ZYZZYVA Recommends February 2020: What to Read, Watch, & Listen to

by ZYZZYVA Staff

Our Staff Recommends for February 2020 includes a look back at some of the most acclaimed films of last year, a novel by Nicole Krauss, and more—so here’s a sampling of what we’ve been reading, watching, and listening to lately: Alicia Long, Intern: In 2019, director Lulu Wang made waves with the indie dramedy The Farewell. Although 2018’s Crazy Rich Asians certainly drew a bigger crowd at the box office, the undoubtable success of these two films so close together made the much-welcome case that there is in fact an audience for Asian–American stories in film. That said, The Farewell […]

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‘The Town’ by Shaun Prescott: A Legacy of Erasure

by Zack Ravas

The Town (249 pages; FSG), the first novel by Shaun Prescott, takes place in New South Wales, a region of Prescott’s native Australia that was once home to the Wiradjuri people. The United Kingdom’s colonial campaign in the region erupted into war by 1824, which led to famine among the Wiradjuri, as well as to the destruction of many of their sacred sites. With this legacy of erasure in place, The Town takes a look at life on the fringes of contemporary New South Wales as our unnamed narrator visits the titular town, an isolated smattering of petrol stations, fast […]

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A Visit to Two Art Fairs

by Dominica Phetteplace

In the Instagram era, the consumption of art can become conflated with narcissism. If you can’t take a selfie with, does it even exist? The flip side of this is art that warmly invites the viewer in. I thought of this as I was turning a music box handle at the FOG Art + Design Fair, which ran from January 16-19 at Fort Mason. The music box was part of Anri Sala’s 2016 installation No Window, No Cry, (Olavo Redig de Campos) displayed by the Marian Goodman Gallery. A freestanding white wooden frame encloses a clear glass pane that is […]

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‘Creatures’ by Crissy Van Meter: Bound to the Sea

by Alicia Long

Set among the seasons and temperaments of a fictional island just off the coast of Southern California, Crissy Van Meter’s first novel, Creatures (256 pages; Algonquin Books), explores the world of Winter Island through the eyes of its narrator, Evangeline. Her story begins just three days before her wedding as she awaits her fiance’s return from the sea, even as a storm grows on the horizon and a whale’s carcass lodged deep in the harbor fouls the air. With her fiance possibly lost at sea and with a rotting whale to dispose of, Evie must also make do with the […]

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‘Dead Heat’ by Benedek Totth: A Record from the Abyss

by Zack Ravas

In the Nineties, it wasn’t uncommon for a shocking film like Larry Clark’s 1995 Kids to be marketed as “The Movie Every Parent in America Should See”—the implication being, it’s occasionally worthwhile or even necessary for parents to subject themselves to outré youth movies so as to keep abreast of what their children may or may be doing outside of adult supervision. It’s difficult to make the same case, to parents or anyone, for Benedek Totth’s first novel, Dead Heat (251 pages; Biblioasis; translated by Ildikó Noémi Nagy). The book, which concerns a quartet of teenage boys in an unnamed […]

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The Escape Artist: Bill Vollmann’s Remarkable Retreat into the Real

by Paul Wilner

An interview is by definition a species of performance: by the subject, struggling for definition, or invasion; and by the interlocutor, finding his or her own path in a journalistic enterprise perilously akin to speed dating. Conversations with William T. Vollmann (252 pages; University of Mississippi Press), edited by Daniel Lukes as part of the publisher’s “Literary Conversations” series, fulfills both functions. The incorrigibly ambitious Vollmann is the author of myriad explorations into Western mythologies, European history and literary journalistic inquiries into the roots of violence and environmental dystopia. His latest novel, The Lucky Star, returns to the Tenderloin underbelly […]

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Mrs. Sorry

by Gabriela Garcia

The first time I see her, she is buying cold cream. What she wants, she says, is a moisturizer that doesn’t feel heavy, doesn’t sit on her skin like so much weight. I lay out her options: whipped argan oil, cold-pressed and refined; our new micro-beading exfoliating lotion with gentle 7 percent alpha hydroxy; the best-selling hyaluronic acid-plus-B-vitamins gel with all-day-stay technology, patent pending. Her red fingernails tap the counter as she slides a credit card with her other hand. She buys all of them. A few days later I see her across my booth in the shoe department. She […]

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by Michelle Latiolais

If a diner had to ask, for escargot tongs, or for the tiny fork for prizing out the snail, for a napkin, or more of the delicious butter from Normandy, we had failed. To be asked to bring the pepper mill…but a table already had their dinner salads…hmm, no. One brought the pepper mill to the table beneath one’s arm, salads balanced along wrists and forearms. What course came next, what items would be needed for the consumption of that course, these were first laid down, ready to be put to use, the bone dish for the trout, the deep […]

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Session Drummer

by Tommy Orange

I’m on a train and it’s Saturday so I don’t have to work, but when I’m not working Saturday I’m usually working. I mean it’s work only because I get paid and need the money, but it’s playing drums—like a drum set in a studio. I’m a sometimes session drummer working mainly at this studio in West Oakland where people know me as a good enough drummer to call when they need a good enough drummer for a usually mediocre album project. What I do for a living, as they say, is to wash windows. I wash building windows no […]

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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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