Of Girls and Golems: An Interview with Riva Lehrer

by Christine Sneed

Artist, activist, writer, and professor Riva Lehrer’s debut memoir, Golem Girl (448 pages; One World), is a book defined by its author’s witty and confiding voice and the numerous paintings and photographs populating its pages. It is at once a work of serious literature and an artist’s book: a beautifully produced physical object. And it was recently named as one of the finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Awards in Autobiography.   Lehrer, born with spina bifida in Cincinnati in 1958, spent the first two years of her life in the hospital and would have been forced to stay […]

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Silver Lake Letter

by Glen David Gold

I live in Silver Lake, a part of Los Angeles that has been adjacent to working movie studios since Hollywood began. My house is on a parcel that was originally a farm that was failing until the owner learned he could rent his sway-back horse to Mack Sennett as a day player. The 1920s Spanish-style houses and the 1960s Neutra specimens were built for contract players, middle-class actors. What I mean to say is that the people here have always been hot. It’s sort of what we’re known for. I use that “we” as a recent immigrant, and to be […]

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L.A. Letter #2

by Various

I hear footfalls pounding outside and turn to look out my office window and see a young man in a reflective yellow vest, carrying a sizable box, running down the sidewalk in front of my house. He’s masked and disappears from my view and seconds later I hear him knocking on the front door. Three quick raps. Then he’s sprinting in the opposite direction, at a speed that tells me he’s behind his quota—or wants to get ahead of it—although it’s early morning, the sky is still overcast, the sun has yet to burn off the haze. It’s not even […]

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L.A. Letter #1

by Various

My father who had a stroke about twelve years ago, lives in a facility right near the beach on PCH (the Pacific Coast Highway), although I’m not sure he knows he lives so close to the beach. I think that if he knew, he would be very excited because he loves the ocean. This facility, like many of the senior facilities across the nation, has been struggling all year to battle COVID. Interestingly, it’s served as a kind of barometer, a proxy of sorts for the COVID spread in the area. With each new surge in the area, I receive […]

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‘Ordesa’ by Manuel Vilas: An Assertion of Goodness

by Corinne Leong

Literature is subjective: on this, most can agree. A novel provides a snapshot of the author’s world, a distillation of their values and beliefs. But sometimes there arises a snapshot so striking and definitive it resembles the universal. Manuel Vilas’ Ordesa (304 pages; Riverhead Books; translated by Andrea Rosenberg) is one such novel. In its unflinching exploration of parental loss, mortality, and solitary life through the eyes of a 52-year-old, recently bereaved divorcé, Ordesa offers a perspective so earnest it approaches unquestionable truth. Vilas’ novel is structured around its unnamed narrator’s reflections on his current, abysmal state of affairs, as well […]

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Pen Pals of the Pandemic, Unite!

by May-lee Chai

My father at nearly 90 years of age can no longer safely live on his own so he has moved in with me, into my apartment in San Francisco. We’ve sold his home, auctioned off the lifetime accumulation of his possessions, boxed his books, stacked the remnants in storage. Then the pandemic hits and we can’t go to movies or museums or anything to break the tedium of being confined together in my small, studio apartment. Sartre thought he was being clever but not literal when he wrote No Exit, putting three narcissists in Hell made up of a single

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The Manuscript in the Corner: A Conversation with Wendy C. Ortiz

by David L. Ulin

Wendy C. Ortiz and I met when she was an MFA student and I became her graduate mentor. She was working on the first draft of the manuscript that would eventually become Excavation (Future Tense; 2014), and even then, it was clear that this was remarkable work. Ruthless, self-interrogating, resolute in its unwillingness to look away, Ortiz’s book—which involves the sexual relationship she had with a teacher when she was an adolescent—represents an astonishing act of reclamation, an author writing her way back to her own life. Ortiz is not looking to lay blame so much as she is interested

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Paragraphs on Ice: Episode 1

by ZYZZYVA

Paragraphs on Ice: Andrew Sean Greer & Daniel Handler

How do certain sentences work on us as readers? What can we say about the beauty found in select pieces of prose? Daniel Handler and Andrew Sean Greer—best-selling authors and friends—take you along with them as they delightfully explore their favorite passages of writing in their video series for ZYZZYVA Studio.

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An Interview with John Marx: Balance, Beauty, and Burning Man

by Colton Alstatt

ZYZZYVA: The poetics of études are compelling. The poems within play with open space, linework, and non-invasive markings to texture and guide the flow of reading. In their verbal substance, the pregnant subtlety of some poems remind me of Master Basho’s enigmatic haikus. What were some influences on the spatial, serene nature of your writing? JOHN MARX: There are two parts to this.  First is my background in the visual arts, specifically architecture and photography. Within these there is a quest for a spareness and economy of form, alongside an emphasis on compositional clarity and dynamic flow. The internal spacing […]

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‘The Thirty Names of Night’ by Zeyn Joukhadar: At the Crossroads

by Nessa Ordukhani

In the heart of the once vibrant Manhattan neighborhood of Little Syria, towering murals of birds cover building walls. They are the artwork of a closeted Syrian American transgender boy, who finds that it is the only way he can paint since the death of his ornithologist mother. After one night of painting, the boy stumbles into an abandoned community center where he finds a leather-bound notebook hidden in the hollow cavity of a wall. It is a journal written by Laila Z, a famous Syrian American artist who mysteriously vanished over sixty years ago. Engrossed in Laila’s story, the […]

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Alabama Funeral

by Kristen Iskandrian

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

The sitter arrived with a Ziploc bag of brightly colored string. “For friendship bracelets,” she said, one eye veering off. “Yes,” Bette said. The sitter’s eye was particularly lazy today; Bette had never gotten used to it, although she herself, when extra tired, had an eye prone to drifting. Bette was aware that she could be, in a multitude of ways, a perfect hypocrite. She was named after Bette Midler, which had always embarrassed her, so she told people she was named after Bette Davis. “So it’s ‘Betty’?” people would ask, and then she’d have to correct them, and they’d […]

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Thanks

by Paul Wilner

for nothing, and the memories, or some. It would appear that we are trying too hard, to fill the silence of those terrifying infinite spaces with even more talk than before. It seemed like a good time to take a break, take five, take a knee, take a chance rather than fill the air with more of our lessness. But thanks anyway – I know you meant well, whatever that might mean. The planet spins, the moon shines and Ruby and the Romantics had it right – If we live, our day will come. […]

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