I Guess It Must Be Up To Me: Larry Beckett’s Western Cries, and Whispers

by Paul Wilner

Portland poet, musician, and polymath Larry Beckett’s work explores the narratives which help define, however imperfectly, our history. American Cycle, a 600-page labor of love he has been working on for forty-seven years, tentatively set to be published in the Fall by Running Wild Press, encompasses characters from Paul Bunyan to John Henry, Chief Joseph to P.T. Barnum and Amelia Earhart. His current collection, Wyatt Earp – Poetic Narrative of a Wild Life in the Wild West (Alternating Current Press), pays homage to the reluctant lawman, offering an elegiac mash-up of the conflicting accounts of Earp’s life and legend. Fade […]

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

by ZYZZYVA Staff

It’s our hope that our readers are staying healthy and safe (don’t forget your mask at the grocery store). The Bay Area seems likely to stay sheltered in place for a bit longer than most of the country, which means we have plenty of time on our hands—and plenty of books, films, and other media to recommend! So let’s get into it: Bella Davis, Intern: Even though I know it’s ridiculous and frankly cruel to expect anyone to be productive right now, it still feels like I need to be making something of my time in quarantine. Maybe I should […]

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‘Temporary’ by Hilary Leichter: Circling the Drain of the Gig Economy

by Alicia Long

In her first novel, Temporary (208 pages; Coffee House Press), Hilary Leichter creates a world that is all too familiar to readers, only askew. In this surreal tale of a nameless temp worker trying to find “a job that will stay,” Leichter conveys the absurdity of the job market, and the sentiments of the temporary, outward-looking workers who circle its drain. I consider my deepest wish. There are days I think I’ve achieved it, and then it’s gone, like a sneeze that gets swallowed. I’ve heard that at the first sign of permanence, the heart rate can increase, and blood […]

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‘Godshot’ by Chelsea Bieker: Prayers for Rain

by Cade Johnson

Prolonged periods of drought in recent years have resulted in a considerable diminishing of groundwater in the Central Valley of California, and temperatures are expected to rise by five or six degrees Fahrenheit in the region by the end of the century. It seems that, in less than a decade, the effects of climate change shifted from feared to felt. As corporations continue to aggressively resist responsibility, there is more pressure on the individual than ever to do their part. So what happens when a once-abundant, isolated agricultural community of roughly 1,000 people is drought-stricken and plagued with massive crop […]

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ZYZZYVA and The Booksmith present Lockdown Lit @ Lunch

by ZYZZYVA

Lockdown Literature, a collective of 80+ authors with new books published during the COVID-19 crisis, will partner with The Booksmith, one of San Francisco’s oldest independent bookstores, and the literary magazine ZYZZYVA, to present “Lockdown Lit @ Lunch,” a series of midday conversations between contemporary writers. The first event will be held on Tuesday, May 19, at 2pm EDT, featuring Clare Beams (The Illness Lesson) and Rachel Vorona Cote (Too Much: How Victorian Constraints Still Bind Women Today). Events will be broadcast on Facebook Live (facebook.com/booksmith) and hosted by ZYZZYVA Managing Editor, Oscar Villalon. “There are so many great new […]

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‘The Club’ by Takis Würger: A Secret Society

by Alecsander Zapata

Takis Würger’s The Club (224 pages; Grove Press, translated by Charlotte Collins), is a novel designed to spur conversation. Equal parts coming-of-age tale and thriller, the story features a well-known institution ripe for critique—the secretive societies of higher education—and is willing to tackle complex issues of elitism and misogyny, all while keeping the reader engaged. The Club follows Hans, a German orphan whose only living relative is his Aunt Alex, who teaches art history at Cambridge University. When Hans turns eighteen and graduates from boarding school, Aunt Alex recruits him to infiltrate Cambridge’s elite and mysterious Pitt Club, which she […]

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‘Little Constructions’ by Anna Burns: The Brink of Madness

by Alicia Long

Little Constructions (304 pages; Graywolf Press), Anna Burns’ second novel, but her most recent to be published in the U.S. following the success of her Man Booker Prize-winning Milkman, breaks into a run from its opening pages. Things at the former-best-gun shop in the town of Tiptoe Floorboard are looking a bit dicey as two men named Tom are pitted against the angry and quite likely murderous Jetty Doe. Jetty storms in like she owns the place, steals a gun, steals the wrong bullets for said gun, and then storms back out, impatiently hailing a taxi. As Jetty rides away […]

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‘For McClure’

by Paul Wilner

Debonair dude, bird thou never wert. Fly high, higher, highest, higher than that, far. Lionhearted lover roaring of sex, death and tantric miracles. You rode the wave, surfed above and beyond beatitudes to a still harmonic humming. Cool customer, hot to the touch. In Eternity, you pose the ecstatic, unanswerable koan. “Before you can pry any secrets from me you must first find the real me. Which one will you pursue?’’ Mane, mind and scrotum, you are ready to meet your Maker, and ours, in a blue velvet Paradise. Death be not proud, nor is it humble. Jesus, he was […]

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Shelter in Place Schedule

by Christine Sneed

7 AM Rise from bed in a sunny mood 7:15 Drink coffee from home-roasted beans, painstakingly ground by hand with Japanese-engineered grinder while listening to northern mockingbird sing from the top of a nearby lemon tree. 7:20 Feel upsurge in mood after caffeine hit and read a New Yorker profile of a hearing impaired beekeeper 7:40 Feel good mood wane as neighbor starts blasting Meatloaf CD through the wall 7:43 Pound on wall 7:48 Pound on wall again 7:52 Pound on wall a third time while screaming 7:55 Go outside for exercise with face mask and gloves 8:02 Accidentally step […]

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In Memoriam: Eavan Boland

by Kenneth Fields

(Image credit: Maura Hickey)

(Image credit: Maura Hickey) There are depths we cannot fathom. In this long season of losses, many of us have felt and will feel ourselves dropped into these depths with the death of loved ones. This is how many of us feel about the death of my friend and colleague, the Irish poet, Eavan Boland. She was born in Dublin in 1944 to Frances Kelly, a noted Irish painter and Frederick H. Boland, a famous diplomat. As director of Stanford’s Creative Writing Program for 24 years, she combined her artistic and diplomatic skills to negotiate among fellows, lecturers, faculty, donors, […]

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‘Sleeping with Strangers’ by David Thomson: In Great Company

by Zack Ravas

Reading the latest book by acclaimed film critic David Thomson, Sleeping with Strangers: How the Movies Shaped Desire (348 pages; Vintage), now out in paperback, one can’t help but suspect the book’s thesis may have changed over the course of its writing. A mixture of memoir, criticism, and film theory (“Why am I giving you history and memoir?” Thomson asks early on. “Because you cannot get close to movies without grasping the mindset in which they were received. When you go to the movies, you take your history with you. The fantasy is about you.”), the book was prompted by […]

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Distance and Richard Serra’s ‘Ballast’

by Dominica Phetteplace

Ones of life’s pleasures is staring at something interesting, especially if it is also beautiful. And so I am bereft now that the museums and galleries are all closed. In response to shelter-in place, many museums are enhancing their virtual experiences. But I’ve yet to explore any of these offerings because the internet is full of horrors, and I feel the need to spend my leisure time away from my screen. I’m lucky to live near the UCSF Mission Bay Campus, which houses many works of outdoor art, including Richard Serra’s Ballast (2005). This piece has never felt more timely. […]

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