Q&A with Karin Lin-Greenberg: ‘Vanished’ and the Art of Life

by Christine Sneed

One of qualities I admire most about Karin Lin-Greenberg’s stories is their comic undercurrent, the subversive eye paired with an unflinching one that registers the world and its inhabitants with clarity and powerfully affecting insights into the complex, sometimes ruthless emotional negotiations of adolescence and adulthood. Her writing is at once lucid and engrossing, the kind of fiction that unfurls so seamlessly the final page arrives long before I’m ready to part ways with her characters. Her first story collection, Faulty Predictions (2014), won the Flannery O’Connor Prize, and her first novel, You Are Here, will be published in May […]

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Rebecca Rukeyser & Liska Jacobs in conversation on ‘The Pink Hotel’ and ‘The Seaplane on Final Approach’

by Rebecca Rukeyser & Liska Jacobs

I read Liska Jacob’s The Pink Hotel (336 pages; MCD) at the end of this summer. August is an unwholesome month, especially in Berlin. The city becomes a swamp, and every bakery display case is filled with wasps feeding on poppyseed cake and apple strudel. But reading the gleefully anarchic The Pink Hotel is the most unwholesome thing I did this August. I mean that as the highest compliment. This book lulls you with the low incessant murmur of opulence. You begin with healthy skepticism toward the trappings of obscene wealth, but diamond watches start to sound pretty. Daily spa […]

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Q&A with Kathleen Balma: ‘From Your Hostess at the T&A Museum’ and the Urgent Need to Describe

by Danielle Shi

Kathleen Balma demonstrates a prodigious fluency with language in her intelligent and entertaining first poetry collection, From Your Hostess at the T&A Museum (96 pages; Eyewear Publishing), in which monkeys battle for social cachet, time grounds to a startling weather-bending halt, and voices become vehicles of desire when arriving at the right destination. Cleverly imagining the ordinary into shapes exceptional and witty, Balma uses an affectionate yet sardonic tongue to interrogate images as familiar to us as Abe Lincoln’s cabin to the ruins of Pompeii to the moon landing. For aficionados of art history, visual splendor abounds: Olympia and Aphrodites […]

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Q&A with Robin Carlson: ‘The Cold Canyon Fire Journals’ and Rebirth from the Flames

by Rebecca Rukeyser

When Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve, an ecological preserve in the California Coast Ranges, was ravaged by the Wragg Fire in 2015, Robin Carlson found herself struck by a sensation of loss. “Although my mind understood fire’s importance in the ecosystem, my heart did not,” she writes. The way to reconcile her contradictory feelings—those of a Californian haunted by a well-founded fear of fires and of a trained biologist with knowledge of fire cycles—was to return to Cold Canyon, notepad in hand, to observe the devastation and first stages of regrowth. And she kept returning. Sometimes she was accompanied by scientists, […]

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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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Q&A with Editor Natalie Eve Garrett: “The Lonely Stories” & Making Peace with a Solitary Life

by Sophia Carr

Has there ever been a more appropriate time for a chronicle of writers’ individual experiences with the state of being alone than now, in the midst of an isolating and prolonged global pandemic? The Lonely Stories (240 pages; Catupult), edited by Natalie Eve Garrett, gathers essays from a diverse set of acclaimed authors—including Jhumpa Lahiri, Anthony Doerr, Lena Dunham, Maggie Shipstead, and Lev Grossman—and examines everything from struggles with personal demons such as addiction, failed marriages, and the loneliness of being an immigrant facing racial discrimination to  the sense of liberation and creative stimulation that a solitary existence can provide—particularly […]

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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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Catch up on two of our most recent events, including an interview with Vanessa Hua

by ZYZZYVA Staff

In case you missed it: we’ve got handy Youtube links for two of our most recent ZYZZYVA-related events, including our Q&A with Vanessa Hua about her latest novel Forbidden City that happened at San Francisco’s The Booksmith on May 18th; as well as our May 19th Q&A with Ecuadorian author Gabriela Alemán about her new collection, titled Family Album: Stories, that occurred at City Lights Bookstore. What could be better than free literary-world entertainment, no? (And if you’re interested in reading more work from Alemán, do secure a copy of our latest issue, Issue 122, to read her story “School […]

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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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Jonathon Keats and His Library of the Great Silence: More Autobiographical Than Science Fictional

by Shelby Hinte

In 1979, science fiction critic Darko Suvin popularized the term “cognitive estrangement” in his book Metamorphoses of Science Fiction. According to Suvin, cognitive estrangement, as presented in science fiction texts, “presents aspects of the reader’s empirical reality ‘made strange’ through a new perspective.”[1] Through the recasting of the everyday as spectacle, readers and viewers of science fiction are able to recognize their own reality and, in theory, “gain a rational understanding of the social conditions of existence.” (One need only look at the 10,000% [2] sales increase of George Orwell’s 1984 after Donald Trump’s inauguration to see but one example […]

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Q&A with Jackson Bliss: ‘Counterfactual Love Stories and Other Experiments’ & The Rules You’re Allowed to Break

by Peter Schlachte

Jackson Bliss’s debut book of fiction, Counterfactual Love Stories and Other Experiments (200 pages; Noemi Press), is exactly what the title claims—a collection of exciting, bold experiments that stretch the notion of what a story can be. Of the thirteen stories in it, no two share the same form. Yet underneath the narrative invention, the genre-bending fireworks, and the speculative characters, Bliss’s stories are meditations on classic themes: time, autonomy, race, and, of course, love. Bliss is the winner of the 2020 Noemi Prize in Prose, holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Notre Dame, and a […]

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Q&A with Jenny Qi: ‘Focal Point’ and a Full Picture of Grief

by Chiara Bercu

Jenny Qi’s first poetry collection, Focal Point (98 pages; Steel Toe Books), sees release this week. Written over the course of Qi’s graduate study in oncology, and upon the loss of her mother to cancer, Focal Point quilts together meditations on memory, bereavement, racism, divinity, and motherhood. Victoria Chang describes the collection as a “book of crossing.” Its sixty poems forward a fresh, intertextual probe into experiences of transition and bring delicate attention to life in the wake of loss. Qi was the winner of the 2020 Steel Toe Books Poetry Award, and her essays and poems appear in the […]

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