Monthly Archives: April 2013

Truth Dressed in Lies: Kristopher Jansma’s ‘The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards’

In his first novel, Kristopher Jansma examines the idea of truth and the very nature of writing fiction. The Unchangeable Spot of Leopards (Viking; 253 pages) follows the life of the unnamed narrator, starting from the time he is eight, sitting in an airport waiting for his mother, to well into his adulthood, when he sits in a very different airport and deserts a manuscript on a café table. The narrator’s name shifts many times through the book. To the members and debutantes of Raleigh’s Briar Creek Country Club, he is Walter Hartright, a soon-to-be Ivy League student; to an …Continue reading

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Amid a Failing City, a Marriage in Jeopardy: Patrick McGrath’s ‘Constance’

Patrick McGrath’s new novel, Constance (Bloomsbury, 229 pages), is a chilling tale of family destruction set against the backdrop of a crumbling New York City. Set in the 1960s, Constance follows the marriage of two people as long-hidden secrets threaten to break up them apart. Sidney Klein, a single father and poetry professor, meets Constance Schuyler at a book party and is immediately swept up by the much younger woman’s “air of angry untouchablility.” During their courtship, he learns she was solely raised (along with her younger sister, Iris) by her father on the banks of the Hudson River. After …Continue reading

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A Best American Short Stories and Best American Essays One-Two Punch (Update: And Now a Pushcart: We Hit the Trifecta)

It looks like the Fall 2012 ZYZZYVA (No. 95) has some sort of magic working for it. Earlier this year, we were thrilled to learn that a story from that issue, Karl Taro Greenfeld’s “Horned Men,” would be included in the 2013 Best American Short Stories. And today, we received a call informing us that Dagoberto Gilb’s nonfiction piece from the same issue, “A Little Bit of Fun Before He Died,” will be included in the 2013 Best American Essays. We offer our warmest congratulations to Dagoberto Gilb and Karl Taro Greenfeld. And if you don’t have the Fall 2012 …Continue reading

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Discovering L.A., and the Mother She Never Knew: Anna Stothard’s ‘The Pink Hotel’

In her second novel, The Pink Hotel (Picador Original, 280 pages), just published in the United States, Anna Stothard tells the tale of a 17-year-old girl’s attempts find out more about the life and death of her party-girl mother, Lily, while on an extended trip to Los Angeles. The book opens on the nameless narrator at the wild, drug-filled party that is meant to be a memorial for Lily, exploring her mother’s room in the Venice Beach hotel she owned. Having been abandoned at the age of three, the narrator barely remembers her mother and the other people at the …Continue reading

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Finding the Right Note for Admired Works of Poetry: Q&A with Michael Zapruder

Michael Zapruder’s recent album/poetry anthology Pink Thunder (Black Ocean, 64 pages, 22 audio tracks) combines the poetry of twenty-three poets—including Gillian Conoley, Dorothea Lasky, Mary Ruefle, and D.A. Powell—with Zapruder’s music to create songs that do not alter the original form of the poems. We talked with Zapruder via email about the process of putting poems to music, and collecting them for an album. ZYZZYVA: Pink Thunder is an ambitious experiment mixing poetry with music. Can you explain how you came up with the idea for this record? Michael Zapruder: I wanted to make songs from poems—without changing the poems—to see …Continue reading

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So Close to Each Other, Yet So Far Apart: Jessica Francis Kane’s ‘This Close’

Jessica Francis Kane’s new story collection, This Close (Graywolf Press, 192 pages), is an interior examination of the closest of relationships. Kane reveals in these thirteen stories how easily conflict, jealousy, and pain can create distance between family, friends and neighbors. In “The Essentials of Acceleration,” Holly is the lonely woman on her block, sharing a house with an elderly father who leaves flowers on the porches of the neighbors. Her father easily befriends the people who live near him while Holly remains confused about her father’s affability. To Holly, being a neighbor does not necessitate friendship. “Let’s have laminated …Continue reading

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Personal Essay Elevated to Art: Aleksandar Hemon’s ‘The Book of My Lives’

In the first of the linked essays in Aleksandar Hemon’s new book, he begins by remembering how his sister’s birth changed his childhood; how life would always thereafter be divided between before and after her arrival, how nothing would ever be the way it used to be. And then he reminds us, “But nothing has ever been—nor will it ever be—the way it used to be.” It’s a fitting admonition for the fraught work of memoir writing. Memory, of course, betrays us incessantly, and the creative impulse of the fiction writer is somewhat at odds with the rigors of telling …Continue reading

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On an Island, Making Sense of Loss: Ron Currie Jr.’s ‘Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles’

Ron Currie Jr.’s new novel, Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles (Viking, 352 pages), begins with an epigraph from the movie Rocky: “women weaken legs.” Currie’s aim is to entertain, but hidden beneath his comedy about a man who cannot have the woman he loves is a heart-wrenching tale of a narrator who loses control of his life in unimaginable ways. The narrator, a writer who happens to be named Ron Currie, Jr., has been obsessed with a woman named Emma since eighth grade. She broke his heart as a teenager, but following her divorce the pair begins a new relationship. When …Continue reading

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In the Spring Issue

The newest ZYZZYVA features a special section of work by authors who divide their time between the West Coast and elsewhere, as well as … Stories about love and grieving (Marianna Cherry’s “The Endurance”), about love and its opportunities: grand (Chris Leslie-Hynan’s “Hunter’s Moon”) and grim (Herbert Gold’s “The Passion of a Fussy Man” and Michelle Latiolais’s “Gas”), irrevocable (Dani Shapiro’s “Cardioplegia”) and fixed to place (Molly Giles’s “Life Span”). Fiction on the writing life—whether pursued in a classroom (Lori Ostlund’s “Clear as Cake”) or very much alone (Debbie Graber’s “Northanger Abbey”)—and fiction about teachers, young and veteran, learning the …Continue reading

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