Politics

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David Guterson, who lives in Washington with his wife and children, is the author of the story collection The Country Ahead of Us, the Country Behind and the novels The Other, Our Lady of the Forest, East of the Mountains, and Snow Falling on Cedars, which won the PEN Faulkner Award. His new novel, Ed King (Knopf), will be published in October.

“Politics” is set among the Moaist strikes that shut down Nepal in 2010 and left thousands of tourists caught in the middle. In Guterson’s story, an American man attempts to help out his ex-wife (“technically she was still his wife because they hadn’t signed divorce papers yet”), a journalist who has been seriously injured in a car crash. As he tries to make his way by foot to her hospital, he confronts the mayhem and poverty around him. “He decided to pretend these child-beggars didn’t exist,” Guterson writes, “that he didn’t hear or see them, but that was even more infuriating, because it embroiled him, now, in self-examination, and in pondering the conclusion he was rapidly coming to — that you couldn’t win in a case like this. That no matter what you did, you were wrong.” The following is an excerpt from “Politics.”

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Lost Coast

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Will Boast was born in England, grew up in Ireland and Wisconsin, and now lives in San Francisco, where he also works as musician. A former Stegner Fellow, his fiction has appeared in Best New American Voices 2009, Narrative, and other publications. His story collection, Power Ballads (University of Iowa Press), comes out in October and has drawn praise from Yiyun Li, Tom Franklin, and Ann Beattie.

“Lost Coast” is a sneaky story about revenge set in perhaps the most unlikely of places: the indie music scene. Boast effectively evokes the noirish hues of San Francisco and masterfully conveys the craftsmanship of the music at the heart of the piece. The following is an excerpt from the story, which appears in ZYZZYVA’s Fall issue.

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Lust for Life

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Susan Berman is a writer in Los Angeles, where she also works as a Spanish interpreter. Her story “Lust for Life,” which appears in ZYZZYVA’s Fall issue, marks her first fiction in print.

The tale of a toxic love affair, Berman’s story is set in ’70s New York City, amid aspiring artists and youthful passion. How self-destruction can be confused for “passion” is one of the story’s concerns. The other is an appreciation for hope and beauty amid the most unpromising of scenarios. The following is an excerpt from “Lust for Life.”

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A New Ocean

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In its Winter 1985 issue, ZYZZYVA published this essay by Blair Fuller. Fuller, who lives in Tomales, California, is the author of the novels A Far Place and Zebina’s Mountain, is an editor emeritus at the Paris Review, and with the late Oakley Hall, co-founded the Squaw Valley Community of Writers.

“A New Ocean” is the story of how, in 1963, Fuller submitted to an experimental LSD treatment in the Bay Area. The descriptions of his altered mental state on the drug are poetic, and could even be called moving. And the coincidence of his treatment happening the day before John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas lends a sadness to the piece — a sadness extending beyond the violent death of the president. As one of the female doctors from that early treatment tells him many years later, it seemed as if a great many things changed with that day, including the “feeling of the possible”

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Heroin

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In its Fall 1985 issue, ZYZZYVA published a piece by Jessica Hagedorn, taken from her novel-in-progress at the time. According to her bio in that issue, Hagedorn, who was born and raised in the Philippines, had lived in San Francisco for 14 years “before banishing herself to New York City.” (She’s now the Parsons Family University Professor of Creative Writing at Long Island University in Brooklyn, and her latest novel, Toxicology, was published in April.)

The story, about a DJ and prostitute named Joey Sands who works in a Manila disco, is a frank look at a predatory world, one revealing the tangled relationship between the Philippines and the United States. The novel-in-progress would be published five years later as Dogeaters, which would received critical praise from the likes of Robert Stone and would go on to become a finalist for the National Book Award in 1990.

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Piropo

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Leticia del Toro is a writer living in El Cerrito. Her short story “Piropo,” which was published in ZYZZYVA’s Spring 2011 issue, marks her first time in print. (Not counting the liner notes she’s written for Tex-Mex CDs from Arhoolie Records.) The story’s narrator, Carolina, is a woman asserting herself in a man’s world of manual labor. (She disguises her sex to get work). Meanwhile, she contends with Joaquin, the feckless father of her little boy back in Mexico, and navigates the unpredictable world of well-meaning Anglos. The following is an excerpt from “Piropo.”

