5 Questions for Broadway Books

by ZYZZYVA

As one of the largest—if not the largest—independent bookstores around, Powell’s Books in Portland is rightfully celebrated widely. But there are, of course, other bookstores in that city, many in neighborhoods beyond downtown. Broadway Books is one such shop. Founded in 1992, the store is named after the vibrant street that cuts through Northeast Portland. We spoke with Kim Bissell, Broadway’s co-owner, about her bookstore. ZYZZYVA: What’s a little-known fact about your store?  KIM BISSELL: We were lucky enough to host former first lady Michelle Obama. She met with a local book group, and their heartfelt discussion about her memoir and “becoming” the women we all respect […]

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Good News

by Hannah Kingsley-Ma

Like a dog, I walked in through the back door and sniffed the air attentively. A rich, woody scent met me. Before I had a chance to call her name, Kira’s head poked out from behind the open refrigerator door. She stooped down again, her hands rooting around, rattling the various jars of mustard that lined the shelves. Julia, she said brightly. You’re early. Hi Kiki, I replied. What’s cooking? You’ll never guess, she said. She pushed herself up with her hands on her knees so she was standing tall. I have no idea, I told her. I’m trying. I […]

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Coup de Vieux

by David L. Ulin

For Tom Magee thrice in three nightsthe dead have come my waytwice it is youtwin cities accentrough and lowlike a globusin your throatI can hear the timbreyet I cannot carryback a word you say then last night my grandfatheran ancient apparitionif younger than hewould be aliveeighth of a millenniumsince his shtetl birth and allthat’s left

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Turkey? Non, merci

by John McMurtrie

One of the worst turkey dinners I ever had in my life was in France. It was the mid-1980s, and I was on a year abroad in Paris. The program’s well-intentioned directors must have thought that this band of young Americans, an ocean away from their families, would be homesick on Thanksgiving. And so they brought us to an elegant restaurant in the center of town, not far from the Louvre. We had the place to ourselves, and—surprise!—the kitchen staff had been instructed by our minders to prepare us turkey, known as dinde in France, but not known as a bird that […]

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High Plains Drifter: ‘Pastures of the Empty Page’

by Paul Wilner

“Literature, as I saw it then, was a vast open range, my equivalent of a cowboy’s dream.’’ So wrote Larry McMurtry about how life at his father’s Idiot Ridge cattle ranch changed forever when a World War II-bound cousin dropped off a farewell gift of a box of books. Riding that range for decades since, McMurtry has been condescended to, by the usual contingent of Eastern critics, and overpraised, for his Pulitzer Prize-winning epic, Lonesome Dove, which he self-mockingly described as the “Gone With the Wind of the West.’’ But the bulk of his work, including the Thalia trilogy (Horseman, […]

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Being there: ‘In the Orchard,’ by Eliza Minot

by Meryl Natchez

Mrs. Dalloway is one of my favorite books. Michael Cunningham’s reworking of those themes in The Hours is also terrific. If you’re a fan of either of those, In the Orchard, Eliza Minot’s third novel, will not disappoint. Of the family that includes authors Susan and George Minot, Eliza Minot has the same skill with the extended stream of consciousness, with the added plus of a pitch-perfect ear when it comes to children and the weight and pleasure of being in charge of them. I’ve been waiting for Minot’s next book since The Brambles, which also has some great writing […]

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His Way: ‘Bartleby & Me,’ by Gay Talese

by Paul Wilner

“When I joined the Times in the mid-1950’s, I wanted to specialize in writing about nobodies,’’ Gay Talese states in his delicious new collection, Bartleby & Me: Reflections of an Old Scrivener (Mariner Books; 320 pages). The ghost of Melville’s famous refusenik haunts these pages, as Talese—the chronicler of everyone from deaf printers in the Paper of Record’s composing room to Southern California nudist colonies—takes a farewell lap. At the ripe old age of ninety-one, he hasn’t lost a step. You can read herein about his first New York Times piece—unbylined, but published on the editorial page, no less—about James […]

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Blood will out: ‘Not Forever, But for Now,’ by Chuck Palahniuk

by Kian Braulik

“There exists a heaven for the carnal,” writes Chuck Palahniuk in his most recent novel, Not Forever, But for Now (Simon & Schuster; 256 pages). An ultimately lackluster addition to what was once a biting oeuvre, Not Forever makes the reader wonder whether the author’s tendency toward excess was once a project in well-executed theatrics, rather than one in purely over-compensatory irreverence. Although it’s in his nature to render carnality ad absurdum—whether through Fight Club’s battle between split personalities or Choke’s setting at a colonial theme park—Palahniuk’s previous renditions are stylistically tight and thematically straightforward. Victor Mancini chokes himself in […]

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5 QUESTIONS FOR CHEVALIER’S BOOKS

by ZYZZYVA

Larchmont Village, a historic and pedestrian-friendly neighborhood south of Hollywood, owes much of its appeal to Chevalier’s Books—the oldest independent bookstore in Los Angeles. Founded in 1940 by native Angeleno Joe Chevalier, the store has had many illustrious customers over the years, including author Aldous Huxley and singer Nat King Cole. Even the billionaire recluse Howard Hughes once visited. “May I help you?” Chevalier is said to have asked Hughes, who was perusing the nonfiction section. “Nope,” replied the irascible mogul, who headed out the door and never came back. We spoke with Miles Parnegg, Chevalier’s store manager. ZYZZYVA: What’s […]

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Out of the past: ‘The Postcard,’ by Anne Berest

by Laura Cogan

Many stories are, in a sense, mysteries, asking some version of the same question: what is this life, and how are we meant to live? There are, of course, no definitive answers to these questions—only a multitude of responses, from which we seek to make the meaning and beauty that connects and sustains us amid persistent uncertainty. One such story is The Postcard (Europa Editions; 475 pages). Written by French author Anne Berest and translated by Tina Kover, the novel frames the true story of a family—nearly eradicated by the Holocaust—as a fictionalized memoir. Nestled inside a simple and concrete […]

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Any Orange Is Orange

by Olivia Clare Friedman

Since Happy started saving lives, he’s gotten superstitious. You learn quick—don’t call him up on his shift and ask, How’s the day going? Any calls? because then for sure the radio will start, and they’ll be racing over, lights and sirens, to a one-bedroom in Pelican Bluff on Cooper Candy Drive, which is all gravel

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