‘Monarch’ by Candice Wuehle: Dead Ringers and Sleeper Agents

by Maura Krause

Candy-coated nightmare is a familiar aesthetic by now. From TV shows like Stranger Things to movies like Birds of Prey, it is not unusual to see horror and violence shellacked in bright colors. Monarch (256 pages; Soft Skull), the first novel by acclaimed poet Candice Wuehle, wears the neon skin of such blockbusters while exploring much thornier intellectual territory, asking: what is the true meaning of self? On the surface, Monarch is a thriller, charting the life of former beauty queen and decommissioned clandestine operative Jessica Greenglass Clink. A child pageant star from the age of four, Jessica grows up […]

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ZYZZYVA Staff Recommends April 2022: What to Watch, Read, & Listen To

by ZYZZYVA Staff

Shelby Hinte, Intern: I was raised by a Texas vet and a Colorado Rockies free spirit, both of whom were raised on Southern rock and old school country. Dolly, George, Willie, and Garth were household names, as were Wynonna, Reba, Brooks and Dunn. The soundtrack of my youth was a Southern twang filled with hard living, harder drinking, and heartache—music about small towns, lovers torn apart, and cowboys. Despite my affinity for country music and its presence in the New Mexico desert where I grew up, there was a clear disconnect between the landscapes of its lyrics and the one […]

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Messiah Wolf

by Joe Donnelly

When I was a boy, my imagination was ripe for wolves. But, it wasn’t the usual folktales and fables that got to me, or the scenes of wolf packs airbrushed onto the panel vans of my suburban youth. At six years old, my wolf was a companion, not a cautionary tale or a signifier of

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‘When I Sing, Mountains Dance’ by Irene Solà: Trouble in the Landscape

by Maura Krause

In the age of the Anthropocene, Irene Solà’s When I Sing, Mountains Dance (216 pages; Graywolf Press; translated by Mara Faye Lethem) is a salve. Its texture is smooth yet it’s laced with herbaceous pungency. In a magically rendered translation from the Catalan by Mara Faye Lethem, Solà’s second novel offers up healing for those who care to find it. Set in the Pyrenees near Spain’s border with France, this marvelous book loosely traces one family’s tragedies and how they seep into the lives of others in their close-knit village. These troubles are refracted by the landscape, witnessed by unusual […]

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Six Authors in Search of a Character: Part 6—Yukio Mishima

by Sean Gill

“I wrote ‘Patriotism’ from the point of view of the young officer who could not help choosing suicide because he could not take part in the Ni Ni Roku Incident. This is neither a comedy nor a tragedy but simply a story of happiness…To choose the place where one dies is also the greatest joy in life.” —Yukio Mishima, in a 1966 postscript to his short story, “Patriotism”  Army Lieutenant Shinji Takeyama sits on a Noh stage with his wife, Reiko (Yoshiko Tsuruoka). The only real ornamentation in the spare white room is an enormous kakemono banner, bearing the Chinese […]

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Signed with an XO: Q&A with ‘XO’ Author Sara Rauch

by Christine Sneed

Most readers (all?) live for the books that compel them to ignore worldly distractions in order to reach the final page with as little delay as possible. I had that experience recently when I read Sara Rauch’s new memoir, XO (172 pages; Autofocus Books), which chronicles the author’s inexorable trajectory from a monogamous relationship with a female partner to a dizzying, disorienting affair with a heterosexual man whom she met as a student at her West Coast MFA program. He was an established, much-published writer. He was also married and one of the program’s faculty. Years ago, I read a […]

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‘Getting Clean with Stevie Green’ by Swan Huntley: A Decluttered Life

by Sophia Carr

These days, the story of a woman attempting to get her life together as she approaches middle age has become a familiar trope. However, Getting Clean with Stevie Green (304 pages; Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster), the latest novel by Swan Huntley, feels unique even as it tells the story of thirty-seven-year-old Stevie’s journey to live the life she envisions for herself. This is no small task for Stevie, a professional in the cutthroat business of decluttering people’s homes, as she must deal with addiction and mental illness while coming to terms with her sexuality and navigating the  shifting dynamics of […]

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‘The Boy with a Bird in His Chest’ by Emme Lund: Like the Best Fables

by Maura Krause

The last few years have seen queer and trans literature receive a long-overdue upswing in both publication and attention. Emme Lund’s first novel, The Boy with a Bird in His Chest (320 pages; Atria Books), takes a well-earned place among its siblings, while shimmering brightly with its own unique brilliance. Lund’s lyrical and fabulist-leaning tale is the story of Owen Tanner, a boy with a java sparrow living in a hole behind his ribs. Born during the worst spring flood in Morning, Montana, Owen is supposed to be lucky. Yet the beginning of his life seems anything but. According to […]

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The Bully of Columbus

by Tom Barbash

“You’re gonna get your ass kicked,” the greasy haired bully said. He said it every time I saw him, which was once or twice a week when I was coming back from therapy, or on my way back from school. I was 16 then. “Ass kicked,” he called out once I’d passed him on Columbus Avenue,

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The Third Daughter

by Vanessa Hua

The Chairman is dead. Outside, the people of Chinatown are cheering. They light firecrackers and beat pots and pans, chanting as they march three floors below the window of my apartment. Their signs say, “Smash the Emperor!” Drips of paint spoil the sweep and curve of the calligraphy, the characters bleeding as if shot. Shouts

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Six Authors in Search of a Character: Part 5—Jacqueline Susann

by Sean Gill

Q: “Which is the product, you or the book?” JS: “Way back… the author, the successful author, sold himself, only we didn’t have the media. If you recall, Ernest Hemingway… there was always great publicity, how he was a great white hunter, how he went to the bullring… and so you sort of almost mixed the man with his character, they said, ‘That’s really Hemingway.’ F. Scott Fitzgerald, he and his wife, Zelda, lived the same kind of flamboyant life in the south of France as the kind of Americans they wrote about. And then along came television, and the […]

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Everyone Has a Dead Father

by Matthew Zapruder

The road from Chicago to Iowa City is straight, about three and a half hours due west. In 2004, I was on my way from a reading at a bookstore in Chicago to one in Iowa City, the famed Prairie Lights. About halfway there, I pulled into a rest stop and saw I had missed

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