35th Anniversary Issue

by ZYZZYVA

ZYZZYVA Volume 36, #1, Spring 2020 (No. 118)

Our 35th Anniversary Issue. Fiction: Bryan Washington, Lysley Tenorio, Elizabeth Reichert, Santiago José Sánchez, Mark Chiusano, Peter Orner, and Kristen Iskandrian. Nonfiction: Lauren Markham, Dave Madden. Interview: Margaret Wilkerson Sexton talks to John McMurtrie. Poetry: Meg Hurtado Bloom, Lisa Higgs, Troy Jollimore, Debora Kuan, Jennifer Richter, Dujie Tahat, John Sibley Williams, and Emma Winsor Wood. Art: Anne Siems. You can purchase a copy of No. 118 here, or order a subscription to ZYZZYVA now. […]

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‘August’ by Callan Wink: The Struggle of Youth

by Jesse Bedayn

August (304 pages; Random House), Callan Wink’s first novel and second book following his story collection, Dog Run Moon, opens on a collection of cat tails chopped from tabby corpses in a Michigan barn. The 12-year-old boy responsible for this violence, the titular August, is paid per tail, proof he’s killed a feral cat. And so Wink launches us into a turbulent coming-of-age story punctuated by donuts performed drunk outside a Hutterite colony and the pregnant pauses on the phone between the protagonist and his emotionally distant father. While August’s inner turmoil is often opaque, the novel offers an uncannily sympathetic […]

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‘And Their Children After Them’ by Nicolas Mathieu: A Disaffected Life

by CJ Green

Recounting four summers in the life of a teenager, Nicolas Mathieu’s new novel, And Their Children After Them (420 pages; Other Press; translated by William Rodarmor), is a testament to what words can do at their leanest. The opening reads as check list: “Anthony had just turned fourteen…His parents were jerks. When school started he would be in ninth grade.” When Anthony and his cousin (never named) are “bored out of their skulls,” they paddle over to a nude beach where they find not nudists, but peers, girls their own age—and yes, out of their league. The novel proceeds in […]

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Cathedral: Some Marginalia on Reading

by Paisley Rekdal

“It’s okay to be white,” reads the sign posted in November by the Social Work building on the University of Utah campus where I teach. White poster, fine black letters in Arial font. The sign disappears in a day, though photos are taken, passed via social media. Two posters with the slogan “Stop the Rapes, Stop the Crime, Stop the Murder, Stop the Blacks” are then taped up, each with a web address for the manifesto “Blood and Soil” written by Vanguard America. These, too, are torn down. Someone spray-paints racist epithets on a campus construction site. This is not […]

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‘The Vanishing Half’ by Brit Bennett: A Lonely Gift

by Cade Johnson

Brit Bennett’s second novel, The Vanishing Half (352 pages; Riverhead Books), is an enthralling addition to the literature of passing: novels about taking on an alternative racial identity that often explore the concept of race as performance. The Vanishing Half is powered by its reflections on deception, motherhood, and love, and where they intersect. Whereas other novels about passing, such as James Weldon Johnson’s 1912 novel, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, focus on the arbitrariness of racial constructs, Bennett’s novel studies the self-inflicted psychological and social repercussions of passing and the alienation of self. Beginning in the 1960s, the […]

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ZYZZYVA Staff Recommends June 2020: What to Read, Watch, & Listen to

by ZYZZYVA Staff

The month of June has been one of the most tumultuous months of 2020—and that’s saying something. You’ll find some of the Staff Recommends in this installment touch on some relevant themes, including a seminal film from Spike Lee. We also have some lighter fare on the docket for those who might be searching for momentary escapism. So without further ado: Cade Johnson, Intern: I recently watched Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing after a friend recommended it to me. I had heard about this film on one other occasion from an episode of a New York Times podcast, “Still […]

