Nope, I am not reviewing a zine called Many & Various, but rather I am reviewing many and various zines, plural.
Before thinking about it today, I had some ~ideas~ about zine reviews that prevented me from actually doing them. Previously I felt that a zine review ought to be accompanied by a picture. When there’s a photo, blog visitors can get a sense of the zine’s aesthetic as well as its contents. Each review ought to be thoughtful, length of 300 words or more. If someone sent me a zine specifically to review, I would probably still give it that treatment.
However, as usual, the cool thing about zines is that there are NO RULES beyond common courtesy. Even politeness is optional in such a punk-dominated subculture! (Disclaimer: I don’t know a single stuff about punkness. Additional note: being kind is always the best policy and that applies here too, but no one will make you stay nice.)
What follows are approximately four million reviews with varying levels of “completeness”. This is not a comprehensive list of zines that I’ve read recently, since I send a lot of them off in trade packages, or to friends who I think will like them. (Example: Party Boyz #1, a “lifestyle zine” about Portland’s DIY music scene, which I mailed to Paul Renn along with Balm Digest #2.) Anyway…
I enjoyed Psychometry. Creator Olivia M describes the zine better than I could: Psychometry deals with “LARPing, my first multiple sclerosis flare, high school, college, religion and atheism, asexuality […], and my mother, all in relation to found objects and ‘relics’ of past events.” I love that concept, talking about the associations of specific ephemera and trinkets. SYMBOLS ARE COOL. The reading experience was aesthetically pleasing and fun in that “window into someone else’s world” kind of way. Absurdly, I am reminded of Miss Marple.
Olivia is on vacation for three weeks, but after she gets back you can get this zine on Etsy, Storenvy, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org about trading. There is also a blog to follow.
I found INK through Tumblr and printed out the first issue to read. The whole thing is FREE on Scribd, which is just so cool; I love free stuff! Issue #1 focused on haiku, and I learned some things about this traditional Japanese form of short poetry, both its historical and modern usages. Apparently #2 will be about ee cummings.
Following Deer Trails was one of the first zines that I bought with genuine dollars, at Pegasus Books in Berkeley, and it remains one of my favorites. Author Brandt Schmitz sent me Flying Into the Chandelier after I emailed him to ask where I could find more of his writing. Brandt gives exquisite attention to everything around him, making sure to appreciate life vividly. In turn, I appreciate the reminder to bring that loving focus to my own experiences.
Probably the best way to get ahold of either of these zines is to email Brandt (email@example.com) or write him a letter: Brandt Schmitz // PO Box #401 // Berkeley, CA 94701 // United States. However, the zines are also floating around the web to varying degrees. I found Flying Into the Chandelier listed for $2 at Quimby’s.
Cometbus is legendary in the zine world, one of the longest-running underground publications out there. Aaron Cometbus is a Bay Area native; he grew up in Berkeley. I’ve read a few issues but I particularly loved The Loneliness of the Electric Menorah because it’s a detailed history of Berkeley’s independent bookstores and the LARGE personalities of the people who started them. This zine made me want to wander around Telegraph Avenue like I used to do in high school before I discovered any kind of interesting counterculture, except now I would have a small idea of what I was looking at.
I have a hard time reading poetry casually, but Jacqulyn Ladnier’s eating in bed was the perfect impetus for a quiet, reflective moment in the midst of life being busy-busy-busy like it always insists on being. The zine came with a personal note. Probably I ate my copy in bed! (See what I did there? But I promise you, I just read it. I haven’t eaten paper in years.)
The Blunt Letters #5, bizarre “absurdist” zine is classic cut-and-paste scribbly style, by Micaela Superstar and Elle Lectrick. This issue was themed “pills”, more broadly addictive substances. One of the few zines where I liked some of the content and hated the rest. Here’s what I liked: an essay called “maybe it’s the pills” about crazy-making birth control, “The Joe Shmoe Interview” about drug abuse at work (this guy was so hopped up on Adderall that he tried to murder someone!), the essay “Caffeine Love”, and the various recipes, especially Breaking Bad-themed cocktails even though I don’t watch Breaking Bad. I hated: the “Whorescopes” and “People With Problems” sections, which were just CRUEL, the barely-decipherable comics, and the section that was mean about Kim Kardashian, going so far as to call her then-boyfriend Kanye West the “poor man’s Jay Z”, which is wrong is at least three ways. I do not recommend this reading experience, but if you’re interested you can hit ’em up on Facebook or check out their blog.
And now for the reviews without pictures!
“Goodbye to All That” by Wren Awry, AKA The Seams & The Story #1, was great. It’s a zine about New York, about a person growing up and becoming punk, about 20th century anarchism, and could probably be summed up by this sentence near the end: “if you ask me if there is a time and place I wish I could have lived through, I will tell you that it is the Lowest East Side in this 1980s, when squatters were opening up rusting tenements and defending them against the police.” Exactly the kind of history that I am HUNGRY for. Idealism thrives and idealism stokes the fire of my own soul! To obtain this zine, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or print a copy from the PDF. Be sure to check out Wren’s blog for more writing.
Dreams of Donuts #2, a comic-form diary by Heather Wreckage: in a word, charming! I got to meet Heather the other day and she has mermaid hair. Beautiful aqua-green mermaid hair! Again, charming! Let’s pretend that I wrote the Maximum Rock’n’Roll rave review, which Heather posted on her blog. Basically, it’s a lovely zine with lovely poignant stories and especially relevant if you live in the Bay Area. The last line in the acknowledgements section is, “No thanks to cops, bart, techies, & landlords.” LOL + HYFR. To obtain this zine, email Heather (email@example.com) or just go ahead and send her cash: Heather Wreckage // 5867 San Pablo Avenue // Oakland, CA 94608 // United States.
Cup & Saucer Chronicles #3, “Winter”, is kind of travel diary about going to East Coast zine fests. Also includes an interview with Raymond Pettibon, who is apparently related to Black Flag in some way? IDK. Interesting nonetheless. I intend to email the creator about trading for more issues, and you should too: Ericnelson83@gmail.com.
GOODNESS. Okay, that’s it for now. I have a couple more zines in my to-read pile, but I doubt that I’ll get around to writing them up before I leave on my road trip. L8r g8rs!