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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Eye on AI: A Q&A with Nina Schuyler

by Laura Cogan

In her suspenseful and thought-provoking new novel, Afterword, Nina Schuyler’s characters struggle to know themselves even as they push technology to the edge of human understanding. A brilliant mathematician, Virginia Samson has spent her life painstakingly re-creating her great love, Haru, in the form of an AI. Into this advanced technology she’s built Haru’s voice, memories, and intellectual curiosity. But while she had hoped to spend the rest of her days companionably discussing math with Haru, their interactions soon force Virginia to confront how much she has never understood about Haru, and about herself. Schuyler, who lives in the Bay […]

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All too human: ‘After the Funeral,’ by Tessa Hadley

by Yastika Guru

Reading After the Funeral and Other Stories (Knopf; 240 pages) by Tessa Hadley is like watching a magic show. There is suspense, but it is not the stressful, nauseating sort of a horror movie or domestic drama—it is the sweet suspense of enchantment. The reader has some sense of the hidden techniques being employed, but the final effect is still eye-widening and gasp-inducing. Each story is about a complicated marriage or family and involves divorce or death or infidelity. Although the characters are in wobbly, anxious situations, the prose is never mawkish or emotionally fatty. Instead, it is light, plain, […]

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The malleability of memory: A conversation with Mary Otis

by Laura Cogan

In her debut novel, Burst, Mary Otis traces the tumultuous lives and conflicted bond of a mother and daughter navigating the world without a robust community or safety net: they are “alone but together.” Charlotte’s eccentric, sometimes erratic behavior both enchants and repels her daughter, Viva, who seeks structure and security through a single-minded dedication to her passion for dance. But this mother-daughter duo is more alike—and more connected—than they can sometimes understand, and Otis locates the poignancy of their parallel lives with insight and compassion. Moving seamlessly between perspectives and over years, Burst elegantly examines the complexity of this […]

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THE AESTHETICS OF INSCRUTABILITY: ON ‘CY TWOMBLY: INSCRIPTIONS’

by Dean Rader

I do not remember the first Cy Twombly painting I saw, but I think it might have been this: ​​​​​Cy Twombly, Orpheus, 1979 (Courtesy of Emanual Hoffmann Foundation, on permanent load to the Öffentliche Kunstsammlung Basel; photo: Kunstsammlung Basel, Martin P. Bühler)© Cy Twombly Foundation. I was in graduate school. It was the ’90s. I was more

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Giant Dipper Chronic / To See It

by Cate Lycurgus

“Giant Dipper Chronic” I’ve been on this coaster for decades. Car for two—but just one bar to lower—one, or none. Where I lock my heart in for the slow climb, waiting for what great heights. It trundles up the wooden scaffold, building the long pitch toward platinum surf, alternately to fog. In one, I hold my own hand. Teeth rattle out of my control; it’s crest to trough, each time. Yet I scream without sound all the way down. A flash at the top takes a photo of your dread   to get you to buy it back, but—you’re too […]

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New York stories: ‘Witness’ by Jamel Brinkley

by Margot Lee

Jamel Brinkley’s second story collection, Witness (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 240 pages), records glimpses of lives across New York, disparate but proximate—as though looking at people in lit windows across the cityscape. Lingering in the worlds and heads of his protagonists, Brinkley’s stories elongate these moments into chasms of psyche and memory. They remind us that whatever we see in the window, observation alone is superficial. To witness is a full-body experience, affecting the mind as much as the eye. New York is a familiar setting for Brinkley, whose debut, A Lucky Man (2018), also features stories set in the […]

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Crisis mode: ‘Emergency’ by Kathleen Alcott

by Margot Lee

In Kathleen Alcott’s Emergency (W.W. Norton; 208 pages), the tales of seven women whose lives come undone create haunting depictions of desire and harm. Alcott’s first story collection following three novels, Emergency is permeated by a sense of disaster lingering in the wings and about to unfold. Her protagonists are typically clever and have ascended by their tenacity to the middle or upper-middle classes. Yet even in these stations they are endlessly reminded of the boundaries that do not get erased by their bank account balances. Several of them leave their homes, but often become trapped in their escapes. Sometimes […]

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5 Questions for Napa Bookmine

by ZYZZYVA

Napa Bookmine has had a good first decade. The store opened in 2013 on Pearl Street, and this summer it moved to a larger downtown location on 2nd Street. It’s also added two other locations, one in Napa’s popular Oxbow Public Market in 2007, and the other in St. Helena. A popular destination for locals, the bookstore also draws tourists visiting Napa County, offering coffee and tea to visitors who might need a pick-me-up between wine tastings. We spoke with Napa Bookmine bookseller Lee Spangler about the 2nd Street store. ZYZZYVA: What’s the coziest spot in your store for reading? […]

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No Heroes: On Cormac McCarthy, 1933-2023

by Don Waters

I liked him early on, this author. I read him, and I kept reading, hungry for more. At nineteen, a student of college literature, bored of portraits of artists and odes, I discovered the author at a used bookshop. In little time, I took to him more than any writer on my syllabus. I admired the brute stories the author put to the page. So clear-eyed, but defiant. And terrifying. An uncontained heat drew me to them. The author’s radical diction and syntax were at war with the rules I had always been taught.    Punctuation be damned, the books […]

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