ZYZZYVA Staff Recommends October 2021: What to Watch, Read, & Listen To

by ZYZZYVA Staff

Shelby Hinte, Intern: “Don’t f*@% with the original,” declares Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell) during the climax of 2011’s Scream 4. It’s a quote that has become almost as iconic for fans as the ominous ringing telephone and the unidentified caller who asks, in a low, distorted voice, “What’s your favorite scary movie?” Sidney Prescott and Ghostface, the fictional Woodsboro residents from Wes Craven’s Scream franchise responsible for these meme-worthy lines, have reached a certain level of iconography that has settled into the pop-culture vernacular for 25 years. While the Scream imagery may be fodder for internet fun and mockery, it […]

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‘Leave Society’ by Tao Lin: Our 21st Century Malady

by Zack Ravas

If part of the success of any novel involves timing, Tao Lin perhaps couldn’t have chosen a better moment for Leave Society (352 pages; Vintage) to have come out than during an extended pandemic. Though the story takes place over several years prior to 2020, its main character maintains a hermetic lifestyle many of us can relate to at present, whether we’d like to or not: “… isolating himself in his apartment in Manhattan, replacing pills and friends and most of culture with cannabis and books, and finding new interests…” Leave Society continues Tao Lin’s tendency for autofiction by following […]

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Q&A with Jackson Bliss: ‘Counterfactual Love Stories and Other Experiments’ & The Rules You’re Allowed to Break

by Peter Schlachte

Jackson Bliss’s debut book of fiction, Counterfactual Love Stories and Other Experiments (200 pages; Noemi Press), is exactly what the title claims—a collection of exciting, bold experiments that stretch the notion of what a story can be. Of the thirteen stories in it, no two share the same form. Yet underneath the narrative invention, the genre-bending fireworks, and the speculative characters, Bliss’s stories are meditations on classic themes: time, autonomy, race, and, of course, love. Bliss is the winner of the 2020 Noemi Prize in Prose, holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Notre Dame, and a […]

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‘The Savage Kind’ by John Copenhaver: Seeking Agency By Any Means Possible

by Supriya Saxena

The femme fatale of classic detective fiction and noir films rarely offers a kind portrayal of women. Mysterious and alluring, she commits all sorts of devious and despicable acts for her own gain, and the narrative invariably punishes her in the end. As misogynistic as this archetype is, the concept of a woman who seeks independence and agency through lethal means is certainly an intriguing one. It is easy to understand why John Copenhaver chose to reimagine the femme fatale in his coming-of-age mystery novel The Savage Kind (384 pages; Pegasus Crime). This dark, captivating novel follows two teenage girls […]

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‘Dante’s Indiana’ by Randy Boyagoda: A Severe Satire

by Shelby Hinte

We are living in an era of instant gratification—information accessible via our fingertips in a matter of seconds, food delivered to our doorsteps without so much as having to talk to another human being, fast-track degree programs, and attaining inner peace through a single weekend meditation retreat—not to mention the omnipresence of quick-fix drugs that can calm your nerves, kill your pain, eliminate excess weight, liven your libido, grant you access to euphoria, and, in general, make life a little less miserable. Randy Boyagoda’s newest novel, Dante’s Indiana (224 pages; Biblioasis), a standalone sequel to his novel Original Prin, is […]

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Q&A with Jenny Qi: ‘Focal Point’ and a Full Picture of Grief

by Chiara Bercu

Jenny Qi’s first poetry collection, Focal Point (98 pages; Steel Toe Books), sees release this week. Written over the course of Qi’s graduate study in oncology, and upon the loss of her mother to cancer, Focal Point quilts together meditations on memory, bereavement, racism, divinity, and motherhood. Victoria Chang describes the collection as a “book of crossing.” Its sixty poems forward a fresh, intertextual probe into experiences of transition and bring delicate attention to life in the wake of loss. Qi was the winner of the 2020 Steel Toe Books Poetry Award, and her essays and poems appear in the […]

