Reader, Prepare to Fall in Love
Oh, Fall 2012 ZYZZYVA Issue No. 95, I wish I could read your Editor's Note, but the font is too small. No, seriously. It's kind of the smallest font I've ever seen used in a magazine. Even thinking about it now is giving me a headache. But, ZYZZYVA I loved what you had going on here with the pretty wallpaper-ish background decorations that adorn the inside covers; a drawing of a weevil, appropriately enough. Zyzzyva = any of various tropical American weevils of the genus Zyzzyva, often destructive to plants. And I didn't even mind the ads (a whole chunk of them at the beginning, after the table of contents, but before you get to the good stuff) because at least we got them out of the way and some of them were quite cute.
ZYZZYVA brings it with fiction, non-fiction, poetry and photography. I'm one of those people who flips to the glossy middle section of a biography first so I can look at the pictures of the people when they were babies. That's what I did with ZYZZYVA. The glossy photography section contains eight pictures by Lucas Foglia; all taken in Wyoming, simple, stark and beautiful, setting the tone for the words contained within.
There's a non-fiction piece in here called “A Little Bit of Fun Before He Died” by Dagoberto Gilb and it's about the guy behind the poem that ended up becoming the song, “All I Wanna Do” by Sheryl Crow. The guy was called Ripley. I love how Gilb writes of him, “I don't remember what his exact first words to me were, how he charmed me, but I am sure it had to do with his country-boy grin, and I'm sure it had something to do with him suggesting how both of us surely needed an afternoon toddy.” It was a pleasure to read and just the right amount of funny and sweet and sad. When I began reading it, I didn't realize it was a non-fiction piece because the stories aren't labeled individually as such, although they are labeled that way in the table of contents. I'm lazy about those sorts of things when I'm writing/reviewing and I really appreciate a well-placed label, so that was a bummer. I had to keep flipping back to the table of contents to find out whether the next piece was fiction or non-fiction. But I am strong of heart so I pushed on through. Worth it.
I love the poetry in this issue of ZYZZYVA. There's one by Judy Halebsky called “Rain On Tuesday In June” and it's beautiful. She writes “The garden is bending/a little this way and that/with rain/moss green/air green/rain green leaves.” And later she writes “Paris green/midnight green/viridian.” I read it aloud. Twice.
My favorite poem in this issue is called “Late Valentine” by Darin Ciccotelli. Darin writes:
I was once in possession of
some good advice about
love. But it's gone now.
The distant memory like some
ghost pepper I once ate
and was in awe of. It's dark.
And later he writes:
The whole house – they can see it
from a distant hill,
the night-blue deer, the ghosts
of your high school enemies –
I could try and think of some other fancy way to say it but it's just really pretty; “the night-blue deer” makes me want to drop to my knees, the crumpled poem clutched to my chest. Sheesh, that's the prettiest little thing. He also writes:
The people we once were are
unrecognizable to us. Pretty
girls from the shore have disappeared –
they're behind stained glass.
They look like sonograms.
Again with the dropping and the clutching. I put a little slip of purple paper on the page where “Late Valentine” begins because I love it and want to remember where it is. There are a total of three poems by Darin Ciccotelli and I love them all. Another is called “The Idea Of Good Labor Still Somewhere” and in it he writes things like “It was like smoke inside a lantern” and “heard the wind – or, more correctly, the trees hassled by the wind. Trees that speak gossip later.” I have fallen in love with his words. Thank you, ZYZZYVA!
My favorite piece of fiction is by Jennie Lin and it's called “Hinterland.” It's a story about (female) park rangers and hiking in the wilderness. I love reading about tough women facing the elements and holding their own. Our protagonist, Cat, kills a charging bear by shoving a Nalgene bottle down its throat. Lin even takes the time to tell us the color of the bottle. “When the bear charged, she rushed forward and rammed her hard plastic bottle – midnight violet, Nalge Nunc International Corporation called it – down its throat.” The things that happen in this story are unexpected and interesting, but not forced. I love Lin's description of Cat's relationship with her beau, Tad. She writes, “He was a lanky ranger who had lived in Alaska all his life. Cat had just begun a romance with him. In the last few weeks they had explored small sections of the trailless land around them, watched the skittish wildlife, and stood still for hours, just looking at the mountains.” Later, Lin writes of Tad's father and it made me laugh out loud. When discussing Tad's father's stories of roughing it in the wilderness she writes, “His father would tell him about carrying a shotgun even to take a leak two feet outside the cabin. He'd said once he'd left his shotgun hanging on a branch. The bears tore off the front third of his snowmobile by the time he was able to get a shot out. 'Anytime, anywhere: that's the lesson,' his father said. 'Now I piss holding one gun in each hand,' he said, and laughed and laughed.” “Hinterland” is gorgeous and I'd like to read a novel about Cat and her park ranger adventures. Jennie Lin's writing is affecting and special.
ZYZZYVA only accepts work from those living on or from the West Coast. Most contributors are creative writing professors/editors of magazines. A lot of them have multiple books and have been nominated for multiple awards. There is also a special section at the top of the table of contents set aside for First Time In Print. In this issue, that honor goes to Brian Boies for his story “A House Well Furnished.”
There isn't one certain theme running through this issue and I appreciate that. I like being able to pick from a variety of feelings when I sit down to read a certain something. The magazine is organized neatly and switches it up, giving the reader time to breathe. There's a work of fiction, then some poems, then a creative non-fiction piece. The magazine itself is pleasing to hold, a nice size in both weight and height. I quite liked having it in my tote bag and taking it with me to carpool. It's worth a read. I love that it doesn't try to be too fancy or different. The editors are simply giving us solid, beautiful writing from West Coast writers and it's up to us to decide where to go from there. And I suggest you go West, young men and women. Onward! O pioneers!