‘Dr. No’ By Percival Everett: Bond Upended

by Charlie Barton

A black, autistic mathematician, Wala Kitu is not James Bond—but he is the hero of Percival Everett’s anti-Bond, Bond novel, Dr. No (262 pages; Graywolf Press). The book, now a National Book Critics Circle award finalist, is very much a spy thriller—filled with sports cars, hench-people, secret submarines, and hidden shark traps—even though Everett radically subverts the classic 007 formula. Wala’s love interest is another autistic mathematician, Eigen Victor, a specialist in topology with a tendency to state the obvious. And the nefarious super-villain is John Sill, a self-made Black billionaire whose sole purpose is to destroy America, to exact […]

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The Y

by Bethany Ball

Back then, Yale sat behind the front desk counter in the resident section of the Y and I sat beside him. Reggie worked maintenance and had the gray cast and steady hands of a true alcoholic. He was always on time and reliable. Robert was a resident and lived on the sixth floor. He had

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After Dark

by Rhoda Huffey

When the pigeon first appeared in my front yard, I noticed because he didn’t fly off immediately. He walked over to the jade plant by my front porch and contemplated the leaves of the succulent. My mind was full of other things at that moment: what to wear to that evening, did a man named

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‘All Your Racial Problems Will Soon End’ By Charles Johnson: The Humor of Politics

by Charlie Barton

Charles Johnson’s collection of comics, All Your Racial Problems Will Soon End: The Cartoons of Charles Johnson (280 pages; New York Review Comics), is an especially provocative yet conscious-raising read in the wake of 2020’s Black Lives Matter protests. Spanning his entire career as a cartoonist—starting decades before his novel Middle Passage won the 1991 National Book Award—the collection focuses mainly on his most prolific era during the 1960s and 1970s, when his work explored black radicalism and the racism that birthed it. The comic strip may seem unfit for such weighty matters, but in the hands of Johnson—novelist, philosopher, […]

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‘Folk Music – A Bob Dylan Biography In Seven Songs’ by Greil Marcus: The Holy Grail

by Paul Wilner

“So this is a book of cigarette butts,’’ Greil Marcus writes, without apology, in Folk Music – A Bob Dylan Biography In Seven Songs (Yale University Press; 288 pages), his latest attempt to interweave the complicated legacy of the Nobel Prize-winning hobo from Hibbing with Lincoln’s mystic chords of memory, our unresolved racial divide, and the “wild mercury sound’’ emanating from those trying to stand their ground in an invisible republic far outside the white noise of hot takes and cold comfort. He’s referring, of course, to the unaccountable adulation Dylan (still) draws from armies of obsessed fans, quoting from […]

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ZYZZYVA Holiday Gift Guide

by ZYZZYVA

Dear Friend,  It’s that time of year! The holidays are upon us and, with them, the pressure to procure the right gift for our loved ones. We’d like to offer our assistance to those desiring to shop small, shop local, and shop mindfully. With this in mind, here is a helpful list of gift suggestions that might just fit the bill. And we wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season and happy new year. Yours, the ZYZZYVA team For the Poet: Even us ardent fans of fiction have a friend or family member who is most moved by poetry and […]

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Flat Map

by Yuri Herrera

Translated by Lisa Dillman Perhaps they could have saved the lives of all those who died chasing the truth to the ends of the earth if they’d thought more about, say, the thickness of trees. But these people, like all people, felt compelled to see things with their own eyes, which would later be eaten

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‘It Must Be a Misunderstanding’ by Coral Bracho: Adding Color and Depth to One of Life’s Hardships

by Meryl Natchez

Anyone who has experienced a loved one’s trajectory through Alzheimer’s might wonder how a book of poetry focused on that harrowing experience could be uplifting. But Coral Bracho’s It Must Be a Misunderstanding (New Directions; 135 pages), translated by Forrest Gander, is not only tender and compassionate, but leaves the reader suffused in the mystery of being. The book is dedicated to Bracho’s mother, who died in 2012 from complications of Alzheimer’s. A short book of fragmentary lyrics, it builds through its sections like a concerto, adding color and depth as it goes. The themes of Intuitions, Observations, and various […]

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On the Art of Interviewing

by Michael Krasny

I learned an important lesson interviewing David Byrne. He was (and is) an artist I respect and admire, but he was a terrible interview. Monosyllabic grunts were what I got from him as well as a clear indication that he simply did not want to be there, in the studio, being interviewed. Sometimes you can

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‘Tell Me the Truth About Love’ by Erik Tarloff: A Bump in the Road to Romance

by Paul Wilner

Erik Tarloff’s new novel, Tell Me the Truth About Love (Rare Bird Books; 360 pages), is at once a comedy of manners about the not-so-smart set of San Francisco society, a sex farce complete with a mistaken identity subplot that could have come out of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To The Forum, and a deeply serious examination of just how rocky the road to romance can be. Toby Lindeman makes an inherently undignified living as fundraiser for the San Francisco Opera, which helps him support his ex-wife and teenage daughter. But a chance meeting with Amy Baldwin, […]

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‘Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow’ by Gabrielle Zevin: Life as a Game

by Emily Garcia

If ever there were ever a novel that replicates the addictive, multi-level quality of video games, it would be Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow (416 pages; Knopf),an endearing and loving portrait of three friends who start their own video game company. When they’re eleven, Sam and Sadie meet at the hospital. Sadie’s sister, Alice, is recovering from leukemia, and Sam is recovering from a terrible car accident that practically destroys one of his feet, an injury that haunts him throughout his life. As they wait around, they begin to play video games together, developing the bridge of play […]

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‘Sleeping Alone’ by Ru Freeman: Snippets of Life

by Megan V. Luebberman

Sleeping Alone (202 pages; Graywolf Press), author Ru Freeman’s newest book, leads readers on a journey into the lives of a variety of unique individuals. In this collection of eleven short stories, Freeman utilizes a different point of view in each to tell of struggles with identity, loss, love, and more. Along the way, she reveals how thinking deeply about our own lives, contemplating our choices, and trying to make meaning of it all is simply a part of being human. The conflict in some stories involves familial relations, such as “The Wake,” which relates how an eccentric mother’s antics […]

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