‘Low Budget Movie’ by Kendra DeColo & Tyler Mills: Pushing Back Against The Norm

by Anna DeNelsky

In her famous essay, “The Laugh of Medusa,” French literary critic, poet, playwright, and philosopher Hélène Cixous discusses the role of feminism in authorship: “Woman must write her self: must write about women and bring women to writing, from which they have been driven away as violently as from their bodies–for the same reasons, by the same law, with the same fatal goal.” Kendra DeColo and Tyler Mills harness Cixous’ sentiment, tapping their experiences bringing women to writing in their poetry collection Low Budget Movie (40 pages; Diode Editions). Through the voice of a singular speaker, the authors traverse the […]

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‘Ghost Forest’ by Pik-Shuen Fung: What We Say to the Dying

by Ray Levy Uyeda

In Ghost Forest (251 pages; Random House), the novel’s title is also the name of a painting created by the protagonist, an unnamed daughter of immigrants from Hong Kong. As an adult, the narrator takes her father, who throughout her childhood split his time between Hong Kong and Vancouver, to see her painting in a juried show. “In the painting, I am riding a brown bird,” she describes. “We are soaring above tree after tree, and each one is white and translucent. I washed white watercolor on gray rice paper to create that effect.” Her father’s reaction is not what […]

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Shop Talk: Lee Conell

by ZYZZYVA

ZYZZYVA Shop Talk: Lee Conell

Lee Conell’s story “My One and Only Very Incredible Amazing Love” appears in Issue 120, the Technology issue. In this bitterly funny and keenly insightful piece, Conell tracks the outsized influence that social media and reality TV have on the fragile friendship shared by two young women. Which reminds us: be sure to order your copy of Issue 120 if you haven’t already.

Lee Conell is the author of the novel The Party Upstairs, which was awarded the Wallant Award and was named a Best Book of the Year by the New York Post, as well as the story collection Subcortical, which was awarded The Story Prize Spotlight Award. Her writing appears in the Oxford American, ZYZZYVA, the Paris Review Daily, Kenyon Review online, Glimmer Train, and elsewhere; her stories have been shortlisted in Best American Short Stories and the Pushcart Prize anthology. She spoke to Editor Laura Cogan about “My One and Only Very Incredible Amazing Love” and its sardonic commentary on our social media age.

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‘The Five Wounds’ by Kirstin Valdez Quade: No Such Thing as Sacred Performance

by CJ Green

Amadeo Padilla is preparing for his starring role as Jesus in a Good Friday procession when his estranged 15-year-old daughter, Angel, shows up on his doorstep—eight months pregnant. So begins Kirstin Valdez Quade’s exceptional first novel, The Five Wounds (416 pages; Norton), which she arranges in three sections according to the Church calendar: “Holy Week,” “Ordinary Time,” and “Lent.” We begin in Holy Week, with Amadeo, adrift. He and his daughter have been estranged, and we learn that for weeks at a time, he has forgotten that he has a daughter at all. He is in his thirties, unemployed, lives […]

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The Street Sweep

by Meron Hadero

ZYZZYVA Volume 34, #3, Winter 2018

Getu stood in front of his mirror struggling to perfect a Windsor knot. He pulled the thick end of his tie through the loop, but the knot unraveled in his hands. He tried again, and again he failed. Did he really need the tie? He guessed it would probably be easier to persuade the guards at the Sheraton to let him in with one. And even then… But he couldn’t work out the steps, so Getu put the necktie in his pocket and decided to try his luck without it. Sitting at the edge of his mattress, he waited for

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

by ZYZZYVA Staff

Ray Levy Uyeda, Intern: A couple years ago, when I first started writing seriously in an attempt to develop my craft, I wanted for a community of writers and creatives, and a space, both emotional and physical, where all my questions about creating would be held with tenderness, as one would a small bird or child, or even the very dreams of being a writer (whatever that means). I craved location where conversations on craft—how it can be both integral to my health and so goddamn difficult—were happening without the shame of appearing superfluous.  I found The Creative Independent, a […]

