Doing the Right Thing: ‘Body Awareness’ at the Aurora Theatre

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As befits the first play by a young, promising playwright, Annie Baker’s Body Awareness, performing at the Aurora Theatre, is ambitious, spry, inquisitive, and restless. Before launching Baker’s award-studded career, Body Awareness appeared in the 2007 Bay Area Playwrights Festival, which showcased two playwrights who would go on to win Obies: Baker and Samuel D. Hunter. Five years later, the play returns under the direction of Joy Carlin, who balances the script’s constant intellectual and physical dynamism by keeping it zipping about, like a juggler circling on a unicycle. The play, set on the campus of a Vermont small college, […]

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‘A Theory of Small Earthquakes’: Q&A With Meredith Maran

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A Theory of Small Earthquakes (Soft Skull Press; 352 pages) is the first novel by award-winning author Meredith Maran. Known for her several nonfiction books, including My Lie: A True Story of False Memory (2010), Dirty: A Search for Answers Inside America’s Teenage Drug Epidemic (2003) and Class Dismissed: A Year in the Life of an American High School, a Glimpse Into the Heart of a Nation (2000), Maran worked on her story of love, friendship and family for eight years (“from start to publication”). Humorous and heartfelt, and breezy yet serious, her story of the long and evolving relationship […]

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Self Portrait as Wikipedia Entry

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Dean Rader is a professor in the English department at the University of San Francisco and author of Works & Days (Truman State University Press), which won the 2010 T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize. His forthcoming book is Engaged Resistance: American Indian Art, Literature, and Film from Alcatraz to NMAI (University of Texas Press).

“Self Portrait as Wikipedia Entry” is one of his two poems in ZYZZYVA‘s Winter issue. The piece, in print, appears with sections of underlined words, denoting what would be a hyperlink if read on a screen. We reproduce the poem here with the actual links.

Rader will be reading tomorrow night at 7 p.m. with Herbert Gold, another Winter issue contributor, at City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, as part of a ZYZZYVA/Granta event.

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Variation Under Nature

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Kascha Semonovitch is a poet and writer in Seattle. Her poems have appeared in The Colorado Review, The Southern Review, The Kenyon Review, and other journals.

“Variation Under Nature” is one of her poems in ZYZZYVA‘s Winter issue. The titles of her poems in ZYZZYVA are also selection titles from Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species. She is currently working on a series of poems based on the life of Alfred Russel Wallace, a contemporary of Darwin’s.

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Bile

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Christine Lee Zilka‘s story, “Bile,” appeared in the Fall 2003 issue of ZYZZYVA. Written from the point of view of the youngest of two children living in Pasadena, the story examines the passing of bitterness from one generation to another, as a Korean father bred on battle forces his children to appreciate his harder life growing up through war. Zilka portrays through a first-generation American family how the culture of war —the “ancestral fear” that chases a new age — cannot be properly digested.

“Bile” is framed by the ritualistic tasting of a gall bladder, something the father procured from a trapped bear. The narrator witnesses her brother, Eugene, being forced to lick the bladder, saying, “I can only tell you the before and the after, because I did not watch them feed Eugene the bile.”

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Melinda, Doing Her Best

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Herbert Gold is the author of such novels as Birth of a Hero (1951), The Man Who Was Not With It (1956), and Fathers (1967), as well as of the nonfiction works Haiti: Best Nightmare on Earth (2001) and the memoir Still Alive! A Temporary Condition (2008).

“Melinda, Doing Her Best,” which appears in ZYZZYVA’s Winter 2011 issue, is a story set sometime in ’90s San Francisco, back when Moose’s was open in North Beach and when dot-com money was pouring into the city. That the title character is a computer programmer on the outs, then, is particularly striking. It’s tempting to read Melinda as a harbinger of the high tech good times gone sour. But the story is primarily a troubling depiction of a woman everybody wants something from, a person truly alone.

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Enter Harlow

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Karen Joy Fowler is the prize-winning author of many books, including the novels Sister Noon, Wit’s End, and the best-seller The Jane Austen Book Club. Her most recent book is the story collection What I Didn’t See (Small Beer Press).

“Enter Harlow,” her new fiction in ZYZZYVA‘s Winter issue, is further testament to what Michael Chabon has said about her work: “No contemporary writer creates characters more appealing, or examines them with greater acuity and forgiveness, than she does.” Set at UC Davis during the ’90s, the story, which comes from the opening pages of a novel-in-progress, follows a young woman “meandering” through her fourth year of school. “Enter Harlow” tells how that meandering is suddenly, spectacularly interrupted — in the school cafeteria. The following is an excerpt from the story.

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Get Lost

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Faith Gardner is a writer and musician living in Oakland. She plays guitar and sings in the bands Hooray for Everything and Dark Beach, and performs solo as Scarlett O’Hara. Her writing has appeared in PANK, Word Riot, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and many other places.

“Get Lost” appears in the Winter 2011 issue of ZYZZYVA. About a young woman who is suddenly without her best friend, who moved with her to San Francisco, Gardner’s story is appealingly downbeat, somewhat sinister, and surprisingly humorous as it follows a person gone adrift in an unfamiliar city and looking everywhere for her bearings. The following is an excerpt from the story.

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The Twelve Friends of Rodolfo and Mimi

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My husband settles back on the couch with his coffee. “I’ve been indulging this bizarre, wacko fantasy,” he says. Oh, dear. He’ll want to fly to his hometown’s soccer field for Christmas. (Blackburn, Lancashire: identification with the home team is tribal.) Or start ballroom dancing lessons. Rip out the grass and plant cactus in the yard. Kayak the Nile. It’s the first day of November’s last week. He takes twenty minutes to “thaw out” in the morning, as my dad used to term it, before hopping on his bicycle to go to work. I am doing yogic stretches on the […]

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Appealing More and More to the Ear: Literature and Audio Books

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Dear reader, I did not intend to get the audio book. When I walked into the Berkeley Public Library a few months ago, looking for a copy of Alan Hollinghurst’s first novel, The Swimming Pool Library, I don’t think I had intentions toward any particular format. If pressed at the time to reveal my implicit biases, I would probably have said I was looking for a physical, bound paper-and-cloth book, a book-book. (For the sake of simplicity, I will refer to such objects as “books”). Unfortunately, The Swimming Pool Library and The Line of Beauty—Hollinghurst’s Booker prize-winning fourth novel—were both […]

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A Fortunate Literary Community in L.A.: Wendy C. Ortiz and Rhapsodomancy

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In Los Angeles, a person can’t get anywhere in seven minutes. There’s no Muni, BART, quaint Italian streetcar or the tried and true 22 Fillmore. Attending readings can be a chore that involves multiple freeway changes and nail biting, bumper-to-bumper traffic. It’s difficult to lure people out for free drinks, a cheese plate, and a discounted literary journal here, where an iffy parking situation can make or break an event. In L.A., I show up to readings because I value the time spent crafting a story, the twenty-four revisions and the manic rehearsals that go into a reading. I know […]

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Summoning the Achingly Beautiful Out of Strife: Craig Thompson’s ‘Habibi’

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There are some artists and writers that truly utilize the medium of comic books and graphic novels to create a unique narrative experience that only sequential art can deliver. Craig Thompson is one of those individuals. Following the success of his semi-autobiographical Blankets, Thompson has once again given readers a poignant and sincere tale of love and spirituality in Habibi (Pantheon; 672 pages). Set in a world that is both historical and modern, mixing epic deserts and extravagant palaces with modern city landscapes and industrial wastelands, readers follow Dodola and Zam, two children who escape from slavery by fleeing to […]

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