someone else,” Clark advised. “She’ll be all over you.”

He opened a WordPerfect document where, in a cornflower-blue font, he had collected every detail pertaining to his imaginary true love. He and Caroline had met the summer before, in Maine, where her family had a summer house on Frenchman’s Bay and where he’d been visiting family friends one weekend. He’d seen her from some distance—across a rocky shoreline—a vision with curly blond hair, pink shorts, and matching jellies. Later he’d seen her again at the Mount Desert Ice Cream shop. A big scoop of her rocky road had fallen onto the sidewalk. He’d marched over and bought her a new cone. The next day they had played chess on her beach blanket (which had the New Kids on the Block on it). She had a cold and her nose was red. She wiped it with Kleenex Ultra-Soft Tissues. Her younger sister, Patty, was a brat. Her parents, Wilfred and Alice, co-owned a nearby lumber mill. He knew their ages, descriptions, Alice’s maiden name, etc. Caroline wanted to be an AIDS researcher in either Phoenix or Toronto. She used a Wild Basil & Lime-scented hand cream. They’d had their first kiss at sunset on July 17 the previous summer and it had lasted four minutes and nineteen seconds. All that was just page one of nineteen, and he updated the file each time he mentioned a new detail so that he’d never be tripped up in a lie. Clark carried around several letters “she” had written, in case anyone seemed doubtful.

Working off of Clark’s template, I spent hours writing up my own girlfriend, basically Miranda but nicer, only I never showed it to anyone besides him or pretended she was real. While I felt Clark’s plan was ingenious, I knew it would never work for me. I was a terrible liar. I blushed, stammered, stared at the ceiling. Time and time again I saw him con people with a perfectly straight face. We’d spend an entire afternoon at the food court just watching girls walking by, debating their cuteness with the precision and discernment of antique dealers. Then when his mother came to pick us up, he’d tell her we’d seen a movie. On the spot he’d make up a whole film. Once, I remember, we’d seen White Bread, starring Kevin Costner as a single dad named “Pete Bread,” and something happened involving his son’s science fair experiment and he’d become transparent.

There’s a word in one of my older dictionaries, which isn’t in my newer ones. “Chumship: the condition or relation of a chum or chums.” Coined in the early 1830s, its usage peaked in the 1920s and then declined until it was revived by psychologists in the ’80s, who considered it to be an important stage in early adolescent development. That first friend with whom one could frankly discuss adult matters without embarrassment. It was to Clark that I divulged my daydream of swimming with Miranda in a pool filled with hot fudge (but not, obviously, that hot). To me, Clark confided about a time he’d seen a pornographic movie called Carnal Encounters 2 late one night at a friend’s house, and how this guy had started jerking off right in front of him, and how Clark had walked back home in the dark and never spoken to the boy again. We borrowed a pair of binoculars from his father’s closet and used them to gaze across his yard toward the house of a girl named Zoe, very popular in his grade. She was just his type: dressing modestly, beautiful with no need for makeup, and the top student in their English class. She wanted to become a lawyer and work for Amnesty International. We studied her yearbook photo each weekend, and the curve of Zoe’s brown bobbed hair sometimes forced Clark to have to lie down on the floor until his heartache passed. We wrote her into our sitcom, as Clark’s future wife. They had three kids. He knew all their names, and ages, and so forth.

Imagine, then, the earth-shattering excitement one day when he told me over the phone that he’d heard a rumor that Zoe liked him.

“Who said?” I asked. We each had the same Seinfeld rerun on in the background. Usually the rule was no conversation until the commercial break, but this was an emergency.

“Zoe’s best friend Kristen. She was talking to Nikki.”

The three of them were allegedly inseparable.

“But here’s the problem,” Clark said with concern. “This is all according to Sam.”

Sam refused to accept that he and Clark weren’t friends anymore. Clark still called him sometimes because Sam still believed anything he said, and at times like this it was helpful having a henchman at school. Still, he’d often tell me about various-size whoppers that Sam had swallowed. He was always convincing him to do or say embarrassing things.

For hours we debated ways of verifying Sam’s intel. Could Clark buy a red Mead notebook like the one Zoe used, and swap them during Art class, so he could look to see if she had written his name inside anywhere? Or could he sneak into a stall in the girl’s bathroom just before the third period break, when Zoe, Kristen, and Nikki were known to congregate there? Ultimately, I can’t remember what we settled on, only that Sam was employed as some sort of fall guy and that we did get the confirmation we’d been looking for—only it didn’t matter, because Clark’s plan soon turned out to have one unanticipated wrinkle.

In our zeal we had forgotten one thing.

Caroline.

Read the rest of “Chumship.” Get ZYZZYVA No. 105!

