Six Authors in Search of a Character: Part 1—Stephen King

by Sean Gill

Why? Simple self-promotion? For fun? Sheer ego? “Because no one else can?”         To wrest back the measure of control which a solitary typist enjoys? Is it fear of living merely a life of the mind? The need to act out a fantasy? Or is it a public therapy, an exorcism of demons? Typically an author’s on-screen role in an adaptation is that of a background artist: blink and you’ll miss Kurt Vonnegut (a pedestrian in Mother Night), Amy Tan (a house partier in The Joy Luck Club), Chuck Palahniuk (an airline passenger in Choke), or John le Carré (a […]

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‘Search History’ by Eugene Lim: Rewriting the World After Loss

by Shelby Hinte

If the art a society chooses to endorse is a measure of who and what it values, then it is also a measure of who and what it denounces. What is art, and who decides, are central questions in Eugene Lim’s latest novel, Search History (208 pages; Coffee House Press). The book is a metafictional examination of art and identity-making that is part action-packed speculative fiction, part autobiography, and part intellectual banter on all things art, race, technology, and death. Search History feels reminiscent of Douglas Coupland’s Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture and the dialogue-heavy ’90’s films that […]

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Love Story, With Cocaine

by Tom Bissell

ZYZZYVA Fall 2011 Cover

Maarit’s father had given her a dog because he hoped it would provide her with something to do. It was true that Maarit did not have much to do, though she always felt busy, which was, perhaps, a natural consequence of waking up daily at 3:00 p.m. Most of her activities involved spending her father’s

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Q&A with David Huebert: ‘Chemical Valley’ & Gasoline Rainbows

by Supriya Saxena

David Huebert’s story collection, Chemical Valley (224 pages; Biblioasis), explores the ways in which humans cope with living in an imperfect and polluted environment. The stories are varied, featuring oil refinery workers, teenage climate activists, long-term care nurses, and more, showing the issues and intricacies of their lives in lush detail. The grim explorations of wealth inequality, illness, and bereavement are counterbalanced by the rich and lyrical prose, providing heartfelt insights into today’s damaged world and the individuals who inhabit it.  Huebert’s writing has won the CBC Short Story Prize, The Walrus Poetry Prize, and was a finalist for the […]

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‘Harrow’ by Joy Williams: Book of Revelations

by Zack Ravas

Given the popularity of the genre, chances are good you’ve probably read at least one post-apocalyptic novel by now. But have you ever read a post-apocalyptic novel as conceived by Joy Williams? 2015’s The Visiting Privilege cemented Williams’ reputation as one of our finest short story writers, putting her decidedly off-kilter worldview and rich characterization on display in a compilation of many of her best stories alongside new material. Now the author, who divides her time between Arizona and Wyoming, is back with her first novel in over two decades, following the Pulitzer Prize-finalist The Quick and the Dead. Harrow […]

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‘Night Train’ by A.L. Snijders: Blooming Within Constraints

by Chiara Bercu

When she began translating contemporary Dutch micro-fiction writer A.L. Snijders’s work, Lydia Davis had only a passing familiarity with the language. Night Train (128 pages; New Directions) presents 91 of Snijders’s more than 3,000 stories, or what he called his zkv’s (zeer korte verhalen: “very short stories”). The collection is a long-tended-to anthology of these writings—“autobiographical mini-fables,” as Davis calls them—whose translations she parsed and reasoned-through using what she knew of German and French, and with the consult of Snijders’s Dutch publisher, Paul Abels. Many of the pieces parallel the tone and form of some of Davis’s own vignettes: stories […]

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ZYZZYVA Holiday Gift Guide


Dear Friend,  Every December presents the same dilemma: how do we avoid the crass commercialization of the season, yet enjoy the spirit of spreading a little cheer, and showing those we love how much we appreciate them? And how do we do that and still shop small, shop local, and shop mindfully? You’re in luck, because we have a helpful list of gift suggestions to fit the bill.  Best of all, each item will be announced with a personalized email, so there’s no need to worry about a shipping delay keeping friends and family from knowing you’re thinking of them during these holidays. […]

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by Mark Labowskie

Martin exits I-89 before he needs to and progresses town by town. He keeps pulling over to eyeball a fiery spruce or an outcropping of mica, admire quaint inns with ivy wreathed around their VACANCY signs and crumbling breweries offering hard apple cider tastings. He’s eager to reach Tunbridge, but knows anticipation is the greatest pleasure. He stops to buy a mason jar of corn whiskey from a sweet old man on a porch, thinking how happy he’ll be once he reaches Lola and Dot’s barn. Then, realizing his spirits are at that peak where they’re in danger of toppling […]

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

by ZYZZYVA Staff

Shelby Hinte, Intern: Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment probably doesn’t need me to write a Staff Recommendation in order for it to have continued relevance on the must-read-books-of-all-times list that circulate the internet, but I am going to do it anyway. I originally read Crime and Punishment 15 years ago in my A.P. English class. I am pretty sure this is where most people read the novel. I remember feeling proud of myself for reading, and maybe even somewhat understanding, such a significant novel, but to my memory, I didn’t exactly enjoy it. For years I have relegated it to […]

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Q&A with Robin McLean: ‘Pity the Beast’ and Living in Wild Places

by Peter Schlachte

Robin McLean’s first novel Pity the Beast (384 pages; And Other Stories), has all the trappings of a traditional Western—the grime and the guts, the hard people amid an austere, extraordinary landscape—but McLean isn’t satisfied with the traditional. The novel revolves around Ginny, a rancher in the American west who cheats on her husband Dan and is gang-raped in a flurry of vengeance and violence. Ginny, left for dead, escapes into the mountains and is pursued by a posse of five townsfolk: her husband, her sister Ella and Ella’s husband Saul, a tracker named Bowman, and a mule-driver named Maul. […]

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‘Win Me Something’ by Kyle Lucia Wu: An Outsider in the World of Privilege

by Supriya Saxena

Reading Kyle Lucia Wu’s first novel, Win Me Something (257 pages; Tin House), feels like listening to a friend tell you about her life straightforward and true. The main character, Willa Chen, a 23-year-old working-class Brooklynite who thinks her life has lost direction, proves immediately relatable. The first-person narration seems to come from her very soul, yet this directness belies a beautifully understated poignancy contained in Willa herself: though she may seem unremarkable at first, she is a deeply scarred, isolated individual. Willa lives in Crown Heights in a tiny apartment with a roommate who is more often than not […]

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‘Intimacies’ by Katie Kitamura: Truth, Doubt, and Intimacy

by Meryl Natchez

As soon as I finished Katie Kitamura’s newest book, Intimacies (238 pages; Riverhead), I immediately got copies of all her previous novels. Perhaps just quoting the first paragraph of this nuanced, intriguing novel will be enough for you to understand why: It is never easy to move to a new country, but in truth I was happy to be away from New York. That city had become disorienting to me, after my father’s death and my mother’s sudden retreat to Singapore. For the first time, I understood how much my parents had anchored me to this place none of us […]

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