The Bay Area Issue: Editor’s Note

by Laura Cogan

One day in July I ran into a colleague on my way to lunch. We commiserated about the state of the world, briefly, and then he asked me if I’d been to the Flower Piano program at the San Francisco Botanical Garden yet. He said he’d just been, and that after one of the professional performers finished her set, a few of the people milling around took turns playing. One played David Bowie’s “Life on Mars,” singing softly under his breath. Another, a child of about ten, played a classical sonata, with astonishing beauty. There’s still art here, he said […]

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Letter from the Editor – Issue 116

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Dear Readers, At the risk of stating the obvious, most of us will spend a large portion of our waking hours working. For many people, the work they must do is in tension with the life they want to lead. For others, work is the site of the most profound expression of their life force. Many of us labor somewhere in the middle, as both our work and our sense of self are subject to major change over the course of time. And while work and life are not the same, the sheer number of hours devoted to work (or […]

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Letter From the Editor – Fall Issue 113

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The following is the Letter From the Editor as it appears in ZYZZYVA’s Fall Issue No. 113, our special issue focusing on the Environment & Conservation:  Only in nature have I had experiences that could be described as spiritual. This may surprise anyone who knows of my longstanding lack of interest in camping, or, on the other hand, confidants who have witnessed the inverse of inspiration: times when I’ve been undone with distress over the plight of animals, plants, and ecosystems. Beyond all that, though, have been the private moments when, hiking or traveling, observing animals at peace in their natural […]

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Letter From The Editor

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“Literature is the question minus the answer.” —Roland Barthes “To learn which questions are unanswerable and not to answer them: this skill is most needful in times of stress and darkness.” —Ursula K. LeGuin, from The Left Hand of Darkness Dear Reader, Perhaps you, like me, find yourself asking a lot from literature these days: greater solace, finer insight, deeper resonance. For me that’s led to thinking more pointedly about such expectations, and I’ve found it is useful to ask not only what literature can do to respond to current events, but also how; not just what meaning literature can […]

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One Year Later: A Message to Our Readers

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Dear Readers, Today marks an anxious anniversary of sorts—grave for many reasons, but in no small part because we do not yet know the full consequences of the event we’re reflecting on. We cannot know because it is still unfolding and, whatever the effects are, we are still in the middle of it. One year ago this evening, as the presidential election results rolled in, Oscar and I texted each other. What should we do, I asked? You should write something, Oscar answered. So on November 17, we sent out a letter. We called it the Solidarity Letter, and we […]

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Notes on the First 30 Days

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On the morning of Inauguration Day, I met up with a friend in midtown Manhattan, where we rented a car and set out for Washington, D.C. Our plan was to make the drive before nightfall, have a quick dinner, finish making our signs, and get a good night’s rest before the Women’s March. Not only was it less expensive to rent a car than to fly or take a train, but our road-trip had the added benefit of keeping us away from TV all day—a serendipitous media blackout for which we were both grateful. We didn’t turn on the radio, […]

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Letter From the Editor

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The following Letter from the Editor appears in the Winter issue. It was originally written a few days before Election Day. “What is essential is the intense presence of the viewer in the intense presence of the art.”—Edward Albee Dear Readers, For eight years I lived in New York, and during that time I took in a reasonable amount of theater, on, off, and off-off Broadway, whenever and wherever I could get tickets. There was, as you can imagine, a great deal of serious and experimental work to choose from, which was particularly fortuitous because my graduate work was in part […]

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On Concluding Our 30th Anniversary: Letter From the Editor: Issue No. 105

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Dear Reader, In 1946, Lionel Trilling penned a barbed sort of defense of “little magazines”: “They are snickered at and snubbed, sometimes deservedly, and no one would venture to say in a precise way just what effect they have—except that they keep the new talents warm until the commercial publisher with his customary air of noble resolution is ready to take his chance, except that they make the official representatives of literature a little uneasy, except that they keep a countercurrent moving which perhaps no one will be fully aware of until it ceases to move.” In her introduction to […]

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The Misapprehension of Satire: On ‘The Zone of Interest’ by Martin Amis

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“O Germany— Hearing the speeches that ring from your house, one laughs. But whoever sees you, reaches for his rifle.” —Bertolt Brecht (from Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem) I. Introduction January marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the infamous labor and extermination camp in Poland where more than one million Jews were murdered by the Nazis, right under the nose of Polish citizens and the wider international community. The timing of this gruesome anniversary is poignant, as European anti-Semitism is perhaps more virulent and threatening now than at any point since the war. Anti-Semitism has unfortunately proven […]

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A Layered Portrait of a Mind at War with Itself: ‘Viviane’ by Julia Deck

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“The cry of the mind exhausted by its own rebellion”—Albert Camus The slim spine of Julia Deck’s first novel, Viviane (The New Press, 149 pages), expertly translated from the French by Linda Coverdale, belies its intellectual heft. Deck’s crystalline language, too, appears innocently transparent, offering up on a silver platter events just as they transpire and thoughts just as they emerge from the narrator’s troubled mind. But this, too, is delightfully deceptive, as the hidden influences of language, and the impossibility of knowing or telling exactly what happens, appear to be part of Deck’s central concern. On the first page, […]

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The Absurdity of War, the Absurdity of the Media: Robert Perisic’s ‘Our Man in Iraq’

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Originally published in Croatia in 2007, Our Man In Iraq (Black Balloon; 202 pages), Robert Perisic’s finely crafted and witty novel, is now the first of his books to be translated into English (with translator Will Firth). American readers should delight in discovering Perisic’s work, while lamenting this inexplicable delay. The novel opens in 2003. Toni has patched together a promising life: the Economics editor for PEG, an independent local newspaper, he lives in Zagreb with his beautiful girlfriend, Sanja, an actress who has just landed her first major stage role. Marriage seems to be on the horizon, and perhaps […]

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Personal Essay Elevated to Art: Aleksandar Hemon’s ‘The Book of My Lives’

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In the first of the linked essays in Aleksandar Hemon’s new book, he begins by remembering how his sister’s birth changed his childhood; how life would always thereafter be divided between before and after her arrival, how nothing would ever be the way it used to be. And then he reminds us, “But nothing has ever been—nor will it ever be—the way it used to be.” It’s a fitting admonition for the fraught work of memoir writing. Memory, of course, betrays us incessantly, and the creative impulse of the fiction writer is somewhat at odds with the rigors of telling […]

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