Utne Reader's library is abuzz with a steady flow of 1,500 magazines, newsletters, journals, weeklies, zines, and other lively dispatches from the cultural front that are rarely found at big-box bookstores, newsstands, or even online. So we share the highlights (and occasional lowlights) of what's landing in our library each week in 'From the Stacks.' Check in every Friday for the latest edition.
Welcome to a special edition of From the Stacks, featuring highlights from the Portland Zine Symposium. The seventh annual symposium (August 11-12, 2007) lured zinesters, artists, DIY devotees, and curious hipsters to the Portland State University campus for two days of workshops, table-browsing, and (in my case) copious consumption of free vegan donuts. A few zine-community bigwigs were on hand, like folks from the incomparable Bitch, which recently relocated to Portland from the Bay Area, and representatives of the Independent Publishing Resource Center, which provides workspace, materials, camps, and workshops for beginning and experienced zinemakers.? A few favorites from the symposium -- many of which I'd never seen before -- are featured below.????
After a four-year hiatus, the much-loved Brainscan is back with two issues cranked out already this year! The zine's author, Alex Wrekk, pulled together the newest issue (#22) in a hurry so that it'd be ready for the symposium. It's all about her new IUD (intrauterine device), or 'practical body modification,' as she puts it. Wrekk writes candidly about her personal experience, beginning with her first few trips to the exam table, where she 'ponders whose job in a drug company it is to decide to get stirrup cozies with ads for things like Femstat on them.' Then she delves into a frank discussion of what sex, orgasms, and menstruation are like 10 months later. Though she's a fan of her IUD now ('an amazing investment!'), Wrekk doesn't gloss over her initial anxieties, post-insertion pain, or other assorted oddities. Along the way, she unwittingly addressed pretty much every question or concern I've ever had on this topic. -- Danielle Maestretti
In the 14th installment of Gurl Scout, Bethany Young recounts her life story through tales of her many (and mostly bad) roommates. Young spent most of her adult life traveling between Arkansas, Alaska, Costa Rica, and Utah, among other locales. Currently settled in Salt Lake City, Young portrays herself as an impetuous and fastidious person who picks up roommate after roommate, despite longing to live on her own. After moments of frustration and clarity dispersed throughout the Americas, the zine ends with Young finally listening to her gut and renting a studio of her own. -- Eric Kelsey
Rad Dad 'is not cool,' according to founder and publisher Tomas. '[I]t's not about being hip, not about trying to be in style... Rad Dad is for radical parenting. The uncomfortable kind.' And so the zine's seventh issue picks up where previous ones left off: by interrogating and reevaluating the role of fathers in radical politics. Articles range from 'Green Parenting,' in which writer Sky looks at the relationship between anarchism and parenting, to 'On Being Jewish,' in which Bruce contemplates the religious example he wants to set for his child. A contribution from Tomas himself -- 'Who's Your Daddy: Fathers in Pop Culture' -- offers a forceful critique of how 'cool parenting' has become an apolitical and upper-middle class trend that reinforces 'dad' stereotypes. -- Eric Kelsey
A pioneer of the autobiographical comic, Carrie McNinch documents her recovery from more than 13 years of alcoholism in I Want Everything To Be Okay, published by Tugboat Press. The comics (one drawn each day over the course of a year) lay out the perils of going 'cold turkey' in deceptively simple draftsmanship. 'Sobriety?' McNinch writes, 'It sucks. When people say that they are happier now that they are sober... They're lying!' The comics can be hopeful, morose, and boring, as McNinch struggles with depression, loneliness, and the need for a beer. She finds neither a magical cure nor any dramatic revelation, but the lack of definitive recovery or catharsis harkens back to the advice given to many recovering alcoholics: 'Just take it one day at a time.' -- Brendan Mackie
Compiled by Emily Heller, a sorry book is like a dead-tree (and not anonymous) version of the popular blog PostSecret. The idea behind both is simple: People publicly confessing their innermost secrets and regrets. But the quaint, photocopied pages of a sorry book feel far more intimate than the near-monolithic PostSecret. While some of the apologies can wallow in the mawkish or the banal ('My potential -- Sorry that I'm screwing you over by neglecting you'), others resonate with a disarming honesty. At their best, the apologies show people at their most vulnerable, and there's an eerie voyeuristic pleasure in that. -- Brendan Mackie
The intense loyalty and pride in Detroit, coupled with an understanding of the city's faults, is something only a Detroiter can grasp. Rose White coveys both in her charming zine Old Weird America: Postcards from a Ghost Town. She opens her collection of vignettes by writing, 'Detroit for me isn't political -- it's personal. If you want to come along for the ride -- well, here we go.' The ride she takes her readers on is honest; she chronicles strip malls inhabited by prostitutes, but makes sure to weave in the poignant stories of steadfast Detroiters who have stuck around while the city flounders. Her second zine in the series, That Olde Weird America: Postcards from the City, is decidedly slicker than its ghost-town predecessor, which is fitting, since it records White's stories from New York. The two are best read back-to-back, following White from a city deemed 'dead' to a city that never sleeps. -- Cara Binder
Funwater Awesome #2, a personal zine by Zach Mandeville, picks up where his first volume left off: enrolling in Quality Beauty College, where he starts school with hopes of becoming a barber. The school, however, is not quite what he expects it to be. Rather than a school that's 'wood paneled, sepia-toned, [one that] smelt of berma-shave and flannel,' Mandville slogs through long hours of parting, combing, and braiding for 'Magnum,' his male mannequin adorned with 'shoulder length hair and a three foot beard.' With a charming, down-to-earth voice, Mandeville captures plenty of laugh-out-loud moments as he recounts making friends in beauty school, attempting his first haircut, and writing and publishing his zine. -- Julie Dolan