Tag Archives: fiction

What Comes After the Trauma of Fleeing: ‘The Refugees’ by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Refugees (224 pages; Grove), the new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen, consists of eight stories circling around the displacement caused by the Vietnam War. Though reviewers of the collection have tied the narratives of these stories to some kind of universal “immigrant experience,” the title of the book, as well as the historical context of the stories, refuses this oversimplified categorization. The Refugees gently but firmly reminds the reader of the difference, which lies largely in the ways one group has had some kind of choice in leaving their place of origin, while the other has …Continue reading

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Landscape as Character, Characters at a Distance: ‘Ema, the Captive’ by César Aira

César Aira’s books often shrug off the shackles of genre, tradition, structure, or sense. They’re also often short. Usually around 100 pages, these novellas are complete in and of themselves. However, readers will most likely leave an Aira text in a completely different mental state than from the one they entered with—such is the challenge and the pleasure of reading him. Aira’s latest book, Ema, the Captive (128 pages; New Directions; translated by Chris Andrews), is fairly straightforward in substance and story. A 19th-century Western set in Argentina is probably the most succinct way to describe it but to box this book …Continue reading

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Otherwise Known as Love: ‘Pretend I’m Your Friend’ by MB Caschetta

MB Caschetta’s recent story collection, Pretend I’m Your Friend (Engine Books; 200 pages), explores what one of its characters calls “terrible love.” In eleven entwined stories, Caschetta examines confusing and often painful friendships, romances, and familial bonds: a set of parents who share a sexual desire for their kids’ babysitter, a dying mother who wishes cancer on her daughters instead of herself, a clairvoyant whose visions the end of her marriage. Just when you think you have wrapped your head around the root of a character’s issues, Caschetta will offer a different perspective in a later story. One problem bleeds …Continue reading

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‘Revision’ by Mar Colón-Margolies, ZYZZYVA No. 108, Winter Issue

openroadintexasMar Colón-Margolies is a former editor at Nation Books. Her reporting has appeared in The Nation, the Columbia Journalism Review online, and on Rhode Island Public Radio. Her story “Revision” appears in the new issue of ZYZZYVA.

Set in Texas, “Revision” is the tale of a journalist on assignment writing about that state’s draconian abortion laws. In the course of his work he faces questions of professional and even personal ethics as he re-connects with a past love. The following is an excerpt, but you can read the story in its entirety by getting a copy here. (Also, Mar Colón-Margolies will be reading from her work at ZYZZYVA’s Winter Issue Launch at Greenlight Bookstore on January 12.)

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ZYZZYVA Interview Series: Patrick Hoffman

Patrick Hoffman was born in San Francisco, where for a decade he worked as both a private investigator and an investigator for the Public Defender’s Office. His first novel, The White Van, was a finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award and was named a Wall Street Journal best book of the year. His new novel is Every Man a Menace, which Kirkus, in its starred review, called “a nasty tour de force” and a “strong and original addition to the crime fiction genre.” Hoffman spoke to ZYZZYVA Managing Editor Oscar Villalon about his new book at the Booksmith …Continue reading

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‘Artificial Islands’ by Earle McCartney, ZYZZYVA No. 107, Fall Issue

earle-mccartneyOriginally from south New Jersey, Earle McCartney is a San Francisco writer. The recipient of the Joseph Henry Jackson Award in 2013, his stories “Sawmill” and “Rhizomes” appeared in ZYZZYVA Issues No. 96 and No. 101, respectively. His newest story, “Artificial Islands,” can be found in the Fall issue.

As with McCartney’s last two stories in ZYZZYVA, “Artificial Islands” beautifully captures people in close relationship to the natural world—in this case, it’s the ocean, as an adolescent girl goes fishing for sharks with her older brother, her father, and a family friend. The following is an excerpt from the story. You can read in its entirety by getting a copy here.  (Note: Earle McCartney will be part of the lineup for our ZYZZYVA Fall All-Stars event at Litcrawl.)

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‘Kabul’ by Fatima Bhutto, ZYZZYVA No. 107, Fall Issue

photo by Paul Wetherell
Fatima Bhutto, photo by Paul Wetherell

Fatima Bhutto is the author of several books, including the memoir Songs of Blood and Sword (Nation Books) and the novel The Shadow of the Crescent Moon (Penguin Press). Her work has also appeared in the New Statesmen, the Daily Beast, the Guardian, and other publications. She lives in Karachi, Pakistan.

