The L.A. Issue

by ZYZZYVA

ZYZZYVA Volume 36, #2, Fall–Winter 2020 (No. 119) - Day and Night Versions

The L.A. Issue. Fiction: Ray Bradbury, Siel Ju, Jonathan Escoffery, Perry Janes, Francisco González, Andrés Reconco, Kathleen Mackay, and Michelle Latiolais. Nonfiction: A. Kendra Greene, Wendy C. Ortiz, Steve Ryfle, and David L. Ulin. Interview: Steve Ryfle talks to the late Wanda Coleman. Poetry: Victoria Chang, David Hernandez, Genevieve Kaplan, Douglas Manuel, Dan Murphy, and Mary Otis. Art: Henry Lara. You can purchase a copy of No. 119 here, or order a subscription to ZYZZYVA now. […]

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

by ZYZZYVA Staff

As October draws to an end, it’s difficult to imagine what form Halloween will take in this era of social distancing (and a tad difficult to focus on such festivities with Election Day looming), which might be why we’re forgoing our usual brand of holiday-themed staff picks. But that doesn’t mean we’re lacking in reading and viewing material to recommend this month—far from it!—so without further ado: Corinne Leong, Intern: I knew Luca Guadagnino’s new miniseries was for me the moment the main character began to wax lyrical about Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky with Exit Wounds while lying in a skiff in […]

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‘Just Us: An American Conversation’ by Claudia Rankine: Confronting White Silence

by Cade Johnson

The title of Claudia Rankine’s new collection of essays, Just Us: An American Conversation (352 pages; Graywolf Press), alludes to a Richard Pryor quote from a 1979 stand-up routine about the criminal justice system: “You go down there looking for justice, that’s what you find, just us.” The quote is just as potent now as it was then, with mass incarceration making prisons disproportionately Black, and relevant to Rankine’s stance as she confronts white silence and privilege. But the title also evokes community, a sense of a unified “us,” as well as the more private “us” that exists when we […]

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‘Straight from the Horse’s Mouth’ by Meryem Alaoui: Vivid and Vividly Angry

by Michelle Latiolais

Straight from the Horse’s Mouth (304 pages; Other Press; translated by Emma Ramadan) was originally published in French as La vérité sort de la bouche du cheval by Éditions Gallimard, Paris, in 2018. One reads a tremendous amount of work in translation these days, and it is a bounty, what translators make possible for us. I am forever grateful, and particularly, most recently, for this first novel by the Moroccan-born writer Meryem Alaoui. The novel is a vivid, and vividly angry, first-person portrait of Jmiaa, now thirty-four, but forced into prostitution by her destitute husband before she is twenty. Jmiaa […]

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Passion Tempered with Patience: An Interview with Paul Yamazaki

by Stephen Sparks

ZYZZYVA Volume 33, #2, Fall 2017

Paul Yamazaki made me want to be a bookseller. When I met Paul, I’d been working in bookstores for fifteen years, but it wasn’t until getting to know him and seeing just how established and comfortable he was with his place in the publishing ecosystem that I began to find a similar comfort myself. At the time, I was working as a manager and book buyer at Green Apple Books on Clement Street, and have since, at the beginning of 2017, become with my wife the owner of Point Reyes Books.  Paul has been at City Lights Bookstore for nearly […]

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‘Daddy’ by Emma Cline: An Unsettling Glimpse

by Zack Ravas

The coverage surrounding Emma Cline’s rise to literary fame has tended to focus on everything but her work—a seven-figure book deal with Random House, her young age, a copyright case involving an ex-boyfriend that was definitively shot down in court. But unfortunate as this is, the writing is what matters. Cline’s first novel, The Girls, transplanted the story of the Manson Family to late Sixties Northern California. While the Manson murders were a well-trod subject long before the book was published in 2016, Cline found a way to make the narrative feel compelling again by using it to tell a […]

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‘The Party Upstairs’ by Lee Conell: Where Expectations Meet a Harsh Reality

by Nessa Ordukhani

Lee Conell’s first novel, The Party Upstairs (308 pages; Penguin Random House), is a provocative testament to class division and the boundless nature of self-absorbance. Alternating between the perspectives of Ruby and her father, Martin, Conell offers us a glimpse into a microcosm of New York where tensions are high, and resentment seems inevitable. Ruby, saddled with a niche degree and few job prospects, is forced to move back to her childhood home—the basement in an Upper West Side apartment building where her father is the super. Martin, exhausted by life and desperate for a moment of peace, must continue […]

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‘Telephone’ by Percival Everett: The Futility of Play

by Michelle Latiolais

One can read Percival Everett’s latest novel entirely ignorant of why it is titled Telephone (232 pages; Graywolf Press), as I did, or one can be in the know. Supposedly there is an A, B, and C version, and thus the title. I have read the B version, and that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. Discrepancies may occur, or indeed will occur, and like those dinner parties in which everyone argues over whether the superior novel is Mrs. Bridge or Mr. Bridge, now we can convene to argue our preferred version of Telephone, except I think this may […]

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‘Zero Zone’ by Scott O’Connor: Looking Out, and Beyond, Art, Angst, and Agony

by Paul Wilner

“The guards let them stay in the dayroom longer than usual, on account of the fact that the world might end,’’ Scott O’Connor allows, writing about a convict named Tanner and his friend Emmett deep into his enthralling new novel, Zero Zone (Counterpoint Press, 320 pages). The “fact’’ in question is the Three Mile Island meltdown—the jailbirds are disappointed that it fizzles, but there’s more—much more—apocalyptic tension to come here. O’Connor’s work is a spooky, sometimes sepulchral portrait of the confluence between the overlapping lives of Jess Shepard, a Los Angeles installation artist who has created a space near an […]

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Q&A with Rachel Swearingen: ‘How to Walk on Water and Other Stories’

by Christine Sneed

One of the best story collections I’ve read in the last several years, Rachel Swearingen’s How To Walk on Water and Other Stories (182 pages; New American Press), winner of the New American Press Fiction Prize, is defined in no small part by its author’s ability to immerse her readers in the complex and varied interior lives of the characters who populate her stories. Whether Swearingen is describing a graduate student’s attempt not to be driven to murder and madness by rude undergraduate neighbors or is offering us an intimate and highly specific view of a widower still grieving over […]

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

by ZYZZYVA Staff

Is it just us or was this September one of those ‘blink-and-you-missed-it’ kind of months? Ah, but it’s so hard to tell what time means anymore in 2020. We’re still keeping busy, however, which is why we’re back with our regularly scheduled Staff Picks in case you’re looking for something to listen to, read, or more: Bella Davis, Intern: Lately, it’s been hard for me to think about anything other than collapse. The election is a little over a month away and the President of the United States has refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power should he […]

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‘Luster’ by Raven Leilani: Turning the Gaze Backward

by Colton Alstatt

As the era of Philip Roth, Norman Mailer, and John Updike—sex-norm-subverting Baby Boomer writers—passes, something about the sexual rutting of white men grows tired. New scrutiny appears for their works; Updike’s late fiction, David Foster Wallace said, exemplified “the joyless and anomic self-indulgence of the Me Generation[’s] impassioned infidelities.” In response, a new wave of American authors are emerging to re-examine the Complicated White Man’s extramarital affair. Thirty-year-old Raven Leilani’s first novel, Luster (227 Pages; Farrar, Straus and Giroux), tells the story from the other side, as a young Black woman involves herself in the open marriage of an older […]

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