Monthly Archives: September 2012

Straight-ahead Look at Foster Wallace: D.T. Max’s ‘Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story’

The main triumph of Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story (Viking; 368 pages), D.T. Max’s biography of the late writer David Foster Wallace, is that it’s not really a triumph at all – at least not in the ways fans of Wallace’s jittery, hyper-articulate prose might expect. By examining the author’s life in sterile and often painful detail, Max teases out the sort of truths that Wallace, for all his rhetorical and conceptual acrobatics, could only ever seem to orbit. The book’s resultant paradox (its most immediate one, anyway) is almost Wallace-like in its complex reflectiveness: it’s through decidedly …Continue reading

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Beauty Amid a Community’s Pain: Susan Straight’s ‘Between Heaven and Here’

Between Heaven and Here (McSweeney’s, 232 pages), the capstone of novelist Susan Straight’s Rio Seco trilogy, is set in Sarrat, a Southern California community as economically bone-dry as the creek separating it from Rio Seco. It is in Sarrat where a band of Louisianan refugees, their banter laced with Creole and their memories peppered with sugarcane, sharecropping, and floods, has taken root. And it is in Sarrat, with its fruit pickers and prostitutes, where one of that Creole community’s most beautiful members, Glorette Picard, is murdered. Straight has created a portrait of a city immediately familiar to anyone versed in …Continue reading

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Tatjana Soli is the author of two novels: The Lotus Eaters, a New York Times-bestseller and winner of the James Tait Black Prize, and her newest book, The Forgetting Tree (St. Martin’s Press), which publishes this month.

“Pinkville,” her story in ZYZZYVA’s Fall 2012 issue, “is one of two stories I wrote about the [Vietnam] war since coming back from Vietnam last year.” While her first novel, The Lotus Eaters, details the experiences of an American female combat photographer during the Vietnam War, “Pinkville” jumps around in time and deals “more with the [war’s] aftereffects.”

“When I came across the story of Hugh Thompson“—the U.S. Army helicopter pilot who, along with his crew, intervened between U.S. soldiers and Vietnamese civilians in the My Lai massacre—”I knew there was one more part of the war that I had to write about.”

The following is an excerpt from “Pinkville.”

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Víctor Comes Back

Tomás González, according to translator Joel Streicker, has “been called the best-kept secret of Colombian literature, although the word has been getting out the past couple of years. He’s a generation younger than García Márquez and a generation older than the current crop of young or youngish writers (e.g., Juan Gabriel Vásquez, Ricardo Silva Romero, Pilar Quintana).”
González’s story “Victor Comes Back,” which was translated by Streicker (who won a 2011 PEN American Center Translation Grant) and appears in ZYZZYVA’s Fall 2012 issue, is characterized by “a profound sense of loss and dislocation.”
“There is an air of menace beneath—and, at times, in the midst of—his narratives,” says Streicker, “that somehow seems animated by the more overt threats to ordinary people’s lives and livelihoods that, sadly, Colombians have lived with for so much of their history.”
Streicker will be reading from his translation of “Victor Comes Back” as part of ZYZZYVA’s Fall release event at City Lights Bookstore at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 30. The following is an excerpt from the story.

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Jesse Nathan is an editor at McSweeney’s and a doctoral student in English literature at Stanford University. He is also the author of a poetry chapbook, Dinner (Or, a Deranged Event Staged in a Theoretical Mansion in Which Time and History Have Been Grossly Dismembered and What We Know as the Laws of Physics Wildly Subverted, Conducted as an Inquiry into the Genius of Madness and the Art of the Faux Pas, and Having as a First Course to be Served to a Cast of Sixteen Eccentrics A Dish of Carrot Cabbage Salad Meant to Tickle Every Palate).

“Eye” is one of two poems by Nathan in the Fall 2012 issue of ZYZZYVA. An ode of sorts, it begins “Voice low, father, you are/ hurting aloud from the book of your life on this earth.” The images and ideas flowing from there prove arresting and surprising.

Jesse Nathan will be one of the readers at ZYZZYVA’s Fall Issue event at City Lights Bookstore at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 30.

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An Iraq Vet and the Weight of War: Kevin Powers’s ‘The Yellow Birds’

Those of us who have not experienced the pains of war can never claim to understand them, but Kevin Powers’s first novel, The Yellow Birds (Little, Brown; 240 pages), gives its readers a poignant glimpse. Powers, a poet and a veteran, takes us in medias res to Al Tafar, Iraq, and into the life of then-twenty-one-year-old Private John Bartle. Matching the novel’s form with its chaotic content, Powers takes us in and out of scenes from Bartle’s life between 2004 and 2009, spanning the before, during, and after of this one soldier’s war experience. Powers’s weaving of these moments masterfully …Continue reading

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Struggling to Survive, Not to Please: Thomas Cobb’s ‘With Blood in Their Eyes’

In his latest book, With Blood in Their Eyes (University of Arizona Press, 210 pages), novelist Thomas Cobb’s roster of main characters is small: brothers John and Tom Power, hired man Tom Sisson, and the two festering eyeballs of the title. Framing a real-life 1918 Arizona standoff between the Powers and the law within a much larger exploration of Southwestern societal change, Cobb (whose novel Crazy Heart was turned into a critically acclaimed movie starring Jeff Bridges) crafts a breathless escape story and stops just short of the historical record’s unhappy ending. Years before the shootout that would leave them …Continue reading

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America’s Westernmost Indie Bookstore: Talk Story on the Garden Isle

Along Hanapepe Road in Hanapepe, Kaua’i—a town as wet as it is green—the storefronts this August morning are still shaded; it’s too early for anyone but tourists. Besides the rare interruption of a passing car, movement is confined to two locations: a cafe selling wraps named after punk bands (and also where someone has scrawled in Sharpie on a bathroom wall “LEVON RIP 4/19/12,” a reference to the late drummer of The Band) and the local bookstore. Talk Story, which derives its name from the Hawaiian slang for casual conversation, establishes its noteworthiness immediately: “THE WESTERN-MOST INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORE OF THE …Continue reading

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Big in Japan: Q&A with Ted Goossen and Motoyuki Shibata of “Monkey Business”

Published annually, the nascent literary journal Monkey Business connects an English-reading public—whose familiarity with modern Japanese literature may be limited to Haruki Murakami, Yukio Mishima, and Keiji Nakazawa—to a wide range of contemporary if not as well known Japanese writers. The journal, supported by the Nippon Foundation and A Public Space, is the international offshoot of the same-name publication started in Tokyo in 2008. The second issue was published earlier this year, and just like the first volume, it is a delight. Translations of major authors and rising talents share space with work from established U.S. writers (Stuart Dybek, Rebecca Brown, …Continue reading

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Writing from on the Road: A Q&A with Sister Spit’s Michelle Tea

Both sentimental and side-splittingly funny, Sister Spit: Writings, Rants & Reminiscence from the Road (Sister Spit/City Lights), is a collection of stories coming out this month from Michelle Tea’s legendary feminist performance art collective, which performs around the country with a featured group of talented feminist writers, beat-boxers and trapeze artists alike. Told through a series of essays, drawings and diaries from various caravan contributors, Sister Spit is a sharp, sassy take on the tour experience. Reading it feels like taking a road trip with your best friends at their brightest, sans the backseat bickering and rest stop bathroom breaks. …Continue reading

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