Tag Archives: San Francisco

‘To Bloom, to Burst, to Blaze’: 2015 Best American Essays Notable, Issue No. 100

Three essays we published in our 100th issue received a Notable from the 2015 Best American Essays. The first of those we’re excerpting is Katie Crouch’s “To Bloom, to Burst, to Blaze.” A study on Sylvia Plath and a first-hand account of San Francisco during its first tech boom, Crouch’s essay is also a meditation on a friendship gone wrong and its accompanying guilt, which is felt many years later.

Katie Crouch has written numerous essays, which have appeared in The New York Times, Slate, the Rumpus, and Garden & Gun. She is also the best-selling author of the novels “Girls in Trucks,” “Men and Dogs,” and most recently, “Abroad” (Picador), now in paperback.

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Making (and Making Sense of) a New Life: ‘After the Parade’ by Lori Ostlund

If it’s true that a good man is hard to find, Lori Ostlund’s first novel, After the Parade (Scribner; 352 pages), demonstrates that leaving one might be just as difficult. As the book opens, Aaron Englund has finally worked up the nerve to break up with Walter, his older lover/Henry Higgins of 23 years, with whom he long ago fell out of love. Having packed his possessions, Aaron steers his U-Haul away from the security of their home in Albuquerque toward San Francisco. Not because he wants to join the city’s famous gay scene, but because Taffy, a colleague, lives …Continue reading

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The Self-Deceptions of Nostalgia and Addiction: ‘Black Hole’ by Bucky Sinister

“The moment you buy your drugs, they start to run out.” Such is the dilemma of Chuck, the middle-aged, rundown narrator of Bucky Sinister’s first novel, Black Hole (Soft Skull Press; 181 pages). Perpetually strung out on all manner of narcotic, former punk rocker Chuck is dismayed to find himself “the freak in the corner” at parties where everyone is half his age. He inhabits a San Francisco much like our own—rapidly changing, driven by a booming tech industry—but ever so off-kilter. Bucky Sinister draws influence from the work of visionary science-fiction author Phillip K. Dick in crafting an alternate …Continue reading

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Peering through the Haze of Digital Commotion: ‘All This Life’ by Joshua Mohr

Is loneliness the de facto spiritual condition of the Information Age? This is the central question that seems to loom over All This Life (Soft Skull Press; 294 pages), the latest novel from Bay Area author Joshua Mohr. In the book, Mohr trains a scathing lens upon our 21st century culture, one that craves personal connection and yet seems to have forgotten the value of face-to-face interactions, opting instead for a constant stream of YouTube videos, live Tweets, and Facebook status updates. “All that matters is content. New content. More content.” The setting is San Francisco circa 2013, a city …Continue reading

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ZYZZYVA Interview Series: Glen David Gold

In our continuing series of interviews and readings with our contributors, we talked to Glen David Gold about his nonfiction piece “The Plush Cocoon,” which appeared in ZYZZVYA No. 100. Gold is the author of the best-selling novels “Carter Beats the Devil” and “Sunnyside.” In “Cocoon” he explores his family history, particularly that of his mother’s. Gold discusses this piece as well as other topics, including how life has changed in San Francisco. To hear Gold read from “The Plush Cocoon,” click on “Continue Reading” below.

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A Field Guide to San Francisco Fog, and to Mutable Memory: Q&A with Kyle Boelte

Kyle Boelte’s memoir, The Beautiful Unseen: Variations on Fog and Forgetting (Counterpoint; 176 pages), weaves together the author’s investigations into the mysterious San Francisco fog with an exploration of his memories of the life and suicide of his brother, Kris. On one side of this dual narrative, Boelte researches the fog from the standpoint of San Francisco history and the science behind the Bay Area’s climate. On the other, he remembers his life before and after his brother’s death. Juxtaposing these two themes, memory becomes reminiscent of the fog and vice versa. With remembering comes forgetting, and memories can cloud …Continue reading

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With Beer Came the Modern, Civilized Human: Q&A with William Bostwick

William Bostwick begins his narrative with a question: “What we drink reveals who we are but can it also tell me who we were?” Tracking down the answer means Bostwick must balance a bit of time travel with solid historical research, and interview a cast of contemporary brew masters. And taste a lot of beer. When not tending bar in San Francisco or caring for his bees, Bostwick is a beer critic writing reviews for several national publications. He is also a passionate home brewer. Blessed with a sensitive palate and a talent for great storytelling, Bostwick deftly combines his …Continue reading

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Paths Untrodden: ‘Minor White: Manifestations of the Spirit’

Shortly after World War II, Minor White (1908-1976)—a photographer of some repute before the war—was in New York, freshly discharged from the Army intelligence corps, and speaking to Alfred Stieglitz in Stieglitz’s gallery, An American Place. In an often-quoted exchange between the two men, White, who felt the war had sapped some of his former verve, asked Stieglitz whether he could still take photographs. “Well, have you ever been in love?” Stieglitz said. White answered yes, and the elder artist explained, “Then you can be a photographer.” The conversation had a profound effect upon White. Indeed, whatever the immediate subject—the …Continue reading

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Displaced, Disconnected: ‘Somewhere, Elsewhere, Anywhere, Nowhere’ at Kadist

San Francisco has long been thought of as the great exception, to use historian Carey McWilliams’ phrase. Located at the far western edge of America, it was also a cultural and political frontier, a very last urban refuge from the rest of the country. In “The Poetic City That Was,” Lawrence Ferlinghetti recalled San Francisco, circa 1951, as “an island, which wasn’t necessarily part of the United States…like Athens at the height of Greek culture.” He woke up 50 years later to find his friends being evicted from their homes, himself priced out of his apartment and art studio. The …Continue reading

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Each Element Building to an Exuberant Whole: tUnE-yArDs at The Chapel

On a recent Monday evening at the Chapel, a gabled music venue built last year in San Francisco’s Mission District, a crowd gathered beneath the venue’s bejeweled chandeliers and curved stacks of speakers to hear the Oakland folk-indie act tUnE-yArDs. It was the band’s first stage appearance in over a year and a half, as well as the debut performance of their highly anticipated third album, Nikki Nack, and the excitement was evident. Cheers rose and fell and hands stretched out and waved as the house music blared above. Ten minutes passed, then twenty, and the audience began shuffling under …Continue reading

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All the Lost, Autobiographical Novels

Years ago, when novelist Alexander Chee couldn’t sell his first book, a literary agent told him, “The first novel you finish isn’t always the first novel you publish.” The agent was right. Hunter S. Thompson, for example, wrote his first novel, the autobiographical story of a boozy Kentucky boy in the city titled Prince Jellyfish, in his early twenties. After numerous literary agents declined it, Thompson shelved the manuscript and finished a second novel called The Rum Diary, which Simon & Schuster released in 1998, nearly four decades after he had completed it. And just last month, De Capo Press published Jack Kerouac’s lost, semi-autobiographical …Continue reading

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The 100th Issue: Letter from the Editors

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.  Dear Readers, 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 …Continue reading

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