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‘I Wished’ by Dennis Cooper: Serving Witness

by Zack Ravas

George Miles. To the average reader, it’s not a name that necessarily conjures associations; but for followers of underground literary icon Dennis Cooper, it’s a name that has loomed large since the publication of Cooper’s first novel, Closer, in 1989. That book marked the beginning of Cooper’s most enduring body of a work, a five-novel series collectively known as the George Miles Cycle. The novels form a loosely connected narrative that, by Cooper’s own admission, represent his attempts to process his relationship with Miles, an enigmatic young man suffering from mental illness and a general difficulty at articulating himself. Unbeknown […]

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Q&A with Former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky: Into the Den

by Laine Derr

ZYZZYVA: In Thousands of Broadways: Dreams and Nightmares of the American Small Town (2009), you write fondly of your dad, a star basketball player, trophy in hand. Is there a game/sport you enjoy playing? Robert Pinsky: In high school I was not bad at the team sports, and as a Stegner Fellow at Stanford I was a standout in Sunday morning softball games, (Not saying much—as tiny a distinction as the Hemingway character’s boxing championship at Princeton.) For years I got great pleasure from tennis, but at some point, writing became the one theater for all my efforts of a […]

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‘Cloud Cuckoo Land’ by Anthony Doerr: Across Time and Space

by Mike Berry

Anthony Doerr thinks big. His latest novel, the follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize-winning All the Light We Cannot See, not only clocks in at more than 600 pages, but follows five major protagonists across three meticulously detailed timelines. Added to that, it focuses attention on a lost, resurrected manuscript that exemplifies the power of literature and of librarians by envisioning a magical place between Earth and Heaven. Cloud Cuckoo Land (628 pages; Scribner) is set in 15th-century Constantinople, contemporary Idaho, and aboard a generational starship in the not-too-distant future. The cast of characters includes a teenage ox driver, a young […]

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ZYZZYVA Staff Recommends September 2021: What to Watch, Read, & Listen To

by ZYZZYVA Staff

Oscar Villalon, Managing Editor: Like a throwback to the sort of off-beat shows NBC slotted on a Tuesday night at 10—a Shannon’s Deal, a Homicide—Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building envelops us with its charming cast and its evocative setting. But unlike those other shows, set in Philadelphia and Baltimore, respectively, the grittiness is decidedly muted here, as is any and all internal anguish. There’s suffering, sure; the characters played by Martin Short, Steve Martin, and Selena Gomez have all been through it (and maybe still are), as have some of the ancillary characters. But the acknowledgment of grief and […]

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‘Householders’ by Kate Cayley: Of Misfits & Runaways

by Peter Schlachte

In a 2013 interview, Canadian writer and theatre director Kate Cayley noted the influence of Wendell Berry’s poetry on her writing, describing him as “a voice crying in the wilderness.” It’s an apt description of Berry’s work, suffused as it is with a sense of the bucolic and the simple in the face of the anthropocene and capitalism. Yet, in a very different sense, it’s also an apt description of Cayley’s stories in Householders (224; Biblioasis), her most recent story collection. Even surrounded by others, Cayley’s characters in Householders are often alone—misfits, runaways, forsaking the ties of friends and family, […]

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The Family Issue: Letter from the Editor

by Laura Cogan

ZYZZYVA Volume 37, #2, Fall 2021 (No. 121)

Dear Readers, Water, food, air: these are the essentials of existence. But for many, family—however we define it—is as central to our experience of life, and our sense of self. Whether we define ourselves in terms of or in opposition to our families of origin; whether the families we build and seek out appear traditional or unconventional; whether family represents a source of stability and community or of tension and loneliness: family—that inner circle in which we find ourselves supported and challenged, embraced or painfully invisible—is the site of so much of the drama, intrigue, romance, tragedy, and comedy of […]

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