Small zine world

19 October 2008

I haven’t been to Sticky in ages, because I have too many unread zines already and I can never leave without buying more. I wanted to make sure I got a copy of Living Room #2, so I stopped by this weekend, only to see a familiar face sitting behind the counter. It was a woman from work, who tells me she volunteers there one day a fortnight.

Another surprise: I picked up a flyer for the Hawthorn Zine Fair next Sunday.

Hawthorn Zine Fair 2008

… and, of course, I left with more than I went in for.

Zine - Susie is a Robot #3

You’ll need to set aside some time to read Susie is a Robot #3. I tried to read it in fits and starts, pulling it out of my jacket pocket whenever I had a few minutes to kill, but it didn’t work; it just meant confusion and backtracking. When I started again and read it properly, the pieces fell into place.

It’s the structure that requires concentration: the zine runs for over 100 pages, spans—what, 20 years?, and jumps backwards and forwards without obvious signposting. This is jarring but makes perfect sense. It mimics LB’s thoughts and memories, as she grapples with the fallout from an assault by her partner, and tries to learn from how she and her brothers dealt with their abusive childhood.

LB’s writing is hardboiled, more Dashiell Hammett than Raymond Chandler:

i sat in a train car alone. lights passed, stations waved. a man entered and i heard the familiar sound of a beer can opening. hopefully a tall boy.

the tunnel was empty. i lugged an oversized winter coat, hung over my shoulder, remembering the days i pretended to be a hobo. a runaway child with a blanket tied to a stick and a can of soup as its only contents. my legs made it to my tree in the front yard and i hid until no one came looking for me.

the tree is gone now. my house is gone.

And this is definitely a noir story, with the faint light of friendship and hope set against the thick darkness of violence and despair. LB explores “[t]he overlooked gray” between victim and attacker, and wants to know “[h]ow I reviled my childhood abusers … but I can push my lover when I am drunk”.

Like the best noir tales, Susie is a Robot #3 describes the struggle of a decent protaganist to keep their head above water, against the drag of by the murky currents:

sometimes there are days like this that we get through. we always do. i know we’re going to make it. i swear.

You want them to make it—you know maybe they won’t, maybe they can’t. But you want them to escape.

LB, Susie is a Robot #3, 1/4 size, 104 pages. Available from Paper Trail and Stranger Danger.

Five Quick Things

7 October 2008

First, this year has really flown, hasn’t it? October already. Work, exploring Melbourne, and a steady stream of guests have kept me busy and this blog bare.

Second, I have a love-hate relationship with work; specifically, I love my job, the work itself, but I hate being stuck in an office. I’m not sure what I can do about it.

Third, I’ve started reading again. I’d pretty much stopped reading anything except the daily news, but a friend pushed a novel on me and after knocking that over I’ve got three more on the go.

Fourth, money is an issue at the moment. We’re by no means broke, but with a wedding to pay for, things are going to be tight for the next six months.

Fifth, summer’s coming. Daylight savongs time has already kicked in. I wish I could migrate north.

Zines in The Age

22 April 2008

Paper Book Writers article

Here’s an interesting article from yesterday’s edition of The Age. You can click the image to see a scanned copy, or read it online.

Zine Review: Lazy Boy

21 April 2008

Zine Cover - Lazy Boy

Mike Baker is a writer; a damn good one.

Lazy Boy is a collection of his stories, chronicling his sexual coming-of-age, but without descending to the level of mere pornography. His formative experiences, especially the awkward and ill-fated ones, are described with such passionate detail that it is impossible not to be drawn in.

Take this reaction to his rape by a boy called Bill:

I was cruel to never give him what he wanted, to tease him. That was wrong but I still hope he’s dead and that he died of AIDS or that he was shot in the stomach.

There is anger, regret, self-doubt and self-righteousness in those two short sentences. That rawness and complexity of emotion is characteristic of Lazy Boy. The subject matter ranges from the bitterness of regret to the joy of youthful experimentation, but it’s rarely one or the other. Mike is a complicated man, but he knows how to make sense of it on a page.

One thing that remains constant throughout the zine, is that it is hot:

… [T]here is nothing compared to seeing a regular man’s naked body. It has a fullness to it. I mean to say, it is something I can have and it looks like me. I think very pretty people are their own species. Fucking them would be like fucking a dog or and [sic] bear or cousin. It would be wrong. And so these men undressed and red skinned from the hot shower’s water and scrubbing themselves with their cocks only just getting thick and their balls hanging and warm were everything I wanted.

Lazy Boy is a blur of reminiscence and fantasy and self-analysis, and manages to get the balance right. There is more here than a blow-by-blow of a man’s early sexual conquests — it asks the hows and whys, too, and that’s why I’m sure every reader will relate to Mike’s stories and learn from them.

Mike Baker, Lazy Boy, 1/4 size, 40 pages.
Available from PXS, Gimme Brains, Stranger Danger and the author.

Zine Cover - Living Room #1

The premise behind Living Room #1 is simple: we are standing in the middle of a room, and with each page we learn more about it. By describing the things in the room, the author builds a picture not only of the place, but of the people who inhabit it:

There is a sewing machine in the middle of the room. It is a “Bernina Record”. It stands on a wooden table with red legs and a nice varnished top. Also on the table is a big Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate bar and piles of paper.

