Issues Archives

2017

All issues from 2017.

Letter From The Editor

“Literature is the question minus the answer.”
—Roland Barthes

To learn which questions are unanswerable and not to answer them: this skill is most needful in times of stress and darkness.”
—Ursula K. LeGuin, from The Left Hand of Darkness

Dear Reader,

Perhaps you, like me, find yourself asking a lot from literature these days: greater solace, finer insight, deeper resonance. For me that’s led to thinking more pointedly about such expectations, and I’ve found it is useful to ask not only what literature can do to respond to current events, but also how; not just what meaning literature can make, but how such meaning operates.

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In the Winter Issue

In this issue:

Art & Resistance Amid Turmoil

Criticism:

Troy Jollimore on how Wallace Shawn’s plays and his latest book, Night Thoughts, illuminate our predicament

Robin Romm on what Imre Kertész can teach us about art as resistance

Nonfiction:

T.J. Stiles on the road we travelled to arrive at this precarious moment

Andrew Tonkovich on “free persons,” and the risks writers must take

Fiction:

Dana Johnson’s “Like Other People”: In desperate need of a job, a graduate student takes a job cleaning cable boxes, working with folks also hard up for work.

Kristopher Jansma’s “The Corps of Discovery”: On a long road trip with his father, a middle-school history teacher considers Lewis & Clark, loss, and how no matter how much you prepare, “there were things you couldn’t reasonably expect to be prepared for.”

Krys Lee’s “The Jungle”: The trees and the vines have long received the terrified and the wretched; their plight does not go unnoticed.

Mackenzie Evan Smith’s “The Wet Continent”: “I have not set toe on a sailboat in more than a decade. I don’t know the last time I touched the ocean. … I think I am happier now. Am I really?”

Plus an excerpt from Dorthe Nors’s upcoming novel, Mirror, Shoulder, Signal

Poetry:

Victoria Chang, David Hernandez, Ruth Madievsky and Dean Rader on the topic of resistance; plus new poems from Judy Halebsky, Auzelle Epeneter, Bino A. Realuyo, Noah Warren, Christina Olson, and Jenny Xie

Interview:

Over a home-cooked meal, a boisterous conversation between Matt Sumell and Michelle Latiolais about mentoring, anger, rescue dogs, and what it means to write for a living.

Art:

Jenny Sampson’s tintypes of California skaters
Custom cover design & illustration by Josh Korwin

You can purchase a copy of No. 111 here, or order a subscription to ZYZZYVA now and we’ll start you off by shipping you the Winter issue.

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In the Fall Issue

In this issue:

Interview:

City Lights Books bookseller Paul Yamazaki in conversation with Point Reyes Books owner Stephen Sparks about the responsibilities of bookselling (“For me, it boils down to conversation”) and the Bay Area’s literary community (“I forget sometimes how lucky we are”).

Nonfiction:

Jesse Nathan on the perhaps the most impressive tool behind Bob Dylan’s artistry: his singular voice.
Peter Orner on the final brief moments of a couple slain on an isolated beach.

Fiction:

Arrival and Immigration: stories from Michael Jaime-Becerra (“¡Dale, Dale, Dale!”), E.C. Osundu (“Alien Visitors”), Christine Ma Kellems (“The Children of Dissidents”) and Greg Sarris (“Citizen”).

Liza Ward’s “The Shrew Tree”: a young woman abandons the bookish world of her father to chase an uncertain future with the son of a local farmer.

Christian Kiefer’s “Ghosts”: the survivor of a car accident is haunted by the lingering visage of a woman who may not have survived the pile-up.

Plus stories from Adam Schorin, Annie DeWitt, Molly Giles, and more.

Poetry:

Kelly Cressio-Moeller, Melissa Hohl, Amanda Moore, Jennifer Moss, Andrew Murphy, and Adam Scheffler.

Art:

Featuring the acrylic on canvas paintings of Samantha Fields

You can purchase a copy of No. 110 here, or order a subscription to ZYZZYVA now and we’ll start you off by shipping you the Spring/Summer issue.

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‘Appetite’ by Victoria Patterson: ZYZZYVA No. 109, Spring/Summer Issue

Claire and I met at a party to celebrate the launch of her husband’s second book. My husband and I had moved from Colorado Springs to Los Angeles two years earlier, and an unsophisticated aura surrounded us, having both been raised in conventional middle-class Republican families. There was a certain type at parties like this: intellectual, vocally liberal, slightly bohemian, creative and with good taste, and quietly and mysteriously moneyed. I was watchful and impressed.

My husband, Jeff, taught history at a high school, most of his time consumed by a yearbook commitment he’d been pressured into taking, and I was on maternity leave from a secretarial position, though I’d quit soon to stay home with our newborn son, David. Jeff had heard about the party through a friend who hadn’t shown, and there was no one else we knew.

Displayed on a stand at a table where the book was being sold, Material Promises was more than 700 pages long, the cover a profile photograph of a somber and bearded and younger Richard, fist at his chin. Published by an academic press associated with the private college where he taught, his books were classified as experimental fiction. At that time I admired anyone who’d crossed that impenetrable threshold to publication and I hoped to meet him, though I didn’t yet want to think of myself as ambitious.

