Monthly Archives: April 2012

Imperfect Eulogy for Elmer Morrissey

April 14, 2012. On the 100th annivesary of the Titanic’s collision with an iceberg , the eight crew members of the Low Speed Chase set off on a day-long yacht race. When the 38-foot boat took a turn near the southern edge of the Farralon Islands, erratic and powerful waves threw the crew from their vessel, into the ocean beyond the San Francisco Bay. Three sailors made it onto the island, where the small yacht crashed, and were rescued. One was found dead in the water. Four are still missing. I’ve been waking up in the earliest hours of the …Continue reading

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The Purposes of Rituals: Alain de Botton’s ‘Religion for Atheists’

Atheists and agnostics often dismiss religion’s tenets and rituals as being fashioned to exploit the human need for such things. Our fear of death is assuaged by the promise of an afterlife. Our despair in the face of injustices that we cannot correct is resolved by the assurance that there is a spiritual magistrate in the great beyond that will set things right. Our need for “community” in an increasingly alienating world can be satisfied by formally congregating with others who share our beliefs. The meek shall inherit the earth, the first shall be the last…it all sounds perfectly, cynically, …Continue reading

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Poetry Karaoke, the Russian River, and Murder: Q&A with Bart Schneider

In his new book, Nameless Dame (Soft Skull Press; 296 pages), novelist and poet Bart Schneider picks up where he left off in The Man in the Blizzard, his 2008 crime novel about pothead Minnesota private eye Augie Boyer and police Detective Bobby Sabbatini. In his bouncy if violent, weed- and verse-filled sequel, Schneider brings Augie back to his roots in the Bay Area (roots Schneider shares with the narrator), taking him on a visit to Sabbatini and his family in the bucolic splendor (and weirdness) that is western Sonoma County, with its redneck pot farmers and hippie searchers, to …Continue reading

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Regrouping Abroad and Nearby: ‘Contents May Have Shifted’ by Pam Houston

Like any MFA graduate worth their salt, I have a shelf in my library reserved for the writers I’ve also called my teachers. I mean this in a very literal way, and not in the traditional my-work-is-a-marriage-of-Joyce-and-Tolstoy way of thinking about literary influence; the majority of my artistic mentors have been living, breathing men and women with office hours on Monday and Wednesday afternoons. Pam Houston is one such writer. As the director of the graduate program in creative writing at UC Davis, she’s sold a lot of books to fledgling writers vying for a place in one of her …Continue reading

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Margaret Weatherford: 1966-2012

When I met her at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1989, Margaret Weatherford was the California girl the Beach Boys never imagined: a black-haired, amber-eyed bombshell with her own professional pool cue and a dude’s tolerance for rail whiskey. I was her fan before I was her friend, because – if the first rule of writing school is to write what you know – it was obvious that Margaret knew things no one else could have possibly dreamed up. Her stories were populated by melancholy children, oracular father figures, animal grotesques and obsolete muscle cars. Like me, she had just …Continue reading

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East of the 5, South of the 10

In its Fall 2005 issue, ZYZZYVA published a short story by Margaret Weatherford titled “East of the 5, South of the 10.” The tale–a witty and wised-up L.A. story in which Zeus and Hades have divvied up the Southland between them–marked her first time in print. Margaret Weatherford, born in 1966, died of cancer on March 30.

Along with her story in ZYZZYVA, she was also published in Paris Review Daily and in Little Star. The following is Ms. Weatherford’s story, in its entirety, from our Fall 2005 issue.

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Who’s Afraid of ‘Khirbet Khizeh’?

A few years ago, blogging for another consonant-heavy literary magazine, I put my Comparative Literature degree to use in compiling a series of reading lists (Readings for Revolution and Readings for the Next Intifada, for example) composed to serve as introductions to various countries and conflicts in the Middle East. Since then, I’ve done my best to keep up with recent trends in Hebrew and Arabic literature and have discovered a couple writers who might merit a revision of said lists (the Libyan novelist Hisham Matar, for example). But it has been a long time since I came across a …Continue reading

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Irish Art in America: ‘Amid a Space Between’ at SFMOMA Artists Gallery

The SFMOMA Artists Gallery permits its exhibitions to puzzle and play with viewers in a way that its more pedagogic big sibling would not abide. The current occupant of the Fort Mason space, Amid a Space Between: Irish Artists in America, departs from museum code in a couple of ways: it intermixes the works of its six featured Irish ex-pats rather than presenting them sequentially, and it forgoes wall text and title cards altogether, so the viewer must piece together for herself what art belongs to whom. In effect, the exhibition unfolds fugue-like, the sculptures, paintings and installations playing off …Continue reading

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A (Long) Painful Path to Self-Knowledge: Cheryl Strayed’s ‘Wild’

Close to the beginning of Wild (Knopf, 336 pages), Cheryl Strayed’s compact and potent memoir about hiking 1,100 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail, the author finds herself holed up in a remote motel room, assessing her baggage. In a literal sense, this means tallying up the all the things she thinks she’ll need for the trek – a lantern, a tent, a foldable saw, a packet of condoms – and stuffing them into a giant backpack. In a metaphorical sense, it means mapping out her escape from a life punctured by difficult endings: the unexpected death of her mother, …Continue reading

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