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‘Always Crashing in the Same Car: On Art, Crisis, and Los Angeles, California’ by Matthew Specktor: Blood Sports

by Paul Wilner

As the Beat poet Lew Welch pithily put it, “More people know you than you know. Fame.” Welch was someone who knew whereof he spoke. He disappeared from his friend Gary Snyder’s house into a nearby mountain range in May 1971, leaving behind a cryptic farewell note that read, in part: “I had great visions but could never bring them together with reality. I used it all up. It’s gone.’’ Matthew Specktor explores the pulls—and perils—of chasing success in Always Crashing in the Same Car: On Art, Crisis, and Los Angeles, California (300 pages; Tin House), an eloquent account of […]

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‘All the Water I’ve Seen is Running’ by Elias Rodriques: The Unlikeliness of Life

by Ray Levy Uyeda

Elias Rodriques’s All the Water I’ve Seen Is Running (255 pages; Norton) tells the story of Daniel Henriquez, a high school English teacher working in New York who returns home to Florida after he receives news that a friend from his teen years has passed away. The book’s plot takes place in the present, mostly over the course of a few days on the Palm Coast, though Daniel’s interiority takes the reader back in time with him as he retraces memories of his friend Aubrey. Daniel, the mixed-race son of Jamaican immigrants, and Aubrey, a white Southerner whose family proudly […]

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Spotlight on Issue 120: Q&A with Benjamin Voigt

by Owen Torrey

What do an iPhone and a lyric poem have in common? It’s a question that animates the work of writer and technologist Benjamin Voigt, whose poems forge nimble, unexpected connections between the poetic and the digital. In Voigt’s new poem, “Walden Two”—which appears in our Technology-themed Issue 120—we encounter a speaker sorting through layered circuitry of memory, thought, and language. “I’ve held onto that last line for a long time,” Voigt reflects, mid-poem, “and don’t know if I’ve used it right, / or if this is a glitch / in my programming I’m still debugging.” We recently spoke with Voigt […]

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Alabama Funeral

by Kristen Iskandrian

The sitter arrived with a Ziploc bag of brightly colored string. “For friendship bracelets,” she said, one eye veering off. “Yes,” Bette said. The sitter’s eye was particularly lazy today; Bette had never gotten used to it, although she herself, when extra tired, had an eye prone to drifting. Bette was aware that she could be, in a multitude of ways, a perfect hypocrite. She was named after Bette Midler, which had always embarrassed her, so she told people she was named after Bette Davis. “So it’s ‘Betty’?” people would ask, and then she’d have to correct them, and they’d

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‘To Write as If Already Dead’ by Kate Zambreno: The Body of the Author

by Alana Frances Baer

Roland Barthes’ 1967 essay “The Death of the Author” saw a challenge, two years later, with Michel Foucault’s lecture “What Is an Author?” Kate Zambreno abbreviates the distinction between these two works: “Barthes wants to kill the author, Foucault wants the author to take on the appearance of a dead man.” Zambreno’s two-part book, To Write as If Already Dead (158 pages; Columbia University Press), meditates on its title throughout, circumscribing death in its consideration of the author as a living and breathing body, flesh behind words. Zambreno is the author of the novel Drifts and a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow […]

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‘In the Event of Contact’ by Ethel Rohan: The Law of Life

by Oriana Christ

People are shaped by people. In In the Event of Contact (180 pages; Dzanc Books), San Francisco author Ethel Rohan cements this broad maxim into a specific and learned law of life via the host of complicated characters she creates in her fourteen stories. Each character navigates distinct anguishes, from irreparable guilt to insatiable longing to persistent disappointment, linked only by a home country of Ireland and the theme of human connection. The first story in the collection, after which the book is titled, introduces this theme in its most literal sense via Ruth, a character with a debilitating phobia […]

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