Richard sat at the corner of the living room, and I passed David—less than one month old—to Jeff. I made myself walk over. Though Richard gazed in the other direction, an almost imperceptible tug at his mouth led me to believe he knew I was there. I opened my mouth to speak, but in near synchronicity his head went back and his eyes closed and then he touched his eyelids with his fingertips as if in distress, so I retreated.

“Did you talk to him?” Jeff said.

I grimaced, letting him know he was no better at networking than me, and I took back our fussing son.

“Over an hour left,” I whispered, shaking my head no, wide-eyed, as Jeff gestured to the front door. We’d agreed to last at least two hours at the party.

Later I was breastfeeding David on a couch in a private den, his little leg poking out from the blanket that enclosed him at my chest, listening to his mmm-hmm-mmm sound, when I saw Claire studying a small landscape painting near the open door. She wore a simple black dress and absentmindedly fingered her jade choker, her hiccupping daughter facing her chest in a Baby Björn, splotchy legs and arms wobbling with each hiccup. Claire looked closer—and closer still—until it appeared her nose might touch the painting.

I knew she was married to Richard because I’d watched them earlier. She was affected with him and vice versa: they seemed to encourage it like a performance, both using the words “my love” with a condescending edge and an unnerving frequency. (“Pass me my drink, my love.” “Of course, my love. Here you are, my love.” “Thank you, my love.”) She was pale, elegant, and younger than Richard. I wondered how she remained so passionately thin—her figure like a boy’s—when like me she’d recently given birth.

Even before she turned and saw us—with a surprised step back and a smile—I knew she and her daughter would join us at the couch. And she did, unhooking Lily from her carrier and propping her forward on her lap, one hand at Lily’s chest and neck, tapping her back with the other. “Beautiful,” she said, glancing back at the painting. “The rest”—she gave a dismissive hand wave, while still supporting her daughter.

“Isn’t this your house?” I said.

“Oh, hell no,” she said in amusement and then added seriously, “It belongs to a colleague of Richard’s.”

For a long while we silently watched Lily bobble with each hiccup, a bubble of saliva forming at her bottom lip. The only other sound was the rhythmic patting of Claire’s palm against Lily’s back and David’s breastfeeding hum. Then Lily’s hiccups stopped and soon her head drooped in sleep.

Claire placed her at the couch between us, with Lily’s tiny arms and legs splayed. Claire and I shared notes: ages of babies (Lily three weeks older than David), our ages (both of us in our late twenties), and our birthing experiences (still viscerally recent and traumatic).

Then David drifted to sleep, his mouth barely tugging at my nipple, little ticklish nibbles. His leg shook outside the blanket, a convulsive twitch, and then he stilled, his mouth fully releasing my nipple and his leg and body leaden against me.

With both our babies asleep, our conversation became deeper, freighted, based on the profundity and strangeness of new motherhood and our mutual need for companionship. We talked about how we’d been mothered (hers a competitive intellectual Episcopalian, mine an anti-intellectual born-again Christian), and how long buried memories of our childhoods now came unbidden and unwanted. She paraphrased Germaine Greer, saying that once a woman has a child, her capacity for suffering deepens. We agreed that what we felt for our newborns was larger and more passionate than any love affair. Our marriages, our first loves, and our closest familial relationships paled. And how after we’d given birth, we’d both felt an uncanny awareness as if we were, as she phrased it, “at the center of an abyss.”

Purchase your copy of Issue No. 109 here.

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In the Spring Issue

In this issue:

Interview:

Acclaimed poet and critic W.S. Di Piero in conversation: on Shakespeare, the art of translation (the translator inhabits “The house of a language, an imagination, a culture.”), and on being a good citizen.

Nonfiction:

Sallie Tisdale’s essay “The Hinge”: “My worst regrets,” she writes, “are not big and dramatic; they are as tiny and sharp as glass ground into my palm.”

Fiction:

Nick Lane’s “So You’re Thinking of Becoming a Despot”: It’s easier than you think (and it’s a great way of getting that one village girl to finally notice you).

Louis B. Jones’ “Ever Since the Cloverleaf”: Two old friends having lunch—and a conversation that flirts with the criminal—at a near-shuttered Trader Vic’s.

Victoria Patterson’s “Appetite”: The wife of an author begins a fraught friendship with an aspiring writer.

Ben Greenman’s “Right Angles”: snippets from the inner life of Fearless Leader.

Plus more fiction from Christine Sneed, Kristen Iskandrian, and Andrew Martin, and introducing Andrew Mangan.

Poetry:

Laton Carter, W.S. Di Piero, Ru Freeman, D.A. Powell, sam sax, Melissa Stephenson, Cynthia White, and Paul Wilner.

Art:

A portfolio of stunning still life photography from Paulette Tavormina

You can purchase a copy of No. 109 here, or order a subscription to ZYZZYVA now and we’ll start you off by shipping you the Spring/Summer issue.

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