Sunday, August 21, 2005

From the Reading Pile XXXI

Here are the reviews I've recently submitted to Zine World:

Alternative Press Review Vol. 9 # 1 (Spring 2005): Returning after a two-year print hiatus, during which the periodical lived on online, this magazine published by folks behind Anarchy, a "journal of desire armed," goes further afield than Utne. This "guide beyond the mainstream" features news items, interviews, and columns focusing on counterterrorism in the newsroom, activist Tre Arrow, and the war in Iraq. Also including book excerpts -- notably Derrick Jensen and George Draffan's "Welcome to the Machine" and Josh MacPhee's "Stencil Pirates" -- the magazine ends with a few pages of reviews of anarchist and libertarian periodicals. Despite the magazine's recently renewed frequency, APR is a nice to read, not a need to read. Occasionally tiresome, as is Anarchy. AAL Press, P.O. Box 6245, Arlington, VA 22206 [$4.95 68M :02]

Carve #1 (Spring 2005): This semiannual literary zine edited by Andrea Belcham focuses on English-language writing done on the island of Montreal. Printed on high-quality paper and featuring illustrations by Sarah Robinson, the journal does well to make an often-unfriendly province more accessible. Sherwin Tija's "The Meanest Man in the World" is a piece of personal writing that addresses assumptions and revelation. Maeve Haldane's profile of the Salon b bibliocafe highlights a valuable community resource. Belcham herself introduces in depth a septet of Angela Leuck's insightful haiku. And Scott McRae's "Degrees of Mutilation" bemoans the decay and abuse of printed matter. Books are also reviewed. This first edition bodes well for the future of the English Quebecois literary scene. Carve, 96 Parkdale Ave., Pointe Claire, Quebec H9R 3Y7 Canada [$5 US/$7 Canada/$6 Other or trade 44S :05]

Early Stream of Consciousness and Allied Writing & Other Essays by Harvey Pekar: This is a gem. While Cleveland-based Harvey Pekar is best known for his comic book-based storytelling -- celebrated in the movie "American Splendor" -- he is lesser known as a music critic, primarily of jazz. This collection of three essays, previously published in Grinning Idiot, the Village Voice, and Work in Progress, may well establish Pekar as a literary critic. And a damn fine one, to boot. Analyzing early stream of consciousness and 20th century Russian avant garde writing -- and the work of Soviet Andrei Bely -- these essays show Pekar's wide range and deep insight. While the writing might be a little elusive for those not familiar with the writers cited -- this reviewer included -- it also proves a daunting and tempting introduction to obscure works worth reading. Lacking more expansive experience with the topics at hand, I can only be impressed with Pekar's knowledge, while adding to my already-long reading list. One for completists, perhaps. Iniquity Press/Vendetta Books, P.O. Box 54, Manasquan, NJ 08736 [$4 56S :10]

Kankazine #5 (March 2005): Huh. Shoup seems to make a good zine -- this edition is well designed and contains some quality photography. But I didn't understand the point of this "other zines issue." It feels like a throwaway. Following some jokey letters to the editor, Shoup explores his writing process and imagined celebrity status. An exchange with a fifth grader provides the basis for what might be his best offering. Hans Stern considers clouds and the planet Earth. And three other zine makers (Groowwwllll, Evict JoJo?, and Based on Limited Contact) contribute artist statements of sorts. More in-depth statements -- and more of them -- may prove interesting, but for the most part, this is a dissatisfying introduction to Shoup's work. That said, the photographic prayer card is a wonderful touch. C. Shoup, 448 1/2 North Prairie Ave., Bradley, IL 60915 [24S with insert :03]

