So: geography. Whether it’s the view of a country from out of an airport window or a look inside a particular city’s neighborhood, zines can elucidate a particular space, making it visible in previously-unseen ways. The three zines discussed today have an eye on place, albeit in vastly different ways — from embittered essays to record store boosterism.
The cross-country travelers and city dwellers whose short, concise essays populate the second issue of Everything is Fucked, Everything is OK have bones to pick with things you might consider sacred. Social media is one such target, as is 90s nostalgia, memorably dissected by Kat George. Food tourism comes under similar attack by Alex Basek, though I found that his final line’s juxtaposition of “foodie” and “fattie” was a little too clever for my liking.
Some of the best essays focused on the finding of solace in something, whether depression (as in Carter Maness’s contribution) or literature (via Alex Luther-Cannon’s.) Editor James Aviaz turned in one of the highlights of the issue, a bitter evaluation of Instagram and hashtags that ultimately turns into an indictment of the way we’ve internalized advertising. It’s a memorably scathing bit of writing, the sort of highly focused, precisely-written rant that made me wince and laugh in equal measure.
The third issue of Quail Bell, from Richmond, Virginia, also contains numerous short essays, here focusing on Baltimore and Washington, DC. One particularly memorable work looks at the DC neighborhood of Anacostia, gentrification, and the current state of DC’s Old Town.); another goes inside offbeat spaces in Baltimore. There’s some humor as well — for whatever reason, Victorian street urchin humor is a sort of comedic gift that keeps on giving. And there’s a good-sized visual arts component here, too, from a collection of drawings to some beautiful photos of a small town near Guadalajara to an interview with photographer Alexander C. Kafka. In the end, Quail Bell felt like the record of a tightly-knit community; time will tell what else emerges.
I recently thoroughly enjoyed An East Coast Girl’s Guide to Record Stores in the Pacific Northwest, in which the editor of Ladyteeth documented a trip made with her boyfriend to Portland, Olympia, and Seattle via the prism of the eleven record stores at which they shopped. Reading this small volume, I could relate considerably: nearly every trip I make to Portland and Seattle involves me returning with a suitcase full of books and records purchased at some of the amazing shops on hand in those cities. Guide does allude to the closing of the East Street Records branch in Queen Anne, which I was sad to hear. (Said closure is alluded to here.) There’s also a lot of love for Seattle’s phenomenal Sonic Boom Records, which warmed my heart.
And in related news, I’m very glad to hear that Reading Frenzy’s Kickstarter campaign has succeeded — fine news for fans of zines and independent literature in Portland and, really, everywhere.