Each page describes a different part of the room, moving around it until we reach the door.

It is a brief zine, so there is not much more I can say without spoiling it. It is very matter-of-fact, at times just a list of objects: “Fridge. Chopping board. Grater.” This contrasts with other passages that convey the author’s judgment about the room’s contents: “The pencils seem very important.” In some ways this creates a peculiar unevenness, but it also creates in the reader the sensation of standing in the room and looking around, skimming quickly over some things and stopping to contemplate others.

I would very much like to read about other living rooms.

tracing_contact, Living Room #1, 1/4 size, 24 pages.
Available from Sticky.

Zine - La Boca #2

E Parrott’s second issue of La Boca is exciting from the get-go, before you even crack it open, thanks to a cleverly designed cover. Its bright brown card-stock is painted with white and pink blobs, which are made sensible only by the photograph printed on them by the copy machine.

This design sensibility and obvious mastery of the equipment shows through in the body of the zine, too. Photos have been manipulated through the photocopier to exaggerate light and shade. Grainy reproductions are given definition by hand-drawn lines; sometimes whole sections — a notebook here, a scarf there — are replaced by sketches.

The result is a striking clash of the real and the unreal. Parrott looks at the world and sees abstractions and ideas and feelings to which others are oblivious. She sees tenderness in a friend’s actions, and fraternal connections between different Beatles albums. “everything has connotations.”

I was fascinated by a passage in which Parrott imagines herself as a man:

listening to iron and wine I think of him–– 20-something, huge beard, mellow look on his face. and all the associations that go along with an image like that. yes, that’s what i want. and, like i often do, i imagine myself looking exactly that way, forgetting for a second that i can’t grow facial hair, or have masculine features at all, and that short hair says something different on a girl, that even that mellow look is different on a girl.

There follows a powerful discussion of gender identity. It’s not a fully-fledged manifesto; there is anger there, but Parrott admits “i need to think more about it”. The power of the section — just a couple of pages long — comes from this introverted caution. It conveys the author’s real discomfort with being a woman: “sometimes … i notice the sound of my own female voice and wonder how anyone takes me seriously.”

These thought-experiments give La Boca #2 great depth. By taking the real world but giving it a twist — whether by wondering what if the author was a man, or by reducing a photographed cat to a line-drawing — the reader is forced to look at things from a new, unexpected perspective. It is a sophisticated technique, and integrated just as effectually in Parrott’s words as in her pictures.

La Boca #2 has an almost paranoiac awareness of the layers of possibility that exist around us:

we live on the edge of something, it scares me. who says things will happen as expected, things could just go out of control.

One day, hopefully, they will.

E Parrott, La Boca #2, 1/4 size, 48 pages.
Available from Loop.

Zine cover - Telegram Ma’am #11

Previous issues of Telegram Ma’am I’ve read (#9, #10) have been mostly-chronological records of significant events in Maranda’s life, occasionally shooting off on interesting tangents. Issue 11, though, takes a different structure: in order to break her writer’s block, she uses each letter of the alphabet as a prompt for a brief blurb on a different topic — it’s almost like reading Dick Bruna’s angsty perzine.

These little stories lead off in every direction; past, present and future. Mental health features prominently, but notwithstanding a couple of trips back to the hospital and some problems with prescriptions, the tone is significantly more cheerful. In the introduction, Maranda says “as long as I can still create, I know there is hope.” The vignettes about her craft and zines show she’s happiest when she’s making things to share with others.

I thought one story (under “Ottawa”) captured the spirit of the zine nicely. The influence of Little Acorns on Maranda’s life goes beyond a cool tattoo design, as she explains:

[O]ne day [a woman] watches a squirrel from her window gathering nuts for the winter, and decides that if this squirrel can take care of itself with the harsh winter coming on, so can she. So she takes care of her problems just like those acorns: one at a time.

The alphabetic structure works well to highlight Maranda’s own acorns. What seem to be daunting problems are broken down into discrete parts. She can chip away at them one at a time, whether it’s by adding a splash of colour to her wardrobe, organising Baking Days with her friends, or learning to like her surname. It’s nice to read about the little rays breaking through the storm clouds.

Maranda Farthing, Telegram Ma’am #11, 1/4 size, 24 pages.
Available from the author (E is for Etsy!).

RIP?

25 March 2008

I’m not dead, I’ve just been offline for a little while. Hoping to get back into the swing of things sharpish.

Five Quick Things

22 January 2008

First, I’m sick. It’s just a cold, I think, and I went home early from work yesterday and slept a lot so I think I’m nearly over it already.

Second, I’ve made some cryptic references here in the past about moving interstate. I don’t think it will hurt to say that within a month I’ll be living in Melbourne.

Third, I’m looking forward to regular visits to Sticky. My wallet might have a different view.

Fourth, I’m going to try to be more organised with this blog this year. My goal is to write a couple of reviews each week, and to maybe branch out and do some interviews and things like that.

Fifth, I’ve been watching a bunch of stuff lately. The Darjeeling Limited was disappointing. All of these are good: The Wire, Band of Brothers (surprisingly, since I usually don’t like military stuff), Charlie Wilson’s War, I Am Legend. I’m also looking forward to Juno, Lust, Caution and Kite Runner.