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—the “alien corn” of existence—into which the unknowable and unnamable can be contained. Brewer is a poet, after all, whose brilliant collection I Know Your Kind, about

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‘Harrow’ by Joy Williams: Book of Revelations

by Zack Ravas

Given the popularity of the genre, chances are good you’ve probably read at least one post-apocalyptic novel by now. But have you ever read a post-apocalyptic novel as conceived by Joy Williams? 2015’s The Visiting Privilege cemented Williams’ reputation as one of our finest short story writers, putting her decidedly off-kilter worldview and rich characterization on display in a compilation of many of her best stories alongside new material. Now the author, who divides her time between Arizona and Wyoming, is back with her first novel in over two decades, following the Pulitzer Prize-finalist The Quick and the Dead. Harrow […]

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‘First Person Singular’ by Haruki Murakami: More than Meets the ‘I’

by Colton Alstatt

Superstar author Haruki Murakami has published twenty-three books (in English) since beginning his career as a novelist in 1978. In his strictly upward trajectory, full of merits and awards, he has not had much space for rumination. However, in his new story collection, First Person Singular (256 pages; Knopf), he channels 72 years of writing prowess into a series of mystery-dipped stories about youth, memory, and identity. Each begins with a distinct memory, an arresting one. “A dimly lit hallway in a high school, a beautiful girl, the hem of her skirt swirling, [holding] With the Beatles.” The speaker tunnels […]

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‘Crying in H Mart’ by Michelle Zauner: If Belief Were Real

by Ray Levy Uyeda

The chorus of “In Heaven,” the first track on Michelle Zauner’s first album as Japanese Breakfast, goes: Oh do you believe in heaven? / Like you believed in me / Oh it could be such heaven / If you believed it was real. The “you” and the “me” could be anyone, the “heaven” could be any utopia. But as revealed in Zauner’s memoir, Crying in H Mart (239 pages; Knopf), these lyrics were drafted in the aftermath of her mother’s death from pancreatic cancer and formed at a time when she was reckoning with her identity while caring for her […]

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‘Let Me Tell You What I Mean’ by Joan Didion: Telling Things As They Are

by Zack Ravas

In times of crisis, we often look to the voice that is calm, rational, not prone to high emotion; perhaps it’s fortuitous, then, that a year into the global pandemic we’re receiving a new book from Joan Didion, one of our most controlled stylists—a writer known for her careful, neutral tone, and one who can observe an incident and report her findings with a precision that often belies the extremities of her subject matter. It’s right there in the title of this latest collection: Let Me Tell You What I Mean (149 pages; Knopf)—would readers really expect Didion to do […]

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