On June 4, Leticia del Toro will be reading with D.A. Powell, Michael Jaime-Becerra, Peter Mountford and others as part of Babylon Salon in San Francisco.

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Son of the General

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Pamela Rivas was born in San Francisco and grew up on the Peninsula. She is a bilingual educator for Santa Cruz County. “Son of the General,” which appears in the Spring 2011 issue of ZYZZYVA, is her first work of fiction in print. Her tight, concise story was inspired by her family’s first trip to Central America. Something like a prose poem, Rivas’s fiction here delineates a legacy of societal brutality, a legacy that dovetails with the well-deep, universal anxiety of parenthood — how to protect one’s children.

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The Third Daughter

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Born and raised in the Bay Area, Vanessa Hua is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in the Economist, The New York Times, and Newsweek. A graduate of UC Riverside’s MFA program, she she won the Atlantic Monthly’s student fiction contest in 2008, and in 2005 won Cream City Review’s fiction contest.

The following is an excerpt from her story in the Spring 2011 issue of ZYZZYVA — a story taken from her finished unpublished novel, Without Heaven. The novel was inspired, Hua says, by “documentary footage of Chairman Mao swing dancing with teen age girls … After stumbling across a short clip, I wanted to learn more about the recruits for this dance troupe. There wasn’t much information available, which gave me the room necessary to work on a novel.”

She will be reading from her story at the ZYZZYVA event at the Booksmith in San Francisco on May 4, and at the ZYZZYVA event at Skylight Books in Los Angeles on May 14.

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How to Fall

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Tom Barbash, who lives in Marin County, is the author of the California Book Award-winning novel The Last Good Chance, (which among its many fine attributes is its portrayal of life as a reporter on a community newspaper) and the nonfiction best-seller On Top of the World: Cantor Fitzgerald, Howard Lutnick, and 9/11. His work has appeared in many publications, including McSweeney’s and Narrative, and he has written the best account ever of what LeBron James’ career as a pro bowler might have been.

The following is an excerpt from his story from the Spring 2011 issue of ZYZZYVA. It gracefully shows how love-loss is both comic and stomach-punching, an impossible situation we somehow endure and even come out of somewhat intact. He will be reading May 4 at the ZYZZYVA event at the Booksmith in  San Francisco.

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Mistakes Were Made, Errors Happened

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Journalist Karl Taro Greenfeld is perhaps best known for Boy Alone, his searing, candid memoir of growing up with a severely autistic brother. In this story published in the Fall 2010 issue of ZYZZYVA, Greenfeld turns his talent for unsparing prose on a young man’s turbulent summer in Japan. The title, derived from a characteristically restrained Japanese turn of phrase, offers a dry counterpoint to the magnitude of the missteps chronicled here. What was meant to be a summer-long interlude between high school and college (sustained by a respectable job as a messenger) devolves rapidly into a debauchery of theft, drugs, and prostitution. As our confident and careless young narrator careens headlong into chaos, Greenfeld keeps the up the tension amid a dark cloud of  humor.

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Frida & Diego, or Among Musicians Only

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Willy Lizárraga was born and raised in Peru and arrived in San Francisco as a teen. A teacher at Berkeley City College, Lizárraga is also a novelist. His novel in Spanish, Mientras Elena en su lecho, won the 1995 Letras de Oro Literary Prize, University of Miami. Frida & Diego, Or Among Musicians Only appeared in the Winter 2010 issue of ZYZZYVA. (You can get a copy here.) The following excerpt gives a strong sense of Lizárraga’s vibrant English prose, as well as his powerful depiction of place. Here, San Francisco’s Mission District is a “cemetery” after midnight. “Why aren’t they flooding the streets of this supposedly world-class city, me cago en Dios?” a character asks. “Why isn’t everybody enjoying the night como gente civilizada, hostias?” (If you read Spanish, the story is also joyfully profane.)

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Our Brave Little Soldiers

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How to describe this beautifully strange story by Erika Recordon? It’s brief, but it’s haunting. “Our Brave Little Soldiers,” one of two stories by Recordon in the Spring 2011 issue of ZYZZYVA (which you can buy here), is dream-like in the truest sense: familiar yet alien, operating by an elusive yet recognizable logic. Along with Matthew Dickman, her fellow Portland, Ore., writer and ZYZZYVA contributor, Recordon reads tonight at the Rumpus event in San Francisco.

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