Tom Bissell (whose story “Love Story, With Cocaine” appeared in ZYZZYVA No. 92) is the award-winning author of several books, including the story collection God Lives in St. Petersburg, the memoir The Father of All Things, the essay collection Magic Hours, and Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter. His newest book is Apostle: Travels Among the Tombs of the Twelve (Pantheon). Kirkus (in a starred review) described Apostle as a “rich, contentious, and challenging book … a deep dive into the heart of the New Testament, crossing continents and cross-referencing texts.” ZYZZYVA Managing Editor Oscar Villalon spoke with Bissell about […]
Austin Smith, who lives in San Francisco, is a Jones Lecturer at Stanford and the author of four poetry collections, including “Almanac,” which was published by the Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets. His poems and fiction have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Threepenny Review, and in ZYZZYVA Issues No. 83 and No. 100. His story “The Cave” appears in the Winter issue.
Relating the arrival of a new kid to a small farming community in Illinois, “The Cave” centers around its young narrator going to the boy’s house for dinner one evening. But around that event, which leads to them exploring a cave at night, is an examination of a child’s rural life, one not immune from the hardships true for children everywhere, including the menace of bullies. In the following excerpt, our narrator talks about the red-headed twin sisters who, for whatever reason, decide one day while getting on the school bus to single him out for their cruelty. The following is an excerpt from “The Cave.”
Dipping into our anthology Strange Attraction: The Best of Ten Years of ZYZZYVA (338 pages; $20), we first excerpted for you Po Bronson’s story “Tracking the Family Beast.” We now offer an excerpt from Elizabeth Tallent’s story “Black Dress,” which originally appeared in ZYZZYVA Issue No. 25 (Spring 1991). (Most recently, Tallent’s story “Mendocino Fire” appears in our 100th issue.)
Tallent, who is a professor of English at Stanford and the author of several books, including the story collection Time of Children and the novel Museum Pieces, tells the story of Caro, a young pregnant woman getting ready to attend the funeral of her stepson’s teen girlfriend, who overdosed on pills. “She had taken the pills from their hiding place under her mother’s tissue-wrapped lingerie, snapped off the child-proof caps, and eaten them in handfuls. It can’t have been easy swallowing so many times; wouldn’t her body have been on the verge of refusing? Wouldn’t nausea have entered in? Ah, Caro thinks, and places her own nausea: with no sense of linear time, no conviction that things that have happened are irrevocably over, her own body is mimicking the girl’s nausea, the nausea she wishes the girl had felt. Caro’s pregnant body wants the girl to throw up. Caro’s secret sense, which she has not mentioned to her husband, is that death has alarmingly little respect for boundaries, that once tipped out it can spill through entire families. That she should stay away.”
Dan Alter is a poet whose work has been published in Camelia, Southern Lights, Zeek, and, now, ZYZZYVA. His poems “Labor Poem No. 10” and “Labor Poem No. 11” appear in Issue No. 100. “I took the form for this series of Labor Poems from Joshua Beckman,” Alter says, “who developed it in his book Shade.”
Alter, who lives in Berkeley and is a union electrician, will be one of several readers at ZYZZYVA‘s All-Stars Summer Celebration on Thursday, July 17, at the McRoskey Mattress Company Showroom in San Francisco. The event is free, and you can RSVP your ticket here. In the meantime, we offer one of Alter’s poems from our milestone issue.
There’s an unexpected sweetness to “A House Well Furnished” (ZYZZYVA No. 95), Brian Boies first published story, which was named to the Notable List for Best American Non-Required Reading 2013. (Also named to that list were ZYZZYVA stories by Rob Ehle, Dawna Kemper, and Bruce McKay.)
Boies’s protagonist is a young woman, lost in life and in San Francisco’s Mission District, living in a motel with Mark, a male companion. Her life is colorless and bleak, but she finds beauty in small things—the cleanliness of Mark’s childhood home, the look of him in the morning, of herself in the mirror. She and Mark take a day trip to Richmond; she dreams that Richmond will be all fields and creek. But when she arrives, reality intrudes. She ends the day how she began it; she is lost again. What follows is an excerpt from “A House Well Furnished.”
(Boies’s story is also the latest work from Issue No. 95 to be honored by the Best American series of anthologies. You can get a copy of that much-acclaimed issue here.)