Her story “Kabul” appears in the Fall issue. The tale of Sheryar, a feckless young man, and Soraya, his pregnant—and even younger—lover, Bhutto’s story casts a cold (though not unsympathetic) eye on people trapped by circumstances seemingly beyond their power to change. The following is an excerpt from her story, but it can be read in full in our Fall issue, which you can order here.

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Roaming the Metaphorical ‘Jungle Around Us’ : Q&A with Anne Raeff

In Anne Raeff’s story collection, The Jungle Around Us (140 pages, University of Georgia Press), nine stories span decades, covering numerous lives and multiple “jungles”; urban, Amazonian, and metaphorical, to name a few. In these “jungles,” Raeff’s characters face a Russian nesting-doll of isolation. Here, the land itself is alien to those displaced far from their homes. Language barriers and internal turmoil prevent communicating fully with those around you. But Raeff also shows how these same places can be a shelter, a refuge for embracing or experimenting with aspects of oneself that may have otherwise been ignored or hidden. Some …Continue reading

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‘Big Boss Bitch’ by Adrienne Celt, ZYZZYVA No. 107, Fall Issue

 Adrienne Celt’s first novel, The Daughters (W.W. Norton/Liveright), won the 2015 PEN Southwest Book Award and was named a Best Book of the Year by NPR. Her writing has been recognized by the PEN/O. Henry Prize, and her fiction has appeared in Esquire, The Kenyon Review, EpochPrairie Schooner, and Ecotone, among other places. She also publishes a webcomic at loveamongthelampreys.com.

Her work of fiction, “Big Boss Bitch,” which she describes as “my horror story about the first female president,” appears in the Winter issue. The “horror,” by the way, isn’t in the fact of having a female president, but what happens to said female president. The following is an excerpt, but if you’d like to read Celt’s story in its entirety, you can get a copy here.

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‘Divination’ by Ann Cummins, ZYZZYVA No. 107, Fall Issue

Ann CumminsAnn Cummins is the author of the story collection Red Ant House (2003) and the novel Yellowcake (2007). A former Lannan fellow, her work has been published in The New Yorker and McSweeney’s and in Best American Short Stories 2002.

Her story “Divination” is set in the Southwest region in which Cummins was born, but takes place in a distant era, one that places the narrative in the category we would call a Western (and as anybody who has read Stegner, Cather, McCarthy, or Oakley Hall knows, what a wide and rich category it is). A story about the uncompromising realities of family and laboring from the land, “Divination” is another welcome example of Cummins artistry. The following is an excerpt from her story. It can be read in its entirety in Issue No. 107, which you can order here.

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‘Stealth’ by Etan Nechin, ZYZZYVA No. 106, Spring/Summer

ZYZZYVSpring2016coverEtan Nechin is an Israeli-born writer currently living in New York. His work has appeared in such publications as Gravel Magazine, MonkeyBicycle, Entropy, and the Huffington Post, and several other publications in Hebrew. “Stealth” marks his First Time in Print for fiction in English.

Set at the beginning of the Persian Gulf War of the early ’90s, “Stealth” is narrated by a school boy living among a community of artists in Israel. Amid the gas masks, safety drills at school, and trading of U.S. military-themed bubble gum cards, there’s the everyday (and comic) life of a child trying to make sense of the world and his place in it. The following is an excerpt of “Stealth.” You can read the story in its entirety in Issue No. 106, which you can order here.

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‘Amboise’ by Ariel Dorfman, ZYZZYVA No. 106, Spring/Summer

ZYZZYVSpring2016coverAriel Dorfman is the acclaimed novelist, playwright and author of Death and the Maiden. His writing frequently appears in The New York Times, The Guardian, and The New Republic, as well as numerous other magazines internationally. He is a professor of literature and Latin American Studies at Duke University, and his most recent book is the memoir Feeding on Dreams: Confessions of an Unrepentant Exile.

In his story “Amboise,” Dorfman gives us Lucy and Leo, a couple visiting France, on their way from Paris to see Chenonceau. As they deal with the various hiccups keeping them from getting to their destination, Leo’s determination to see the famous castle before the day is through is fueled by a single thought: “Tomorrow I wouldn’t be alive.” Leo, whose health has been failing, is resolute on killing himself before then. The following is an excerpt of Dorfman’s story. You can read it in its entirety in Issue No. 106, which you can order here.

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