Friday, April 26, 2002

From the Reading Pile IX

Book of Black
Three pieces Gabrielle Bell wrote and drew back in 1999 as part of the series including Book of Insomnia and Book of Sleep. The one pagers "Psychotherapy Hour" and "Arm Trophy" are jokey commentaries on pop psychology and intergenerational gold digging. The 28-page "Just One Reason Part II," based on Roman Polanski's film "Repulsion," tells the tale of Kate, who, recently freed from prison, wears a hometracking device. Gabrielle details her starry-eyed roommate, dead-end job, encounters with a creepy landlord, and her eventual descent into madness. While the art is quite good -- the last panel on p. 7 is especially solid -- I couldn't really connect with Kate as a character, perhaps the reasons for her disintegrating sanity were unclear. Perhaps I need to watch "Repulsion." $3 to Gabrielle Bell, 3288 21st St. #217, San Francisco, CA 94110.

Books of Hope Project
A joint program of the Somerville Arts Council and the Mystic Learning Center, Books of Hope offered Somerville youth between the ages of 13 and 23 the chance to work with a professional writer, videographer, and photographer. At the end of the 16-week course, during which participants learned how to write, publish, and sell their own books, Books of Hope published the following six chapbooks.

Hear My Voice: Writers of All Ages from Somerville, MA, and Beyond
Edited by Roubbins Jamal Lamothe, this anthology collects the work of almost 20 writers between the ages of 7 and 45. Topics include stereotypes, abusive relationships, role models, friendship, standards of beauty, parents, communication, and the educational system. Sonny Abraham's "Showtime Part I," a celebration of basketball and finding self-esteem and enjoyment in athletics, is the stand out of the bunch. (40pp, $3.75.)

Life Through the Eyes of Two Girls
Evelinette Marrero contributes the eight-page "Life of a Girl," which details the effects divorce, abusive relationships, and teen pregnancy can have on a young woman. Anarosa Tevez's three-page "Dear Diary" tells the story of a 16-year-old girl who reunites with her father after 14 years. Tevez's piece makes good use of the diary device and feels more personal than Marrero's story even if it addresses fewer issues. (24pp, $2.50)

Protecting Pompilus
Illustrated by Nick Thorkelson, Vigito Pompilus' screenplay is a science fiction/adventure story about cloning and a conspiracy that runs over more than 15 years. Chase scenes, gunfire, and martial arts bouts make up the bulk of this story. (52pp, $4)

Spoken Truth
Amarilys Rivera and Woodline St. Louis collaborate to make this collection of 34 poems and stories. For the most part, the writing addresses relationships, friendship, and the emotions that both can bring. St. Louis' "A Cool Winter Breeze" is a beautiful almost-haiku. Rivera serves up a spunky battle poem with "Haters," and her piece "Him" is an intriguing tak on mistaken identity -- and misplaced affection. I'm slightly confused, however, by the political statement of "Puerto Rico;" Rivera seems to be in favor of American occupation of Puerto Rico, yet "we take advantage of this land." While love is the predominant theme of this collection, it's tempered by an undercurrent of loss. An impressive anthology! (44pp, $3.50)

'Til the End Volume 2
The best short fiction I've read in the batch so far, Gelrick Phanor's wartime story outlines the narrative of how a young man and his little sister -- Russian, perhaps -- get the best of German forces that had chased them from their home and were planning on taking them to an internment camp. Because this is the second installation of the story, it's unclear what the conflict is or what happened previously, but Gelrick's tale of young-adult heroism is well-written and hopeful. (24pp, $2.50)

The Way We See It
This chapbook collects poetry and prose by three writers -- Leon David, Edgar Hidalgo, and Roubbins Jamal LaMother. An impressively political collection, the book contains poetry on 911 and the futility of war, an essay on racism and economic inequality, and an essay on inauthentic patriotism and America's contribution to the 911 tragedies. Leon closes the pamphlet with his short story "Mother's Right," an innovative mix of almost-monologue-driven dialogue and Shakespearian morality play scene establishment. Leon works in themes of pride, disrespect, and fidelity to show that what goes up must come down. This story is the pick of the litter. (32pp, $3)

Overall, a positive and productive project that highlights several young writers with lots of promise. Kudos to the organizers! Mystic Learning Center, 530 Mystic Ave., Somerville, MA 02145.

