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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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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Luis Alberto Urrea and the Power of a Captivating Reading

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Luis Alberto Urrea is an amazing writer. The beloved, multi-prize winning author of novels, nonfiction, and poetry, Urrea’s most recent book, Queen of America, is (as I wrote in a review that appeared in yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle) “at once magical and corporeal, grounding and transporting. … The compelling true story of a young woman caught between worlds, between her childhood in Mexico and her adulthood in the United States, between the spiritual world and the material world.” But here I want to discuss Urrea’s reading, his ability to transfix an audience through the spoken word. The first time I […]

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In the Winter Issue

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Picking up where we left off with our Fall issue (No. 92), the newest issue of ZYZZYVA is packed with 200 pages of great writing and visual art from the best of West Coast writers and artists. Here’s what’s inside: Fiction from Karen Joy Fowler (on a righteous break up at a UC Davis dining hall), Adam Johnson (on the Greatest North Korean Story of All Time!), and Herbert Gold (on a Stanford golden girl gone bad) A one-act play by Barry Gifford on Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gellhorn and a couple of Yankees players on the finca in Cuba Verse […]

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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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Pauline, of Petaluma: Brian Kellow’s ‘Pauline Kael’ and ‘The Age of Movies: Selected Writings of Pauline Kael’

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Let the record be clear: I am not now, nor have I ever been, a “Paulette,” the derisive term used for the camp followers of the late, great Pauline Kael, who slavishly faxed her advance copies of their reviews, hoping for her approval, encouragement and career advancement. But to be equally clear, I am a huge admirer of Kael’s body of work, starting with “I Lost It At The Movies,’’ her enormously influential early collection of pieces, many of them from her feisty days as a caustic commentator on KPFA, portions of which are excerpted in the massive, somewhat daunting […]

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Connecting With the Unknown, Unexpected in Nature: Q&A with David Rains Wallace

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David Rains Wallace was born in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 1945 and grew up in New England. He attended Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. (B.A. 1967) and Mills College in Oakland (M.A. 1974). His first published writing on natural history and conservation appeared in Clear Creek Magazine in 1970. Since then he has published seventeen books, and his work has appeared in many anthologies and periodicals, including The Norton Anthology of Nature Writing, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Harpers, Mother Jones, Greenpeace, Sierra, Wilderness, Country Journal, and Backpacker. Wallace received the 1984 John Burroughs Medal for Nature Writing […]

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Beyond Moses and Cosell: Julie Otsuka’s ‘The Buddha in the Attic’

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A few weeks back The New York Times book critic Dwight Garner wrote an essay for the Riff section of the magazine titled “Dear Important Novelists: Be Less Like Moses and More Like Howard Cosell.” Essentially, Garner wants important novelists to write faster, to be less like Moses “handing down the granite tablets every decade or so to a bemused and stooped populace” and more like “color commentators, sifting through the emotional, sexual and intellectual detritus of how we live today.” The essay ends with a warning to these important novelists: “If you and your peers wish to regain a […]

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Shig Murao: The Enigmatic Soul of City Lights and the San Francisco Beat Scene

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On October 3, 1957, a judge ruled that Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems was not obscene. It was a decision that would pave the way for publication of works from Henry Miller, D.H. Lawrence, William Burroughs, and others. A key  figure from the Howl trial was Shig Murao. His life and legacy has been documented in a website that launches today, www.shigmurao.org. This essay is adapted from a much longer biography with multiple supporting documents published on the website created by Richard Reynolds, a longtime friend of Murao’s. Shig Murao was the clerk who on June 3, 1957, was […]

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The First Copernican Art Manifesto: A New Paradigm

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Science began with the Copernican Revolution. Recognition that the world is an average planet, and that our place in the cosmos is nothing special, has allowed humanity to make generalizations about the universe based on local observations. Yet while the Copernican Revolution has enlightened scientists for centuries, art remains Ptolemaic. The work most cherished is esteemed for being atypical. Whether admired for academic skillfulness or avant-garde boldness, the masterpiece is our artistic ideal. If art is to foster universal understanding – and be more than a cultural trophy – the great works must be abandoned. We must banish masterpieces as […]

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ZYZZYVA on KQED’s ‘Forum’

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Managing Editor Oscar Villalon spoke to Michael Krasny of “Forum” about what he and Editor Laura Cogan were up to at ZYZZYVA. You can hear their conversation here. (One thing to note: Oscar had not had any coffee before this morning interview. Had he had some coffee, he would have easily answered Krasny’s question about naming great writers from the state of Washington. He would have said, right off the bat, “Raymond Carver” — Carver whose poetry was published in ZYZZYVA nonetheless. Please forgive his lapse.) […]

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Just Follow the Train of Her Perceptions: “Gertrude Stein’s Reality”

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Gertrude Stein’s legacy today is strangely cleft. While her work continues to earn the reverence of a strong academic cohort, most everyone else – even much of the literary community – encounters her most often as the butt of jokes, made at the expense of both her uniquely inaccessible way with words and her eccentric celebrity personage. Take, for example, Ben Greenman’s “Gertrude Stein Gets Her New iPhone,” or Kathy Bates’ portrayal of her (this actor-role pairing is itself something of a joke) as the brusquely opinionated but unerring cultural sage in Woody Allen’s recent “Midnight in Paris.” These are […]

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