It looks like the Fall 2012 ZYZZYVA (No. 95) has some sort of magic working for it. Earlier this year, we were thrilled to learn that a story from that issue, Karl Taro Greenfeld’s “Horned Men,” would be included in the 2013 Best American Short Stories. And today, we received a call informing us that Dagoberto Gilb’s nonfiction piece from the same issue, “A Little Bit of Fun Before He Died,” will be included in the 2013 Best American Essays. We offer our warmest congratulations to Dagoberto Gilb and Karl Taro Greenfeld. And if you don’t have the Fall 2012 […]
In ZYZZYVA’s Summer 1996 issue, there appeared a long poem on an unusual topic by Sherman Alexie, whose work had already appeared in Issues No. 26 and 39. (His eighth book, the novel “Indian Killers,” would be published by Grove/Atlantic that fall.)
Despite its seemingly jokey title, “The Sasquatch Poems” is anything but. Humorous, yes, but also a sharp consideration of the cultural presumptions behind the dismissal of the Pacific Northwest’s creature of legend. As the poem’s speaker suggests, “Indians can only be proven superstitious/ if non-Indians are proved to be without superstition.”
The heroines of Katherine Karlin’s first collection of short stories, Send Me Work (TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern; 159 pages), are on the verge of realizations about their unforgiving communities; that is, they are discovering the forces driving the blue-collar world around them, and, more interestingly, uncovering complex emotional truths about themselves. This is often quite funny. In “Bye-Bye, Larry,” (a Pushcart Prize winner originally published in Zyzzyva’s Spring 2005 issue), the female protagonist, a queer, soon-to-be-laid-off oil worker, muses on the differences between herself and the plant’s female manager: “it occurs to me that if I were taller, smarter, had paid more […]
There once was a baby born in a shoe, wedge, open toe open heel, Florida balmy breezes, monsoons, then a single wide white trashed trailer, inauspicious plastic laundry basket her manger in that backwater Bethlehem. She grew out of place fast, had the twins, bought a rip-off Gucci bag in Times Square, raised her kids in its deep pockets, leather and fringe, no bondage buckles, ‘til they were grown and unemployable. They slept days, trolled the nasty nights, kept their St. Christopher medals, she’d given, hidden. She couldn’t find her post trauma Viet vet in the dark in the handbag, […]
In ordinary conversation, the terms “poet” and “philosopher” tend to be applied arbitrarily to people with artistic and intellectual capabilities. But in the case of author and philosophy professor Troy Jollimore, they’re not hyperbolic descriptions but hard facts. Jollimore rose to literary prominence in 2006 when the National Book Critics Circle named his first book of poems, Tom Thomson in Purgatory, the recipient of one of its annual awards. Since then, his second poetry collection, At Lake Scugog, has appeared, and his poems have been published in Ploughshares, The New Yorker, and other journals. Concerned with both the hypothetical and […]
David Guterson, who lives in Washington with his wife and children, is the author of the story collection The Country Ahead of Us, the Country Behind and the novels The Other, Our Lady of the Forest, East of the Mountains, and Snow Falling on Cedars, which won the PEN Faulkner Award. His new novel, Ed King (Knopf), will be published in October.
“Politics” is set among the Moaist strikes that shut down Nepal in 2010 and left thousands of tourists caught in the middle. In Guterson’s story, an American man attempts to help out his ex-wife (“technically she was still his wife because they hadn’t signed divorce papers yet”), a journalist who has been seriously injured in a car crash. As he tries to make his way by foot to her hospital, he confronts the mayhem and poverty around him. “He decided to pretend these child-beggars didn’t exist,” Guterson writes, “that he didn’t hear or see them, but that was even more infuriating, because it embroiled him, now, in self-examination, and in pondering the conclusion he was rapidly coming to — that you couldn’t win in a case like this. That no matter what you did, you were wrong.” The following is an excerpt from “Politics.”
Will Boast was born in England, grew up in Ireland and Wisconsin, and now lives in San Francisco, where he also works as musician. A former Stegner Fellow, his fiction has appeared in Best New American Voices 2009, Narrative, and other publications. His story collection, Power Ballads (University of Iowa Press), comes out in October and has drawn praise from Yiyun Li, Tom Franklin, and Ann Beattie.
“Lost Coast” is a sneaky story about revenge set in perhaps the most unlikely of places: the indie music scene. Boast effectively evokes the noirish hues of San Francisco and masterfully conveys the craftsmanship of the music at the heart of the piece. The following is an excerpt from the story, which appears in ZYZZYVA’s Fall issue.