Tim Murphy’s latest novel, Christodora (432 pages; Grove Press), arrives in the middle of a cultural yearning for the seedier, more affordable, which is to say “idealized” Manhattan of yesteryear. Novels like Garth Risk Hallberg’s City on Fire and television shows like Netflix’s The Get Down have embraced nostalgia for the cultural ferment of New York City in the ’70s and ’80s, its sense of an expansive and generative squalor. Superficially, Christodora bears this same stamp. Titled after a run-down East Village apartment complex two of Murphy’s protagonists buy for dirt cheap, the novel lovingly renders New York at its […]
Ali Liebegott’s Cha-Ching! (City Lights/Sister Spit; 248 pages) is a book worthy of its pleasingly onomatopoetic title. Though the plot is familiar—lost woman on the edge of thirty moves to New York City out of a desperate need to find herself, but becomes disillusioned by the city’s gritty reality yet manages to hoist herself up by her bootstraps—it is made fresh and compelling because of Liebegott’s optimistic and sincere protagonist, Theo, and her particular struggles as a “sirma’amsir” lesbian in ‘90s San Francisco. And it’s because of Liebegott’s carefully tempered rendering of Theo that the novel offers a subtle and […]
Patrick McGrath’s new novel, Constance (Bloomsbury, 229 pages), is a chilling tale of family destruction set against the backdrop of a crumbling New York City. Set in the 1960s, Constance follows the marriage of two people as long-hidden secrets threaten to break up them apart. Sidney Klein, a single father and poetry professor, meets Constance Schuyler at a book party and is immediately swept up by the much younger woman’s “air of angry untouchablility.” During their courtship, he learns she was solely raised (along with her younger sister, Iris) by her father on the banks of the Hudson River. After […]
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.”