Cometbus #48
An all-interview issue of Aaron's long-running zine, this edition focuses on the back-to-the-land movement of the late '60s and early '70s. Even moreso, it concentrates on the effects the movement had on the children of back to the the landers -- and how overly romanticized attempts at self-sustenance and community development can hurt as well as help the people pursuing such dreams. Aaron interviews nine people -- children of back to the landers, people who made the move themselves, and young adults who are considering a rural migration themselves. Aaron touches on the people's motivations, relationships with others nearby, integration with (and sometimes imitation of) urban society, and experiences in the country. Lawrence Livermore and Michael Silverberg contribute a conversation with Bruce Anderson, publisher of the Anderson Valley Advertiser, considering conflicts between locals and newcomers, the flawed environmentalism inherent in the movement, the role of crime in the country, and how Bruce became politically engaged in the area. Aaron provides a personal and considerate look at the movement, suggesting that people not pursue their political and personal ideals at the expense of others. Word is that a Cometbus anthology is in the works. Another groundbreaking zine from one of my long-time favorite grassroots media makers. $2.50 to BBT, P.O. Box 4279, Berkeley, CA 94704.

Derogatory Reference #98
Two issues away from #100, Derogatory Reference has been around for practically forever, and I've been trading with Arthur almost as long as I've been interested and involved in zines. This issue includes news on Arthur's job situation, experiences and opinions on 911, Nicholson Baker's one-man war for the preservation of old newspapers and books, the corporate funding and naming of sports stadiums, struggles with technology, and attendance at the Millenium Philcon. Arthur devotes two pages to the science-fiction two and a half months after the fact, detailing the design of the name tags, his participation in a panel discussing early Kurt Vonnegut, the rec.arts.sf.fandom party, and award recipients. Arthur's frequent and verbose zines always offer an interesting mix of personal, copy-editing, Internet, literature, and science fiction fandom commentary and minutiae. Arthur's got a fascinating mind and an interesting life. Derogatory Reference lets all of us peek inside. $1 to Arthur D. Hlavaty, 206 Valentine St., Yonkers, NY 10704-1814.

The Frozen Weblog #2
A companion zine to Derogatory Reference, the Frozen Weblog is just that, "amusements gathered from the Internet and set on paper." Mostly excerpts and quotes, this edition includes material by Lynne Cheney, Queen Elizabeth, the Village Voice personal ads, Robert Anton Wilson, the Harvard Crimson, and A Web surfer's answer to Harper's Readings section, but not as satisfying -- as Harper's or as Derogatory Reference. Arthur D. Hlavaty, 206 Valentine St., Yonkers, NY 10704-1814.

Superflux #2
Another flier-pamphlet from a guy in the High-Steppin' Nickel Kids. This edition focuses on the publisher's paranoid engagement in the germ war, hatred of shallow hip-hop homeboy fashion, aborted attempts to say something meaningful about 911, lack of appreciation for the Strokes, inspirations, hatred of NASCAR, and estimation of Van Halen and Bon Jovi as godfathers of punk -- a screed on the increasing commercialization of punk rock and how bands such as Van Halen, Bon Jovi, Faith No More, and Nirvana lost their credibility and edge after emerging into the mainstream. Not as bile-drenched as the previous edition, this issue of Superflux still walks the line of anonymous finger-pointing and critical commentary cloaked as personal writing (Don't take "Communique from the Trenches of the Germ War" totally seriously.), which is good; keep us guessing. But -- if the publisher's remarks in "Thanks Again" are any indication -- Superflux seems to be heading in the direction of a stereotypical punk zine complete with interviews and record reviews. To this I say, "Nay! Bring us more hatred, bile, loathing, and scathing commentary!" It's what made the previous issue so exciting and engaging, and this edition isn't as good as the first.

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