Q&A with Matthew Clark Davison: ‘Doubting Thomas’ and Our Need for a Pariah

by Adam Winograd

Matthew Clark Davison’s first novel, Doubting Thomas (272 pages; Amble Press) tells the story of a fourth-grade teacher, gay and out, named Thomas McGurrin, who—while navigating the familial turmoil of his brother’s recent cancer diagnosis—is falsely accused of inappropriately touching one of his  students at a private school in Portland. The community, however unintentionally, goes from promoting Thomas as a symbol of their own progress to casting him as a pariah. Thomas, even after being found innocent, is forced to leave his job.  Davison’s writing has been published widely, including in Guernica, The Atlantic Monthly, Foglifter, Fourteen Hills, and other […]

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‘Something New Under the Sun’ by Alexandra Kleeman: Don’t Drink the WAT-R

by Shelby Hinte

Imagine for a moment that the power to your city has been turned off for an undisclosed amount of time—a precautionary measure to ensure that homes are not engulfed in flames by the fires that rage just outside the city limits. A heat wave invades the city and in the darkness of a blacked-out night, no air conditioners hum. People open their windows to let in air, any air, to cool themselves amid the scorching heat, even if it is full of smoke from nearby fires. The state has issued water restrictions due to drought and, oh yes, people are […]

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Q&A with Ashley Nelson Levy: ‘Immediate Family’ and Diverging from the Adoption Narrative

by Oriana Christ

In the opening pages of Immediate Family (192 pages; Farrar, Straus & Giroux), the unnamed narrator’s brother calls and asks her to give a speech at his wedding—and so begins the complex and careful family portrait that is Ashley Nelson Levy’s unshakeable debut novel. The time between this phone call and the impending speech is spent grappling with questions of what she should say, what she won’t say, what she has a right to say. In her attempts at finding answers, the narrator takes us through her life in the form of a letter to her younger brother Danny, detailing […]

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ZYZZYVA Staff Recommends August 2021: What to Read & Listen To

by ZYZZYVA Staff

Shelby Hinte, Intern: I’m not usually a nostalgic person, but maybe it was turning 30 this year or the simple fact that nearly every facet of normal life was rendered unstable by the pandemic, but this summer I’ve been longing for the past—at least musically. Early in 2020 a longtime favorite band of mine, Best Coast, released their new album Always Tomorrow. It came out a few weeks before shelter-in-place orders were announced and so I didn’t catch word of it until a year later. It has since become one of the most played albums on my Spotify, second only […]

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Q&A with Cedar Sigo: ‘Guard the Mysteries’ and Knowing Your History

by Ray Levy Uyeda

In his new book, Guard the Mysteries (126 pages; Wave Books), comprised of five talks presented for the Bagely Wright Lecture Series, Cedar Sigo draws from his experiences as poet, teacher, writer, and thinker to tell us about the life of a poet and the work of his poetry. In the lectures, inward reflections become outward, and what elements start as external (such as a listener’s question) are absorbed into the inside. In other words, poetry is revealed to be a metaphysical, transitive process, always in movement, and always capable of connecting dual sides of a truth. “More and more, […]

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Q&A with Mick LaSalle: ‘Dream State’ & the American Soul

by Zack Ravas

Local readers likely know Mick LaSalle as the longtime film critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, where he’s worked since 1985. What they may or may not know is that he’s also an accomplished author: we featured his short story “Fresh Kills” in Issue 108, and he has several books to his name, including Complicated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood, about the actresses who rose to fame during that brief window of time before Hollywood censorship took hold; and The Beauty of the Real: What Hollywood Can Learn from Contemporary French Actresses. His latest book, Dream State: California in the […]

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Shop Talk: Troy Jollimore


Troy Jollimore ZYZZYVA interview

Fans of the films of the Coen Brothers simply must read Troy Jollimore’s essay “The Fixers” from Issue 120, the Technology issue. Through the lens of several of the Coens’ most seminal films, including their 1996 Best Picture nominee Fargo, Jollimore explores how disinformation and conspiracy have grown  dominant in American culture over the last two decades. Be sure to order your copy of Issue 120 so you can read “The Fixers.”

Troy Jollimore is the author of four books of poetry and three books of philosophy, as well as numerous articles, essays, and reviews. His first collection of poetry, Tom Thomson in Purgatory, won the National Book Critics Circle award in poetry for 2006. His poems have appeared in publications including the New Yorker, Poetry Magazine, McSweeney’s, the New England Review, Tin House, and The Best American Poetry 2020. He is currently a Professor in the Philosophy Department at California State University, Chico.

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Q&A with Kelly Cressio-Moeller: ‘Shade of Blue Trees’ and the Presence of the Body

by Alana Frances Baer

Kelly Cressio-Moeller’s debut poetry collection, Shade of Blue Trees (79 pages; Two Sylvias Press), consists of thirty-seven poems, broken into four parts. Cressio-Moeller has long established herself as both a visual artist and writer, with her widely published poetry earning nominations for the Pushcart Prize, Best New Poets, and Best of the Net awards. Having spent most of her life in San José, California, Cressio-Moeller draws heavily from California terrain. She points to the heavy knots of human relationships, reminding us that love comes with grief. And she writes of and from daily life, mapping the jagged edges of relationships […]

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‘Appleseed’ by Matt Bell: From Antiquity to Apocalypse

by Colton Alstatt

From novelist Matt Bell comes his newest book, Appleseed (480 pages; Custom House), a story about the linked fates of three Ohioans: a malformed brother in pre-colonial America hunting the Tree of Forgetting, hoping to forget pasts he does and does not know; a near-future ecoterrorist resisting his former lover’s corporate dystopia across an abandoned United States; and a haunted cyborg crossing an icy, post-human purgatory to re-cultivate the Earth, which, despite lacking the vocabulary or Keatsian tradition, he instinctually knows is beautiful. Sentence-level epics form on every page, the prose floating between beatific and elegiac: This overripe abundance all […]

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‘Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead’ by Emily Austin: Return to Dust

by Oriana Christ

Life is, as some are already too aware, absurdly fragile and relatively meaningless. This certitude saturates nearly every page of Emily Austin’s debut novel, Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead (243 pages; Atria Books). Though the book’s title makes it fairly clear what is to follow, its cover, with its delicate cursive lettering and pastel bunnies, might mislead one to expect an ultimately lighthearted or uplifting story. This is not the case. Readers should go in with a few warnings: the novel is fundamentally about severe anxiety and thus severely anxiety-inducing; it contains heavy suicidal ideation and is […]

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