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The Poison of a Long Imprisonment: Liu Xia’s ‘Empty Chairs’

9781555977252Loneliness is palpable among the stark emotions of Beijing artist and poet Liu Xia’s Empty Chairs: Selected Poems (Graywolf Press, 118 pages), The collection, translated from the Chinese by Ming Di and Jennifer Stern, spans from 1983 to 2013, and shudders under the weight of political and psychological violence: the 1989 Tiananmen massacre; the multiple (and current) imprisonments of Liu Xia’s husband, poet and activist Liu Xiaobo; the eleven-year sentence of her younger brother, Liu Hui. At the center of these circumstances sits Liu Xia, who has been living under strict house arrest since her husband received the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. Despite the state’s vast stronghold over the lives depicted in her poems, Liu Xia’s writing occupies a uniquely bitter, interior space—an investigation into madness and its characters rather than into political players. Empty Chairs is a book about the objects that remain when companionship is stripped away, about the fight to keep a body relevant when faced with “無”—without; lack.

Empty Chairs moves through three decades of poetry chronologically, with the month and year noted after each last stanza. The chronology allows us to experience Liu Xia’s obsessions in an ever-present past. In “Poison” she writes, “Van Gogh’s ear sends me an urgent message / that the earth is about to collapse…the weather forecast on TV / and Kafka’s crazy eyes.” We follow her repeated yearnings for “the bird” that always escapes her; there are skeletons, the dead eyes of children, and anthropomorphic dolls. These allusions and images confuse our sense of the real as we watch them focus into almost tangible characters within the walls of Liu Xia’s home. They become her company, offering her quietude in their humor, crudeness, and believability. “You have a strange pet,” she writes in “Transformed Creature,” “…When you’re alone, / it will lie in your lap, / preoccupied.” But the images often become nauseating in their darkness when we realize the picture of madness the objects describe.

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ZYZZYVA Interview Series: Dean Rader

Dean Rader (whose poetry has been published in ZYZZYVA Issues No. 93 , 98 & 101) is the author of several books, including the poetry collections Works & Days (winner of the 2010 T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize), Landscape Portrait Figure Form, which was named by the Barnes & Noble Review as one of the Best Poetry Books of 2013, and the forthcoming Self-Portrait as Wikipedia Entry, to be published in 2016 by Copper Canyon Press.

ZYZZYVA Managing Editor Oscar Villalon talked to Rader about what makes for a “successful” poem, how his work has come to be shaped, the attraction of sports (particularly basketball and the Golden State Warriors), and his path toward becoming a professor.

To hear Dean Rader read two of his poems, one of which written for the occasion of ZYZZYVA’s 30th Anniversary fundraising party earlier this year, click on “Continued Reading” below.

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On Concluding Our 30th Anniversary: Letter From the Editor: Issue No. 105

billboard_latestissue_cover_16winter_largeDear Reader,

In 1946, Lionel Trilling penned a barbed sort of defense of “little magazines”:

“They are snickered at and snubbed, sometimes deservedly, and no one would venture to say in a precise way just what effect they have—except that they keep the new talents warm until the commercial publisher with his customary air of noble resolution is ready to take his chance, except that they make the official representatives of literature a little uneasy, except that they keep a countercurrent moving which perhaps no one will be fully aware of until it ceases to move.”

In her introduction to The Pushcart Prize XI: Best of the Small Presses (1986–87), Cynthia Ozick mused in reply to Trilling, “What the small presses keep warm, and alive, are those very forms ‘the cultural situation’ tends to submerge: essay, story, poem.”

So here we are at the close of 2015, charged with keeping new talents and vital forms warm; charged, too, with keeping a quiet countercurrent moving. In practical terms, I take this to mean we are tasked with encouraging authors doing laudable work in contemporary literature, bringing their works to print in the finest form possible, and advocating tirelessly for their value. We endeavor to sustain our authors with all we have to offer (printed page, honorarium, online presence, events, moral support), and hope that, in time, our efforts help them find publishers, agents, and yet more readers, and garner career-sustaining awards and grants, as well. Beyond this service to writers, the journal must offer its readers—dedicated adventurers in contemporary writing, invigorated by work not yet codified by any canon—all the pleasures and insights of literature.

For ZYZZYVA, 2015 marked three decades of all this: discovering new talent, supporting writers and artists at all stages of their careers, and presenting innovative work.

But we also celebrated something less grand yet essential: thirty years of work we might file under “keeping the lights on”: paying rent and bills, fulfilling orders, fixing the printer, maintaining a website, hustling for ads and donations, rebooting the wireless connection, fixing the printer—once again.

This is no small thing. Not many journals, let alone independent ones, make it this far.

And while we may not see the world as so openly adversarial as Trilling saw it in 1946, by its sheer indifference ours may be an even more hostile environment than the one he was observing; it is almost certainly, in public forums, a less civil one. Yet we persevere, and do so with a sense of purpose no less keen than ever.

Working out of San Francisco plays a part in keeping us focused. We all know the city is changing, and that artists and writers and the organizations that support them are under increasing pressure. In a fraught economy of apps and “sharing,” San Francisco may offer the country a representative future, one destined to reach across the continent and wreak disruption along the way. I hope we may yet also offer the country a representative model in how to push back against some of these tides, reversing the crowding out of culture and the diminishment of bohemian life, working vigorously to preserve the diversity of voices and vocations that make a city thrive.

