Monthly Archives: January 2019

Young and Out of Control: ‘Last Night in Nuuk’ by Niviaq Korneliussen

Niviaq Korneliussen’s first novel, Last Night in Nuuk (288 pages; Grove Press), is first and foremost a character study. (In an immediate indicator that the book is primarily driven by its multiple protagonists, it opens with a literal “Cast of Characters.”) Korneliussen, who is from Greenland, explores in distinct sections the perspectives of five different people and in the process shows us what it means to be young and queer in her homeland. The characters are all handled tenderly and with obvious care, and each stream of consciousness narrative can stand alone but fit neatly into this larger work. Living …Continue reading

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Dreamwalking in the Modern World: ‘The Day the Sun Died’ by Yan Lianke

Yan Lianke’s latest novel, The Day the Sun Died (342 pages; Grove Press; translated by Carlos Rojas), manages to strike a balance between humor and horror as the world crumbles over the course of one very long night in Gaotian Village, China. The story is told from the perspective of fourteen-year-old Li Niannian, whose parents own the village funerary shop, and opens with a somewhat chaotic preface in which Li Niannian calls out to the spirit world, asking them to listen as he recounts the night’s bizarre events. On this night of the great somnambulism, the people of the village …Continue reading

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Some Notes on Salinger

“If you really want to hear about it…” 1. He’s not really talking to you, it’s a ruse. Nor is he someone you want to chat with on the phone. Trust me on this. But don’t let it hurt your feelings. Like most of us, he’s talking to himself. It’s performance art, a term that contains its own contradiction. He (or his characters, whichever you prefer) is trying very hard not to go crazy. Holden Caulfield: “I kept walking and walking up Fifth Avenue, without any tie on or anything. Then all of a sudden, something very spooky started happening. …Continue reading

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‘Invisible Relations’ by Jenny Xie, ZYZZYVA No. 111, Winter Issue

Jenny Xie is the author of the poetry collection Nowhere to Arrive (Northwestern University Press). Her latest collection, Eye Level (Graywolf Press), won the 2017 Walt Whitman Award, and is currently a finalist for the 2018 Pen Open Book Award. Her poem below, titled “Invisible Relations,” appears in ZYZZYVA No. 111. There are no simple stories, because language forces distances. The days gummy and without drink. And a question stammers in the mind for weeks, one key aquiver on the piano. In the course of a day, your head will point in all the cardinal directions. It is good to …Continue reading

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Against Forgetting: ‘The Barefoot Woman’ by Scholastique Mukasonga

As a one-and-a-half-generation immigrant, I harbor a fair amount of nostalgia for a country I barely know—my native land of Kenya. Reading Scholastique Mukasonga’s memoir, The Barefoot Woman (146 pages; Archipelago Books; translated by Jordan Stump), heightened those feelings of nostalgia like nothing else even though the stories she tells are set in Nyamata, Rwanda. I suspect most Africans who read this book will have a similar response. Each chapter of the book contains a story or stories about Mukasonga’s family and their community of Tutsi refugees. We encounter them living in the aftermath of colonization and gradually embracing “progress,” …Continue reading

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Catching Up on the Classics: A ZYZZYVA Staff Reading Roundup

Sadly, there are only so many hours in a day. For even the most diligent among us, it can be difficult to stay on top of all the classic books that demand to be read. Here at ZYZZYVA, we took this rainy San Francisco January as the perfect excuse to sit down and finally catch up on some of those iconic works our staff has missed out on (at least until now): Laura Thiessen, Intern: With the New Year comes new resolutions. Unfortunately, most of them fail by the time we turn the calendar page to February. Perhaps it might be better …Continue reading

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Getting Out of The Way of the Light: Q&A with ‘Son of Amity’ author Peter Nathaniel Malae

We live in a strange, weird country (obviously). We don’t see, or want to see, what’s directly in front of us. Why bother when we have phones? Oregon author Peter Nathaniel Malae has been chronicling the untold stories of class and race, and familiar, timeless tales of family and heartache, since the publication of his first novel in 2010, What We Are, which depicts a young Samoan-American drifting through conflicts about immigration, identity and meaning. (As his protagonist muses, “I can find beauty in the gutter, as long as it’s empty of another heartbeat.’’) The former Steinbeck and MacDowell Colony fellow made …Continue reading

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‘Carpe Diem’ by Lucia Berlin, ZYZZYVA No. 1, Spring Issue

Lucia Berlin was an American short story writer, who developed a small, devoted following, but did not reach a mass audience during her lifetime. She rose to sudden literary fame eleven years after her death, in August 2015, with FSG’s publication of a volume of selected stories, A Manual for Cleaning Women. ZYZZYVA published a number of Berlin’s stories during the Eighties and Nineties, and her work can be found in Issues 1, 4, 18, and 31. Below is her story “Carpe Diem” in its entirety from ZYZZYVA Issue 1. Most of the time I feel all right about getting old. Some things give me a pang, like …Continue reading

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