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‘Hurricane Season’ by Fernanda Melchor: Taboo of the Witch

by CJ Green

More than once did I consider abandoning Hurricane Season (224 pages; New Directions; translated by Sophia Hughes), Fernanda Melchor’s first novel. Sentences are pages long, and the ones that are not are often fragments. Many times I lost my place. I could barely see through the imagery, which is torrential yet constantly vivid. Even so, I turned its final page after only a few sittings. The story begins with a body. The Witch, she is called. Discovered by five boys wading through a canal, she lies floating beneath a “myriad of black snakes, smiling.” From there the next seven chapters […]

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Love, Longing, and Loss: Scott Spencer’s Journey to the Far Shores of Emotion

by Paul Wilner

Reading Scott Spencer’s work is an adventure in negative capability—an opportunity to fall, or dive, into a deeper world beyond good and evil, reason and faith, will and fate. The love, and acceptance he feels for his characters is endless, though not without a deep understanding of the many flaws— narcissism, inconstancy, faithlessness, greed—that flesh is heir to. His latest novel, An Ocean Without A Shore (341 pages; Ecco Press), is a sequel of sorts to River Under the Road (2017), which took a hard look at the multiple misfortunes of Thaddeus Kaufman, a struggling novelist and screenwriter manqué, living […]

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Q&A with Daniel Mason: Diagnosis and Distillation

by Regan McMahon

After publishing three novels, The Piano Tuner (2002), A Far Country (2005), and The Winter Soldier (2018), Bay Area author Daniel Mason released his first collection of short fiction in May, A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth (240 pages; Little, Brown). As he does in his longer works, he takes us into the minds and hearts of complex, nuanced characters and places them in intricately described settings, often in the natural word, detailed with the depth and precision of a botanist or anthropologist. He is, in fact, a man of science—by day he’s a clinical assistant professor in […]

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The Great Danger: A Conversation with Arundhati Roy – Part II

by John Freeman

When Arundhati Roy’s long-awaited second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, appeared last year, some reviewers wondered what the writer from Kerala had been up to for two decades. She certainly wasn’t blocked. If you care about climate change, protested the war in Iraq, or have followed resistance to dams anywhere, she has been hard to miss. In fact, since 1995, the year The God of Small Things was published and won the Man Booker, catapulting the then-35-year-old novelist to worldwide fame, Roy has released more than a dozen works of reportage. Nuclear power, the state killing of Muslims in […]

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The Great Danger: A Conversation with Arundhati Roy – Part I

by John Freeman

The following is Part I of an Interview with author Arundhati Roy you can read in its entirety in Issue 113, available on our Shop page. When Arundhati Roy’s long-awaited second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, appeared last year, some reviewers wondered what the writer from Kerala had been up to for two decades. She certainly wasn’t blocked. If you care about climate change, protested the war in Iraq, or have followed resistance to dams anywhere, she has been hard to miss. In fact, since 1995, the year The God of Small Things was published and won the Man […]

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‘New Waves’ by Kevin Nguyen: Adapt or Be Left Behind

by Zack Ravas

Sometimes it seems as as though authors go out of their way to select the most academic or arcane-sounding quote (the older, the better) to serve as the preamble to their novel. Not so with Kevin Nguyen’s first novel, New Waves (303 pages; One World). The book opens with a familiar quote from the classic 1986 Nintendo game Legend of Zelda, “It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this,” which clues in readers to the millennial voice of this novel—warm, inviting, unpretentious—and underscores one of the themes of the book, that of friendship and solidarity, including the makeshift families we sometimes […]

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Q&A with Adam McOmber: ‘Jesus and John’ and Godot in Wonderland

by Christine Sneed

Adam McOmber’s new novel, Jesus and John (232 pages; Lethe Press), is a uniquely engrossing book, one that blends the sacred and the secular, the real and the surreal, and also offers an artful and subtle interrogation of what consciousness is and what, ultimately, it means to be alive. Not only is it a genre-defying novel, but the author immerses us in the strange world of ancient Rome, which at the time was the seat of a polytheistic empire.   Throughout Jesus and John, there’s the inimitable sense of the biblical title characters advancing through a mysterious and possibly malevolent, maze-like Roman […]

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