I’m not inclined to see a binary opposition between tech and the arts as inevitable or organic, and I’m troubled by the prevalence of that attitude— and how easily it lends itself to a corresponding condescension to the arts (and publishing, too), as though the only way to look forward or to be visionary is through the lens of an app; as though we must take for granted that paper and ink are hopelessly outdated. Too often the implicit question seems to be, How can tech improve literature and help publishing? Too seldom do we ask what literature might teach tech.

The literary and visual arts are an essential part of what has made San Francisco innovative, beautiful, and visionary. It is a concentration of culture, after all, that makes a city a city. Without it, San Francisco would be all surface, a glorified bedroom community with pockets of its urban past preserved for tourists.

It’s a tough time, but ZYZZYVA has endured booms and busts before thanks to you, dear reader, and to the indispensable financial support of every donor, subscriber, and board member; and to the hard work and dedication of every volunteer and intern.

And daily there are reminders of how vital and fun this work is; how lucky we are to be doing it. We’re encouraged by the astonishing wealth and originality of talent in contemporary literature—among those we publish and those we’re reading outside the journal. We’re thrilled by the wide recognition and acclaim that has arrived for authors such as Marlon James and Elena Ferrante, and are inspired by their daring and important work. We’re heartened by the recent awards and recognition our own contributors have received, and by the robust support of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Zellerbach Family Foundation. We’re inspired, too, by the dedication of our colleagues and their fine work in publishing, in bookstores, and in the arts. We’re honored that each of you holding this volume has carved out time in your day and space in your mind for the pages we’ve labored over.

A hearty and heartfelt toast of gratitude to all. Here’s to the adventure and joy of the endeavor.

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In the Winter Issue

Issue No. 105 closes our 30th anniversary year with a special cover designed by Paul Madonna, as well as new fiction from Dagoberto Gilb, and more, including:

Austin Smith’s “The Cave”: Pining for mom making dinner back at the farmhouse, a boy ventures into an odd schoolmate’s home.

Dominica Phettaplace’s “The Story of a True Artist”: The fraught path to maintaining Internet fame is not making high school any easier.

Davide Orecchio’s “Diego Wilchen No More”: “In the cub, you could already see the invincible Wilchen. He will earn love, only to dash it, and a following, only to disappoint.”

Lauren Alwan’s “Eldorado”: An essay on building a house for two in the woods—a house you never plan to live in.

And fiction from Olivia Clare, Kristopher Jansma, Paul Madonna (an ex-pat in Thailand and a U.S. soldier’s story), and Heather Monley (what really happened that day on the lake when the lightning storm broke out?); plus First Time in Print stories from Andrew Foley and Henri Lipton; and poetry from Heather Altfeld, Dan Alter, Jill Osier, Floyd Skloot, Ed Skoog, and Molly Vogel.

You can get a copy of No. 105 here, or, better yet, order a subscription to ZYZZYVA and we’ll start you off by shipping you the Winter issue.

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In the Face of Absurdity, Macro & Micro: ‘Cries for Help, Various’ by Padgett Powell

9781936787319_p0_v4_s192x300Of the various genres travestied by the entertainment industry, perhaps comedy has become the most befouled. With a few notable exceptions, inane millennial hi-jinx, “awkward” situations and encounters, and mundanely quirky characters flit across American television and computer screens with an unsurprising steadiness. In the face of this, a writer like Padgett Powell is of the greatest importance, as reminder of what comedy, specifically literary comedy, can be. Wry, strange, and with a sense of tragedy only partially concealed by the stories’ peculiar and surrealistic narratives, Cries for Help, Various (200 pages; Catapult) exhibit’s a comedy which is still in possession of its humanity.

The highlights of the collection are the stories that have something closer to a discernable, cohesive narrative, which read less as prose poems or a mapping of a given character or narrator’s impressions. Those pieces—”Horses,” “Joplin and Dickens,” “Mrs. Fiberung,” and even “The Retarded Hermit”—have a strong, sardonic authorial voice that is largely absent from the short-short or flash fiction.

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Beyond the Macabre: ‘Henri Duchemin and His Shadows’ by Emmanuel Bove

Henri_Duchemin_1024x1024French author Emmanuel Bove wrote novels and short stories that combined the psychological insight of Fyodor Dostoevsky with Edgar Allan Poe’s penchant for the macabre. His fiction shed a light on young men dangling precariously above disaster, men whose neurotic impulses frequently led to their ruin. Born in 1898, Bove’s own life proved as strange and fortuitous as that of his downtrodden characters. The author spent many of his earliest years living in abject poverty until his father’s second marriage introduced him to a world of wealth and privilege. The outbreak of World War I once again dashed the family fortune but saw the beginnings of Bove’s writerly aspirations. Even as his personal life continued to see its ups and downs, Bove ultimately found acclaim in the literary world.

Bove’s success was due in part to the admiration of famous writers such as Colette (who helped Bove’s first novel secure publication) and Samuel Beckett. Beckett in particular praised Bove for his ability to include only the most “essential detail” in his sparse prose. Bove excelled at emphasizing a sense of the unreal, such as in the story “Night Crime,” where a poverty-stricken man contemplating suicide finds: “Soon it seemed to him that the floor was slipping away beneath his feet and that his legs were swinging in the void, like those of a child on a chair.”

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