Parfait #2: Quite an impressive little item, this Red Charming workbook featuring a letter press-printed cover is coptic bound by hand. Overall, it reminds me a little bit of Farm Pulp -- the grephic design -- and Saprophile -- Emily's delightfully in-depth exploration of her obsessions. This zine is a labor of love. Interspersing short fiction with DIY scholarship, Parfait touches on the solo records of Paul McCartney; animals (written in a blissfully stilted English translation style); mathematician Evariste Galois, who developed group theory; out-of-print books; actors Alain Delon and Jean-Paul Belmondo; sweater reindeer; the American Museum of Natural History; and moist monsters. Emily has a fine mind, and this zine shares some of its inner workings. Emily K. Larned, 440 Broadway #5L, Brooklyn, NY 11211 [$6 or selective trade 100XS :12]

Randee #2: How is this glossy satire magazine funded? Offering surprisingly high-quality, full-color production, this humor mag is impressive but not quite my cup of tea. Regardless, there are moments. Contributors are depicted as roast chickens wearing various costumes, and Calista Flockhart is portrayed as over the course of her career as a twig. The anal sex pick-up lines are worth a guilty giggle. The blind movie critic made me grin. The Oliver Stone and Quentin Tarantino movie script treatments for the George Washington story and F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" were highly inspired. And the pictorial narrating Barbie and Ken's End of Innocence was fun. Still, this isn't a satisfying read overall and seems better suited to a college humor magazine such as the Harvard Lampoon or Voodoo. Josh Schollmeyer, Rock Pile Productions, P.O. Box 578660, Chicago, IL 60657 [$7.95 52M :07]

Rathistar from the Druidic Order of the Dragon by Adam Janus: While I don't have time to read this self-published fantasy novella in full right now, it is worth describing, if not critiquing. In the realm of Ta-Teharun, already featured in several other small-press publications, Sarel Duthar, a frost elf, and Khaz Axzen, a dwarf, strive to rid the realm on a "blood demon and its hell-spawned minions." Apparently, things don't go so well, as the two need to wait for a "shape-shifting dragon elf" to help them. Expect APA-style sword and sorcery, but no less. The Underground Who Chapbook Press, P.O. Box 13486, St. Petersburg, FL 33733 [$10.95 US/$11.95 Canada/$12.95 Other 11S :01]

Residue Comics #8 (Summer 2004): Equal parts Joshua Quagmire, R. Crumb, and Terry Laban, this is the best minicomic I've read in awhile. Drawn between 2002 and 2004, the comic features Mighty Chump, a King Kong-like character, and focuses on post-911 anti-Bush commentary. Well drawn and relatively witty, this edition features two pages of comic strip parodies, a puzzle page, and gags about terrorism, jingoism, marijuana, the police state, Jesus, and television. The spoofs are somewhat facile, but the cartooning is so polished in a clearly post-underground way, and the pages are so dense, that there's a lot packed into these pages. Someone should publish a longer book. Roger Lootine, P.O. Box 580848, Minneapolis, MN 55458 [$1 16S :05]

Unless Indicated #4 (Winter 2004): This is a straight-up photocopied punk rock fanzine. Brenda and her friends offer personal writing on annoying people, Columbus Day, female condoms, suicidal tendencies and children, Sex in the City, interviews with the bands Weapons of Mass Destruction and TWS, and other material. While the DIY nature of the zine is open and honest, I wanted more in-depth analysis in the brief personal essays. The slightly local flair was welcome, as was the recipe and comic strip "Leela's Day," but more personal writing and self-exploration would be welcome. I could do without the candid snapshots of friends. P.O. Box 30117, Bakersfield, CA 93385 [$2 or trade 32S :09]

Untamed Highway #1 (October 2004): Curious what Marc Hansen of Ralph Snart and Bill Wray of Cracked magazine are up to? Not this. Influences aside -- despite a name drop of Big Daddy Ross -- this heavily inked, dense comic tells the largely inscrutable tale of tiki icons, fraternal orders, private detectives, alcohol, rivalries, and carny conspiracies. Despite the reference material and popcult references, the comic largely fails to deliver. That said, the Harvey Kurtzman ad reference and drabstick back-page "Goodnight Irving" comic strip did please. Noah Snodgrass and Shawn Dickinson, P.O. Box 246, Little Rock, CA 93543 [$3.95 US/$4.95 Other 36M :07]

No comments: