‘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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Both Outside and Inside the Literary World: Q&A with Dagoberto Gilb

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Dagoberto Gilb is arguably the most critically acclaimed Mexican American author writing today, with a publication resume few writers of any background can claim: The New Yorker, The Threepenny Review, Harper’s, Texas Monthly, The New York Times, The Nation. The author of six books, he won a PEN/Hemingway Award for his first story collection The Magic of Blood (1993), which was also a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner. His first novel, The Last Known Residence of Mickey Acuna (1995), was a New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year, and his second novel, The Flowers (2008), was praised by […]

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The Slippery Nature of Nonfiction: Q&A with Jackie Bang

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Jackie Bang’s story “Silver Mailbox,” which appears in the Winter 2011 issue of ZYZZYVA, is either a heavily fictionalized piece of nonfiction or a heavily factual piece of fiction. Or perhaps something else. The story of a Washington couple — the Miner and the Collector — and the recently-arrived infants brought into their brood, it’s a stylized piece of writing that leaves you eager to learn of the fates of these strange but compelling people. We talked to Jackie Bang via email about her story and the larger work of hers from which it’s taken. ZYZZYVA: “Silver Mailbox” is the […]

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Montaigne, the Double Man, and Shelled Beans: Q&A with Adam Gopnik

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Where the famously poised, self-effacing, witty New Yorker critic proves to also be an ebullient, passionate, fiery man who admits to being in rage as much as in love with contemporary culture. As we sit down to talk about his latest book, The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food (Knopf, 320 pages), he reflects on his debut as a writer and what lays ahead of him: to write a Big Book of Life and maybe try, one day, a different voice. A prolific writer, Adam Gopnik has left almost no topic untouched, from Darwin and Lincoln […]

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Embedding the Reader in Places He May Not Want to Be: Q&A with Joshua Mohr

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Critics have compared the writing of Joshua Mohr to that of Dostoevsky and Bukowski’s for the imagination with which he depicts grimy people clawing through a downward spiral. Following suit, Joshua Mohr’s third and most recent book, Damascus (Two Dollar Radio, 208 pages), rolls out a sooty cast of compelling characters including a Santa suit-wearing bartender, a memory haunted ex-Marine, a controversial performance artist looking to hit it big, and Shambles, “the patron saint of hand jobs.” They all struggle with emotional scars, addictions, and a litany of pathological neurosis. As in all three of Mohr’s books, what elevates Damascus […]

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Reviving the Corpse of the L.A. Lit Scene: Q&A with Slake’s Joe Donnelly

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Slake, a new, Los Angeles-focused literary journal, put on one hell of a release party for its newest issue on a recent Friday night in Atwater. There were couture food trucks serving gourmet hot dogs and fried chicken. Hot girls serving flatbread strutted around in cute ‘70s cocktail dresses. The Guggenheim guy (Hank, or something) I heard read at Book Party, a West L.A. reading series that no longer exists, was holding court within a circle of smiling blondes. There was an open bar. It was remarkably lively, in a way I haven’t witnessed since the Rumpus Monthly, a packed […]

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On the Subject of Truth (with a Captital T): Q&A with Troy Jollimore

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In ordinary conversation, the terms “poet” and “philosopher” tend to be applied arbitrarily to people with artistic and intellectual capabilities. But in the case of author and philosophy professor Troy Jollimore, they’re not hyperbolic descriptions but hard facts. Jollimore rose to literary prominence in 2006 when the National Book Critics Circle named his first book of poems, Tom Thomson in Purgatory, the recipient of one of its annual awards. Since then, his second poetry collection, At Lake Scugog, has appeared, and his poems have been published in Ploughshares, The New Yorker, and other journals. Concerned with both the hypothetical and […]

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Ignoring Grief to Our Own Peril: Q&A with ‘American Masculine’ Author Shann Ray

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Shann Ray is a writer, researcher, and professor whose first collection of stories, American Masculine (Graywolf Press; 192 pages), won the 2010 Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Bakeless Prize. Almost all of the collection’s stories take the dramatic Montana landscape as their backdrop, and almost all of the stories deal with men struggling to make sense of such perennial themes as death, infidelity, addiction, and abusive fathers. Ray, who lives in Spokane, Washington, with his wife and three daughters, writes with an unflinching honesty, and his work remains empathetic and lyrical regardless of the subject, be it the expansive Montana sky […]

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Working the Land, Writing in Your Head: Q&A with Novella Carpenter

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I was in Upstate New York last fall, visiting family, when my aunt thrust a book in my hands. “I saved this for you,” she said. “You have to read it.” The book was Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer, by Novella Carpenter (Penguin Press, 2009). I was skeptical. After all, my aunt is as conservative and Catholic as I am liberal and un-churched. But I was immediately sucked into Carpenter’s world, into the unlikely mixture of urban life: the graffiti, the drugs, the lawlessness of a dead-end Oakland street; and the farming life: hives buzzing with happy […]

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A Fight Against the Meanness in This World: Q&A with Matthew Dickman

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Matthew Dickman’s first book, All-American Poem, received the 2008 American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize in Poetry, and his second book is slated to appear in 2012 from W.W. Norton. Featured in ZYZZYVA’s Spring 2011 issue, Dickman’s work has also appeared in The New Yorker, AGNI Online, and Tin House, where he works as an editor. The twin brother of poet Michael Dickman, his poems function as both paeans and laments of the zeitgeist of modern American life — tessellating mythology with reality, Beat zeal with modern nods toward restraint. The Oregon native sat down with ZYZZYVA at Stumptown Coffee […]

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The Strength to Endure the Worst: A Q&A with Filmmaker Tatiana Huezo

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  “The Tiniest Place,” the remarkable documentary by Mexican filmmaker Tatiana Huezo, records the memories of the people of Cinquera, a small town in the mountains of El Salvador that was destroyed by the military during the Salvadorian Civil War. Huezo’s debut film is compelling, formally and emotionally. (“The Tiniest Place” screened at the San Francisco International Film Festival.) We talked to Huezo about the evolution of her film. ZYZZYVA: In the Q&A after one of screenings at the San Francisco Film Festival, you mentioned your grandmother was born in Cinquera. Perhaps we could start there and then talk about […]

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Alexander Yates: Mashing Up the Loud and the Quiet, and the Beauty of ‘Gagamba’

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There is an optical phenomenon that occurs when the moon is at its fullest (or nearly so) in which bright circular spots appear atop a lunar halo.  These “moondogs” give off a little color of their own, but their main source of light stems from the moon’s luminescence.  They do not stray far from the edges of the moon’s glow. Alexander Yates’s new novel, “Moondogs,” is titled after this piece of celestial minutiae, and the naming is apt. The book’s multiple story lines linger around the same, somewhat otherworldly event: the abduction of a wealthy American businessman by a pair […]

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