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AutoBioDiversity: Stories From Zyzzyva by Howard Junker (Editor)

A Celebration of Reflective Narrative

Autobiographical essays have long served as the fodder for comedy, and have made strides in their bounded-form comeback with the support of such cult deities as David Sedaris. Observing the lives of others is just much more interesting than living the one at hand, hence the dawn of reality television. The advent of such success has, unfortunately, contributed to marketable obsessions with developing formulae for everything, including the presentation of life. Fortunately for readers, the writers published in Zyzzyva: the journal of West Coast writers and artists, have not yet been marred by commercial success.

AutoBioDiversity: True Stories From Zyzzyva, the latest anthology of published pieces from Zyzzyva's seasonal journal is a collection of autobiographical submissions from writers whose talent could convey excitement in stories about knitting. This refreshing compilation stands as a testament to the craft of storytelling and reads much like a portfolio of Picasso's early work before the Blue Period would to an artist.

Editor, Howard Junker makes a point of including writers from all walks of life and the various eras passed during the journal's inception. Because of the breadth of backgrounds represented and the precision skill of their representatives, many of the pieces come off as fiction. In many of the essays, otherwise mundane lives are presented to highlight ineffective characteristics of everyday people. These mundane circumstances are the factors responsible for generating humor and sympathy in truly effective writing, and many of the writers in this anthology exercise the ability to exploit the emotional aspect of their lives while others simply narrate in an informative tone.

Most of the informative narrations such as, "From the Wings" are working pieces from longer memoirs but some of the most moving pieces such as "Tumbling Into Writing" and "Midnight in the Maze at Grace Cathedral" stand as poignant essays in their few pages. One such essay, Glenn Kurtz's "Practicing", conveys his lifelong musical frustrations in the span of tuning a guitar. While in a completely different setting, John Ryan mysteriously reveals events from his Fitzgerald-esque boyhood in Savannah, Georgia in the "Midnight in the Maze at Grace Cathedral."

With such variation present among the collection, readers will easily identify with a handful of essays though many may not resonate discernable meaning for years, which gives this book the timeless edge that will grant it limited bookshelf space.

AutoBioDiversity: True Stories From Zyzzyva is your invitation to tea, and a great summer read. The short pieces allow the reader to tote the book around without having to inconveniently pause within sections. In as little as fifteen minutes, or a short rendezvous on the BART, the reader can walk away with images of another person's life without having made them up or suffered the guilt of doing so.

AutoBioDiversity: Stories From Zyzzyva by Howard Junker (Editor)
February 2005
272 pages
Paperback, $14.95
ISBN: 1-5971-4007-4