Street Librarian

An update from the Utne stacks with our librarian Chris Dodge

| May/June 2001


In his now-defunct zine Pathetic Life, Doug Holland once wrote about being repaid a small sum by a panhandler, then using the cash to treat himself to a can of cat food and a jar of mayonnaise. ("Tastes like tuna. And at one-third the price, I give it two paws up.") Other issues plumbed the odious depths of doing some really odd odd jobs for five bucks an hour. While some people are hooked on soap operas, I was a Pathetic Life junkie, reading each issue cover-to-cover as soon as it arrived in the mail.

Welcome to the world of small-circulation, self-published periodicals with names like Sugar Needle, Film Flam, and We Like Poo. Putting into action the idea that anyone with time, energy, and something to say can become a publisher, zines and mini-comics are alternative even among the alternative press. Many—okay, most —are poorly written and crudely produced, serving chiefly as venues of self-expression. Yet there are wonderfully fresh exceptions that read like nothing published anywhere else.

If you live in a large city you may be able to find zines for sale in specialty bookshops; they're also available from distributors like Left Bank Books (www.eskimo.com/~jonkonnu) and AK Press (www.akpress.org). Then there's Ericka Bailie. Do yourself a favor right now: Send her a dollar and ask for her Pander catalog (Box 582142, Minneapolis, MN 55458), which offers an excellent selection that emphasizes women-made zines (www.panderzinedistro.com). While you're at it, send Celia Perez a buck and request her annotated Frida Loves Diego catalog (214 S. Cedar St., #3, Tampa, FL 33606), which is strong on zines by people of color (www.geocities. com/odd violet28/mailorder.html).

A prime source for zine reviews since the demise of the legendary Factsheet Five is A Reader's Guide to the Underground Press, formerly Zine World. The most recent 62-page issue (#14) touts such micro-press publications as Pirate Jenny and I Was a Teenage Religious Fanatic. (PMB #2386, 537 Jones St., San Francisco, CA 94102; $12/4 issues; www.UndergroundPress.org).

Another crucial source of do-it-yourself press info, Toronto-based Broken Pencil, just published its 15th issue, covering "zine culture in Canada and the world." It features not simply reviews, but also excerpts from zines and mini-comics. One of these articles in a previous edition, Dave Otterson's "Losing a Testicle," actually got me to a doctor after I read it. Now that's the power of the press. (Box 203, Station P, Toronto, ON, M5S 2S7, Canada; $12/3 issues; www.brokenpencil.com)



If you're enthusiastic about the idea of face-to-face contact with publishers, you might also consider attending the third annual Underground Press Conference in Bowling Green, Ohio, June 23–24 (www.clamormagazine.org/upc) or the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland, September 14–16 (www.spxpo.com).

A prime source for zine reviews since the demise of the legendary Factsheet Five is A Reader's Guide to the Underground Press, formerly Zine World. The most recent 62-page issue (#14) touts such micro-press publications as Pirate Jenny and I Was a Teenage Religious Fanatic. (PMB #2386, 537 Jones St., San Francisco, CA 94102; $12/4 issues; www.UndergroundPress.org).