ZYZZYVA, officially subtitled “The last word: West coast writers and artists,” is above nearly all else a fun magazine. They fill their back cover with letters, a good sampling of the weird to funny to cringe-inducing (for writers), and the front cover, on this latest issue, is a beautiful drawing of a lone chair in front of towering shelves of books. After the “Editor’s Note” on the fifth page, and after the 24 following pages of advertisements for art galleries and MFA programs and coffee shops all along the west coast, there’s an hilarious picture of the comedian Robin Williams (page 29), immediately after which (30 pages in), the art of the magazine begins proper.
ZYZZYVA is not at all kidding about being a west coast magazine. Every artist within lives somewhere along the Pacific, or in a state that edges the ocean, and the effect, at least to a Midwestern reviewer, is totally different from anticipation. I can’t say I expected stories about surfing, but it was a glad realization that the edict about the coast had only to do with artists, nothing at all (seemingly) to do with style or subject.
The strongest selling point of ZYZZYVA may be its devotion to setting aside space (lots of space) in each issue for debuts. It’s an impressive gesture, to structurally devote a limb of the magazine to constant discovery, but it pays off, particularly in Tracy Cumming’s jaggedly beautiful story “Easy,” her first fiction in print.
The magazine handles poetry and fiction, drama and nonfiction, with equal faculty, and the result is a magazine that will nerve-rattle you (Anthony Swofford’s “Escape and Evasion”), engage your curiosity (Rebecca Tuynman’s “Memorial for the Skylight Diaspora”), and turn you on (Brian Turner’s “Kim Addonizio Eats a Strawberry”), and keep you laughing as you go. [ZYZZYVA, P.O. Box 590069, San Francisco, CA, 94159-0069. E-mail: . Single issue $11.00. www.zyzzyva.org/index.htm] - WC