‘Customs’ by Solmaz Sharif: The Complicity of Speech

by Ray Levy Uyeda

Solmaz Sharif’s second collection of poetry, Customs (104 pages; Graywolf Press), interrogates the English language and its role in shaping America. English was the language used to write the U.S. Constitution, enslave kidnapped West Africans, and free enslaved African Americans; it’s the language used to go to war and used to achieve liberation. Customs inspects language itself as a device for colonization and country-making, which in this land is the same. The collection, split into three sections, begins with a poem called “America.” Eighteen lines composed of 12 sentences, each sentence three words long, the poem appears almost like a […]

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Shelter

by Kate Folk

In the basement of the house in Iowa that Reese and Mark were renting for summer, there was a concrete vault, eight-by-five-feet, presumably built as a storm shelter. Reese stored the house’s Shop-Vac there, along with a box of Carr’s rosemary crackers and a crate of wine shipped from their friends’ vineyard in Sonoma. Beyond

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‘Tell Me I’m Worthless’ by Alison Rumfitt: A Necessary Resistance

by Supriya Saxena

Powerful and disturbing in equal measure, Alison Rumfitt’s first novel, Tell Me I’m Worthless (260 pages; Cipher Press), uses a story about a haunted house (known as the House) to investigate the rise of fascist movements in current-day Britain and the trauma they inflict. The novel, which was published in the U.K. last October but is available to order online, examines the “gender-critical feminist” transphobic hate movement in Britain, the ways in which young people are recruited to fascist movements, and the deep-seated hypocrisy of many who consider themselves progressive—all while spinning a chilling horror tale.  Alice and Ila were […]

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Six Authors in Search of a Character: Part 4—Mickey Spillane

by Sean Gill

1963 Mickey Spillane is “Mike Hammer”             “When you sit at home comfortably folded up in a chair beside a fire, have you ever thought about what goes on outside there? Probably not. You pick up a book, reading about things and stuff, getting a vicarious kick from people and events that never happened. You’re doing it now, getting ready to fill in a normal life with the details of someone else’s experiences… But remember this: there are things happening out there. They go on every day and night making Roman holidays look like school picnics… All you have to […]

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‘Dead Winter’ by Matvei Yankelevich: Winter on the Page

by Chiara Bercu

Matvei Yankelevich’s latest poetry collection, Dead Winter (40 pages; Fonograf Editions), is a wheeling and melancholic address to winter as a mimetic object. “My task, my cross—to reassemble winter’s/ memory,” Yankelevich states in one the earliest of his twenty-seven poems. He meets this attempt to capture winter on the page by mounting an inquiry into the season as a site of recursion, ungovernability, and wasting. Yankelevich pictures winter as an “abandon” forever short of expression. Within “imagined limits,” winter appears to modulate time in an alternately moldering and propulsive manner: “Of/ course, one can look out a window, one/ can […]

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‘Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century’ by Kim Fu: Surrealism for Our Times

by Maura Krause

As the planet careens into 2022, surrealism might be the best way to capture our psyche. Kim Fu’s first story collection, Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century (220 pages; Tin House Books), makes a convincing argument for such an idea. Without referencing any specific events or cultural moments, the twelve pieces in Fu’s aptly titled fourth book capture a wide swath of modern maladies. In a recent interview with The Rumpus, Fu stated she wanted in her work to take “speculative ideas very seriously and at face value…without a winking eye to metaphor.” Remarkably, she succeeds, avoiding the pitfalls […]

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Q&A with Sindya Bhanoo: ‘Seeking Fortune Elsewhere’ and the Immigrant Story

by Supriya Saxena

Sindya Bhanoo’s story collection, Seeking Fortune Elsewhere (240 pages; Catapult), follows the lives of South Indian immigrants and their families, focusing on the women in these communities and how they deal with the hardships that come their way. While exploring the bitter realities of her characters’ circumstances, Bhanoo captures both the tenacity and tender humanity of her protagonists. Bhanoo’s fiction has appeared in Granta, New England Review, Glimmer Train, and elsewhere. A longtime newspaper reporter, she has worked for The New York Times and The Washington Post. She is a graduate of the Michener Center for Writers and lives in […]

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Q&A with Juhea Kim: ‘Beasts of a Little Land’ & Suffering in the Name of Love

by Shelby Hinte

Juhea Kim’s first novel, Beasts of a Little Land (416 pages; Ecco), is an epic tale of occupied Korea that spans nearly five decades. Beginning in 1971, the highly ambitious narrative delves into Korean history and mythology and grapples with the dilemma of seeking meaning in a perilous world. Kim was born in Incheon, Korea , and moved to Portland, Oregon, when she was nine. She is a climate advocate, and her story “Biodome” appeared in ZYZZYVA Issue 120. She recently spoke to ZYZZYVA over Zoom about her new novel, writing compassionately, and suffering for love. The interview has been edited […]

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Six Authors in Search of a Character: Part 3—Irvine Welsh

by Sean Gill

1996 Irvine Welsh is “Mikey Forrester” “I’m playing this drug dealer who’s probably one of the most unsympathetic characters in the book, cause, probably kinda manipulative and nasty and sort of horrible guy so, a lot of people will be saying sort of type-casting again, you know?” —Irvine Welsh, in a video interview from the set of Trainspotting in June 1995 To the strains of Bizet’s Carmen, Renton (Ewan McGregor), a young Edinburger junkie, makes fastidious personal preparations for kicking heroin, the final step of which is obtaining one last hit from his dealer, Mikey Forrester. Mikey appears, smirking like […]

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INTEROFFICE MEMORANDUM 1/3

by Christine Sneed

Date:   January 3rd To:      All Quest Industries Employees From: President Bryan Stokerly, Esq.  Subj:   Welcome Back/In-Office Birthday Celebrations   It’s good to see everyone back in the office again, but it’s obvious very few of us got any better looking in the months we were working from home. Be that as it may, let us hope the year ahead will be an improvement on the last one, which was probably the worst year of my life, but I won’t go into that right now. Today seems an optimal moment to share with you a few preferences regarding in-office […]

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Boxing

by John Freeman

In the waning days of those years in London I took up boxing. I didn’t want to unload on some unsuspecting soul so I found a sparring partner. She turned up, neck tatted, face pierced, dred- locked and strong as hell. A Turkish woman with East London stenciled on her left forearm. Before boxing she

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‘The Hungry and the Lost’ by Bethany W. Pope: Succumbing to the Rot

by Supriya Saxena

Bethany W. Pope’s The Hungry and the Lost (326 pages; Parthian Books; available for order online) offers a rich Southern Gothic tale that revels in the beauty and hostility of the Florida swamplands during the early 20th century. Pope’s immersive language draws the reader in early, but it’s the novel’s social commentary and respect for wilderness that leave a lasting impression. The Florida swampland attracts men who make a living from hunting herons, but after the birds stop coming and tuberculosis breaks out, a (fictional) small town near Tampa is deserted by all but two: the late minister’s mentally unsound wife, […]

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