July 2016 Zine Reviews

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Abstract Door #5: Chicago
By Vicky Lim
Zine, mini, 32 pgs
vickylim.com

There’s nothing better than when zinesters put as much thought and imagination into the design of their work as they do the content. Abstract Door #5 is a zuihitsu about Chicago transit that was written while riding Chicago transit. Adorned with a block printed cover in the shape of a subway door, this zine is introspective, but not indulgent, accessible, but not familiar. The zuihitsu genre is an ideal format for a perzine. According to Wikipedia, zuihitsu “is a genre of Japanese literature consisting of loosely connected personal essays and fragmented ideas that typically respond to the author’s surroundings”. This zine is a melange of brief, but often, profound experiences. Crushes, travel, school, writing, activism, and cultural critique are just some of the topics covered. There’s a contagious energy to this writing, it sweeps forward and pulls you away with it.

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Baltimore Breakups: A Pop Up Memoir
By Julia Arrendondo
Pop-Up Zine, 10 pgs
viceversapress.com

We picked this up at the Toronto Art Book Fair earlier this month. Our eyes nearly popped out of our skull when we saw this pop-up-zine. Baltimore Breakups briefly surveys four relationships that met their end in the aforementioned city. Julia’s assessments of these ill fated unions are frank and unflinchingly honest, sentimental but not syrupy. We’ve all done the relationship post-mortem before, but probably not in such an interesting form as this. We simply adored this zine. Can’t wait to see Julia’s next pop-up project.

 

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Basic Paper Airplane #10
By Joshua James
Zine, half size, 30 pgs
antiquatedfuture.com

This is the tenth anniversary issue of perennial favourite, Basic Paper Airplane. In this issue, Joshua recounts his experiences trying to earn a living from writing. As acknowledged in the intro, such a decision is financially risky, but was necessary for James to prioritize writing. Freelance writing is often a brutal and wholly misunderstood way of paying the bills, as Joshua notes, when mentioning freelance writing, “people either stare blankly…or imagine me getting sent on assignment to far off land and strange gatherings…”. The reality is more banal. This issue is filled with short pieces that focus on a range of different writing experiences, such as: writing for a nightclub directory, turning down a job at Vice, working for Portland’s most famous bookstore, writing for an alternative weekly paper, and teaching creative writing classes at a community college. This is required reading for those who are contemplating taking the dive into the world of freelance writing. Joshua’s assessment is both inspiring and realistic.

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Broken Pencil #71
Magazine, 72 pgs
brokenpencil.com

BP is the only magazine on the planet, that I know of, that is dedicated almost exclusively to zines and zine culture. After 20 years, it remains one of the most reliable forums to read about new and inventive zine projects. Of course the zine reviews and excerpts are the most important part of BP, but the “Pencil Sharpener” section is my favourite. This time they profile a few really intriguing projects: YYZine Distro, 780 Distro and The Tiny Library. There’s also a slew of great columns and interviews, and features by Kristel Jax, and A.G. Pasquella. Plus, there’s Deathmatch fiction, and approximately 60 detailed and well written zine, book and music reviews. Always a solid read.

 

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Conspiratorial #1
By Yuri Realman
Zine, full size, 5 pgs
moreverbs.com

Conspiratorial is experimental in format. This zine is a cliff-hanger suspense tale told with postcards, maps & photographs. A burned out political journalist named Yuri Realman, is approached by Max Fischer, a middle-aged political hack/water-carrier, who is harbouring dangerous secrets. Fischer, has rooted out a conspiracy of massive scope and reach, and discovered that “the men involved in this conspiracy, used the Cleveland Park Library card catalogue to communicate. To leave vital information, codes, for one another.” The reader doesn’t learn much more than that, except, a man named Arthur Saxon is somehow linked to this unnamed conspiracy. This is the first of four installments, and it largely serves to lay the foundation for subsequent episodes. The writing and presentation has a retro, pseudo-noir, feel to it. This zine also makes amazing use of story props, i.e., the photos, postcards and other paper items really further the story.

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What to Do
By Bas Fontein
Book, digest size, 40 pgs
basfontein.com

A friend of mine picked up this hilarious book while she was in Amsterdam. It’s filled with off-the-wall bits of advice and recommendations for the striving artist. “When Bas Fontein tells people that he is an artist with a part time job, they often give him unsolicited advice on how to make money with art.” Fontein has documented some of the more absurd suggestions. Here is one of my faves: “a friend of a friend was unsuccessful…until she started talking with dentists. She asked them what they wanted to have in their waiting rooms. They wanted cheerful, brightly colored paintings and so she starting making those, next to the art she really wanted to make. Now business is booming. Her paintings are hanging in all those waiting rooms.” Or how about this gem; “I knew someone, a painter, and at the opening of his show, he got his own son to steal a small painting. He stuck it right under his coat and no one saw. There was a big article in the newspaper with the indignant painter. Of course, you understand…free advertising.” This is a brisk, yet delightful read.

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Yard Sale #28
By Harley Rex
Zine, digest size, 42 pgs
harley@fallenloverecords.com

This punk rock perzine has been going strong since 2009, and is published quarterly by well known zinester, event promoter and aspiring children’s author, Harley Pageot. As he notes in the short piece “Show Promoter”, during the last 6 years he’s organized over 130 concerts, craft fairs, workshops, art shows and open mics. Harley maintains that they have never liked using bars as venues, “the best shows were held in yoga studios and cafes, in parks or at the beach”. This issue has a reflective almost melancholic tone to it as Harley acknowledges the transitional life period he finds himself in. Most of his friends have gotten married or moved away and most of his favourite local bands have broken up. With the local Oshawa music scene peaking in 2012, a landmark birthday approaching, and job interviews and brushes with underemployment, Harley has himself asking: “have I reached the age where my life now becomes about chipping away and losing things rather than growth?” While his situation is of course unique to him, his anxiety and preoccupations are not, and I think most readers will find a bit of themselves in this zine. There are a bunch of introspective one-page flash pieces, which are mostly autobiographical, and some lighter content, for example, a piece about the Gilmore Girls pilot being shot in Toronto. This is also the first issue to feature multiple contributors, with excellent stories by Sarah Crookall, Kat Gravel, Sophia Sherwood and Brittney Sutherland. This is one of my favourite Canadian perzines, and I can’t wait to read the next issue.

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