The Murmuring Killed Me

by Peter Orner

Every few years or so I go to visit my dead at Beth El Cemetery in Fall River, Massachusetts. It’s across the street from a Cumberland Farms. My grandfather always said that being dead didn’t seem so bad if he could run over and grab a pack of cigarettes and the Fall River Herald. On

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Deadline Approaching for our next Workshop: Writing Across Cultures with Vanessa Hua

by ZYZZYVA

Vanessa Hua

Our next remote Writers’ Workshop is Writing Across Cultures with Vanessa Hua on September 17th, 2022. (11am to 2pm PST via ZOOM). The deadline to purchase a ticket is September 15th. “Can I write about that?” The question of cultural appropriation is a complicated one, and so too its answers. In this discussion-based Writers’ Workshop, students will examine strategies for researching and portraying lives unlike our own, that reflect social and historical context and the fullness of a character’s humanity. Students will work on writing exercises and discuss texts by Viet Thanh Nguyen, Toni Morrison, Elaine Castillo, among others, along with […]

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Part of a Deer

by Lucy Corin

Here it was suddenly ninety degrees, and across the country it was suddenly frozen. I’d been texting about it with Basil all morning, getting my stuff together for running errands. In the car, I swapped into my sunglasses, setting everything up to follow the driving instructions I’d texted to myself by trying to balance the

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‘Nightcrawling’ by Leila Mottley: Oakland on Its Own Terms

by Emily Garcia

Kiara Johnson, the scrappy protagonist of Leila Mottley’s transfixing first novel, Nightcrawling (288 pages; Knopf), lives in East Oakland, in an apartment complex called the Regal-Hi, where money is sparse and trauma is abundant. Kiara’s father died years before; her mother’s currently in a halfway house following a prison stint; and her older brother, Marcus, who is also her legal guardian (Kiara is seventeen when the novel begins), is pursuing a rap career in lieu of a job that might help pay the rent—which has also recently more than doubled. Beyond her fears of eviction and homelessness, Kiara is pulled […]

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Q&A with Staci Greason: ‘All the Girls in Town’ and Making the Grief Bearable

by Christine Sneed

My first encounter with Staci Greason’s writing was in the fall of 2020 after we met at an online feature-script retreat organized by CineStory, a screenwriting-focused arts organization. I read her screenplay Treed and was particularly impressed by her assured comic touch and her ability to write about complex themes—environmental conservation and marital anomie, in this case—without being heavyhanded. She had also written Treed as a novel—albeit with a different title, The Last Great American Housewife. Soon after we met at the retreat, Greason, who has also acted, sold a different novel, All the Girls in Town, to indie publisher […]

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Prose Poems, Memos, Hybrid Forms All Ride in This Taxi: A Dual Q&A with Sean Singer and Christine Sneed

by Sean Singer & Christine Sneed

Christine Sneed: I first met Sean Singer in the late 1990s. I was a poetry student in the MFA program at Indiana University-Bloomington and he was an undergraduate student. One spring semester he was granted permission to enroll in our MFA workshop, and as soon as he shared his first poem with the class, I was struck by how smart, playful, and mature his work was—in a word, precocious but absent any negative connotations. Not long after he graduated from Indiana University, I wasn’t surprised to learn he’d received the Yale Younger Poets Award for his debut collection, Discography. We’ve […]

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‘The Music Game’ by Stéfanie Clermont: A Disenchanted Life

by Sophia Carr

While it’s rare, there are some friends you make during your childhood that you keep for the rest of your life, and The Music Game (304 Pages; Biblioasis; translated by JC Sutcliffe), the first novel by Stéfanie Clermont, is a story of this kind of friendship. Primarily set in Montreal, the novel follows Céline, Julie, and Sabrina—three French-Canadian friends with differing life trajectories. Though this winding and unconventional novel often reads more like a collection of linked stories, the sum of it feels in conversation about the millennial experience in contemporary Montreal. Among the group, Sabrina deals with racism and […]

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The Immense Presence of the Mist: Q&A with ‘The Red Arrow’ author William Brewer

by Kristen Iskandrian

It’s probably fitting that I thought often of Keats while reading William Brewer’s The Red Arrow (Knopf; 272 pages), specifically, the odes, all of which seek to create vessels into which the unknowable and unnamable—the “alien corn” of existence—can be contained. Brewer is a poet, after all, whose brilliant collection I Know Your Kind, about

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‘Forbidden City’ by Vanessa Hua: Beauty in the Brokenness

by Pia Chatterjee

It is an age-old tale: a young woman escapes the constraints of her provincial life to make her way to the big city, only to fall victim there to the machinations of an older, powerful man. But Vanessa Hua’s Forbidden City (353 pages; Ballantine Books), set in China just before the dawn of Mao’s Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, takes this trope and cunningly turns it on its head, making for one of the most compelling works of feminist and historical fiction in recent years. Unlike stereotypical ingenues, teenage Mei is morally ambiguous and neither beautiful nor beloved. She connives her way […]

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‘Monarch’ by Candice Wuehle: Dead Ringers and Sleeper Agents

by Maura Krause

Candy-coated nightmare is a familiar aesthetic by now. From TV shows like Stranger Things to movies like Birds of Prey, it is not unusual to see horror and violence shellacked in bright colors. Monarch (256 pages; Soft Skull), the first novel by acclaimed poet Candice Wuehle, wears the neon skin of such blockbusters while exploring much thornier intellectual territory, asking: what is the true meaning of self? On the surface, Monarch is a thriller, charting the life of former beauty queen and decommissioned clandestine operative Jessica Greenglass Clink. A child pageant star from the age of four, Jessica grows up […]

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‘When I Sing, Mountains Dance’ by Irene Solà: Trouble in the Landscape

by Maura Krause

In the age of the Anthropocene, Irene Solà’s When I Sing, Mountains Dance (216 pages; Graywolf Press; translated by Mara Faye Lethem) is a salve. Its texture is smooth yet it’s laced with herbaceous pungency. In a magically rendered translation from the Catalan by Mara Faye Lethem, Solà’s second novel offers up healing for those who care to find it. Set in the Pyrenees near Spain’s border with France, this marvelous book loosely traces one family’s tragedies and how they seep into the lives of others in their close-knit village. These troubles are refracted by the landscape, witnessed by unusual […]

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‘Getting Clean with Stevie Green’ by Swan Huntley: A Decluttered Life

by Sophia Carr

These days, the story of a woman attempting to get her life together as she approaches middle age has become a familiar trope. However, Getting Clean with Stevie Green (304 pages; Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster), the latest novel by Swan Huntley, feels unique even as it tells the story of thirty-seven-year-old Stevie’s journey to live the life she envisions for herself. This is no small task for Stevie, a professional in the cutthroat business of decluttering people’s homes, as she must deal with addiction and mental illness while coming to terms with her sexuality and navigating the  shifting dynamics of […]

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