Occasional Literary Magazine Reviews: Zyzzyva


Title: Zyzzyva

Issue #98, Fall 2013


Theme: It’s not immediately obvious by its cover. But then you flip to the jacket (yes, a lit mag with a jacket!) and there’s this phrase: “Having a Kid: What Could Go Wrong?” Here at Vol.1 Brooklyn, we like to keep everything “above board” (or at least I think we do..is that even the right idiom?) and not delve into too much personal stuff. But I’m about to become a father, like at the end of September. It’s getting real. So like life has a way of doing, I’m reading this at the right time.

Featured Names on The Cover: Eric Puchner, Kirstin Chen, Elizabeth Spencer, Vanessa Hua, Dean Rader, Rebecca Foust, Zubair Ahmed, David Biespiel, Anne Raeff

What: All the writers in this are West Coast types.

Format: It’s always very consistent looking, design-wise, with some type of window square thing and a big fat beetle logo in the center. There’s a fancy cover and a binding that opens wide. It’ll work well with you at lunch time.

Why (or Why Not To) Read It: Let’s start at the beginning, the for real beginning: the ads. They’re stacked in little squares in the first few pages. There’s an ad for another lit mag, Canteen. Then there’s the best ad I’ve ever seen in a literary magazine: one for bail bonds. It’s for Barrish Bail Bonds and its tagline is: “art of bail.” It makes it seems like lit types are roguish figures, still prowling around and getting themselves in trouble. It’s very romantic and old-school, this notion. But if you’re in San Francisco and need to you know, get out, here’s their number: 415-552-3333. They’re located just across from the Hall of Justice on Bryant St. Check them out.

Lemme just say that despite the personally relevant theme, I almost didn’t make it past the first story, Eric Puchner’s “Heavenland.” The title didn’t really make sense for a long, long while and his style is too close to “hackneyed MFA” for me. I persevered even though its theme of unwilling studio artist father hit a little too close to home. Maybe every life has always been a cliche, but now we’re connected enough to realize it. No matter, soon my own interests diverged from the main character’s to create enough of a distance. Then the story got good when the character acted bad. Or at least un-fatherly. Puchner even threw in a few details that paid off to make me appreciate his MFA-ness (For the record, I don’t know if Puchner has an MFA).

Probably my favorite poem was “To Unrau from Union–West Virginia” by David Biespiel, a letter to a resident in Hanoi recounting favorite snacks in a formal style that I can’t recall. I also really enjoyed “Going Solo” by Rosie Cima, and Anne Raeff’s “Lorca in the Afternoon,” a nonfiction account of an ornery friend’s health issues and passing. The characters didn’t have enough separation in “I Want To Continue” by Kimberly Lambright.

I kept looking for something to really grab me and bust me over the head with amazingness. I didn’t quite find it. But yet, we rarely do, right?

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