Whenever a poet as preeminent as Stephen Dunn releases a new corpus of material, the potential for failure can’t help but manifest itself. Some might fear that the book, having come from an author who has already attained a pinnacle of critical achievement (Dunn won the Pulitzer Prize in 2001 for Different Hours), will turn out to be a footnote compared to the works that preceded it. Still others might stifle an otherwise solid book with narrow expectations or preconceptions. Yet Dunn’s most recent publication, Here and Now (Norton; 112 pages), is anything but stillborn, an object all its own—rather […]
Gertrude Stein’s legacy today is strangely cleft. While her work continues to earn the reverence of a strong academic cohort, most everyone else – even much of the literary community – encounters her most often as the butt of jokes, made at the expense of both her uniquely inaccessible way with words and her eccentric celebrity personage. Take, for example, Ben Greenman’s “Gertrude Stein Gets Her New iPhone,” or Kathy Bates’ portrayal of her (this actor-role pairing is itself something of a joke) as the brusquely opinionated but unerring cultural sage in Woody Allen’s recent “Midnight in Paris.” These are […]
Longtime editor and former bookstore owner Philip Turner has an essay on getting William Styron interested in a book he was editing, Dead Run: The Shocking Story of Dennis Stockton and Life on Death Row in America (1999). The core of the piece is really how editors become passionate about a manuscript and do all they can to get a book to succeed. As Turner writes: “As a person, I am not overly concerned about what people seem to think of me, nor do I crave lots of personal validation from others. Yet it’s an occupational hazard of the book […]
Anneli Rufus is the award-winning author of several books, including Party of One: The Loner’s Manifesto, California Babylon: A Guide to Scandal, Mayhem, and Celluloid in the Golden State, and The Farewell Chronicles: How We Really Respond to Death. Her work has appeared in East Bay Express, the San Francisco Chronicle, Salon.com and Psychology Today. She lives in Berkeley.
“You Don’t Want to Know” is an original essay for ZYZZYVA’s website. It’s one of a group of connected essays Anneli Rufus has been working on. “The basic theme,” she writes, “is the darkness and hilarity of life with paralytically low self-esteem.”