Six Authors in Search of a Character: Part 4—Mickey Spillane

by Sean Gill

1963 Mickey Spillane is “Mike Hammer”             “When you sit at home comfortably folded up in a chair beside a fire, have you ever thought about what goes on outside there? Probably not. You pick up a book, reading about things and stuff, getting a vicarious kick from people and events that never happened. You’re doing it now, getting ready to fill in a normal life with the details of someone else’s experiences… But remember this: there are things happening out there. They go on every day and night making Roman holidays look like school picnics… All you have to […]

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Six Authors in Search of a Character: Part 3—Irvine Welsh

by Sean Gill

1996 Irvine Welsh is “Mikey Forrester” “I’m playing this drug dealer who’s probably one of the most unsympathetic characters in the book, cause, probably kinda manipulative and nasty and sort of horrible guy so, a lot of people will be saying sort of type-casting again, you know?” —Irvine Welsh, in a video interview from the set of Trainspotting in June 1995 To the strains of Bizet’s Carmen, Renton (Ewan McGregor), a young Edinburger junkie, makes fastidious personal preparations for kicking heroin, the final step of which is obtaining one last hit from his dealer, Mikey Forrester. Mikey appears, smirking like […]

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ZYZZYVA Interview Series: Glen David Gold

by Oscar Villalon

Glen David Gold is the author of the bestselling novels Sunnyside and Carter Beats the Devil. His essays, memoir, journalism and short fiction have appeared in McSweeney’s, Playboy, Tin House, Wired, the New York Times Sunday Magazine, the Guardian UK, and London Independent. His most recent book is his memoir, I Will Be Complete (Knopf), portions of which first appeared in ZYZZYVA No. 100 and No. 108. In late June, Gold discussed his new book with Managing Editor Oscar Villalon at City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco. […]

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A Political Awakening in Haiti: ‘Dance on the Volcano’ by Marie Vieux-Chauvet

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Dance on the Volcano, by Haitian author Marie Vieux-Chauvet (1916-1973), was originally published as La Danse sur le Volcan in 1957. Previously translated into English by Salvator Attanasio in 1959, Archipelago Books has published a delightful new translation by Kaiama L. Glover. Glover, a scholar of Caribbean fiction, translation, and Francophone literature, seems like the natural candidate for translating Vieux-Chauvet’s stunning novel. She has already translated two other works of Haitian fiction, and her scholarly knowledge and apparent pleasure in making the sights and sounds of colonial Haiti accessible to an Anglophone audience are palpable. Dance on the Volcano tells […]

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The Pain Hard to Name: Q&A with ‘Swallowed by the Cold’ Author Jensen Beach

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The stories in Jensen Beach’s second story collection, Swallowed by the Cold (208 pages; Graywolf Press), demonstrate again and again that self-destruction doesn’t happen in a vacuum. In “Kino,” we meet a young man named Oskar who swears he intended to torch just his own boat, but who ended up setting fire to an entire marina. Oskar happens to work at what seems to be a gay brothel called Kino Club, which an uptight man named Martin frequents. The two encounter each other at a party where Martin’s wife, Louise, gets too drunk. Suffering under the weight of Martin’s self-denial, […]

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How Reading to My Kids Helped Me Give Better Author Readings

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Publishing a book can mean a lot of things. You might, for example, find yourself at a book club meeting where an elderly gentleman confesses that he didn’t think he’d be able to finish your novel but he nonetheless managed to “struggle through it” (true story). You might, on the other hand, achieve a staggering level of success that allows you to quit your day job (unfortunately not a true story). Or, more likely, you’ll probably have to give a reading. This was the part of being a published author that I was dreading the most. Like many writers, I’m […]

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ZYZZYVA Interview Series: David L. Ulin & Gary Kamiya

by editor

David L. Ulin (whose work has appeared in ZYZZYVA Issues No. 100 and 104) is the author or editor of eight previous books, including The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time and the Library of America’s Writing Los Angeles: A Literary Anthology, which won a California Book Award. A 2015 Guggenheim Fellow, he is the former book critic of the Los Angeles Times. ZYZZYVA Managing Editor Oscar Villalon, along with Gary Kamiya—executive editor of San Francisco Magazine and author of Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco—discussed Ulin’s latest book, Sidewalking: Coming […]

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Beyond the Macabre: ‘Henri Duchemin and His Shadows’ by Emmanuel Bove

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French author Emmanuel Bove wrote novels and short stories that combined the psychological insight of Fyodor Dostoevsky with Edgar Allan Poe’s penchant for the macabre. His fiction shed a light on young men dangling precariously above disaster, men whose neurotic impulses frequently led to their ruin. Born in 1898, Bove’s own life proved as strange and fortuitous as that of his downtrodden characters. The author spent many of his earliest years living in abject poverty until his father’s second marriage introduced him to a world of wealth and privilege. The outbreak of World War I once again dashed the family […]

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The Oval Track of Memory: ‘Butterflies in November’ by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir

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Set in the wintery depths of Iceland during the darkest days of the year, Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir’s novel Butterflies in November (Black Cat/Grove; 296 pages) opens with a surreal scene. After accidentally running over a goose, the unnamed narrator hauls the carcass into her car trunk with plans to surprise her husband with a lavish dinner. What follows is the story of a woman out of sync with domestic life, whose impulsive nature leads her on a journey to self-discovery. We get a sense early on of our narrator’s elusive nature during a confrontation between herself and her husband. With […]

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Margaret Weatherford: 1966-2012

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When I met her at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1989, Margaret Weatherford was the California girl the Beach Boys never imagined: a black-haired, amber-eyed bombshell with her own professional pool cue and a dude’s tolerance for rail whiskey. I was her fan before I was her friend, because – if the first rule of writing school is to write what you know – it was obvious that Margaret knew things no one else could have possibly dreamed up. Her stories were populated by melancholy children, oracular father figures, animal grotesques and obsolete muscle cars. Like me, she had just […]

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Love Story, with Cocaine

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Tom Bissell, who lives in Portland, Oregon, is the author of several critically acclaimed books, including Chasing the Sea: Lost Among the Ghosts of Empire in Central Asia (2003),
God Lives in St. Petersburg and Other Stories (2005), The Father of All Things: A Marine, His Son, and the Legacy of Vietnam (2007), and Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter (2010).

His story for ZYZZYVA’s Fall issue, “Love Story, With Cocaine,” is a humorous portrayal of the ennui-soaked relationship between a young woman in a nameless Baltic European country and her American (platonic) boyfriend. Cocaine is part of their scene. Video games are in the background, too. And a highly strung greyhound is a constant companion. The following is an excerpt from Bissell’s story.

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The Strangeness of Loss Imbues ‘Widow’

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A collection of 17 short pieces, Widow (Bellevue Literary Press; 160 pages) is, as the title suggests and the opening story firmly establishes, concerned with a particular loss — that of the beloved partner. Though several of the book’s stories were written after the death of California author Michelle Latiolais’s husband, and the impact of that loss is felt on every page, Widow is not a memoir, yet neither is it entirely fictional. Drawing on a variety of genres (meditations, stories, and poetic vignettes) and points of view, Widow offers a kaleidoscopic view of the world from deep within the […]

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