Portland is a great destination for fans of the independent presses. During a recent two-day trip, I selected a few must-have zines and chapbooks from a huge selection.
Please Don’t Kill the Freshman by Zoe Trope (Future Tense Books) has been an indie sensation. Trope’s philosophical diary entries about her first year of high school have charmed hundreds of readers. I expected this fourteen-year-old author’s writing to be cute, indulgent and amateurish, but the prose is astonishingly original and observant. There are a few awkward passages, but for the most part this chapbook sparkles with articulate joy and despair and beautifully conjures a teenage subculture that adults can’t even imagine.
School Shmool looks like a standard lo-fi zine. But don’t let the wonky stapling throw you off: Joy’s collection of writing about road trips, teenage sexuality and the strange world of girls’ magazines is compelling stuff. The writing is clear and insightful and the cartoon series Super Geek Girl is to die for. School Shmool, c/o Joy, P.O. Box 230153, Portland OR 97281-0153.
Zigzaggery is small zine with a hand-sewn yellow felt cover. It is handwritten and the author, Kirsten, investigates matters such as personal boundaries, a brother’s death, fathers and nostalgia. She is a teacher whose interest in zines was sparked by a student. Among other things, she grapples with the question of relationships between teachers and students and how to manage such friendships in a time when accusations of impropriety are made so easily. Kirsten T., 8502 se 13th Street, Portland OR 97202.
A Common Pornography is the latest offering from Kevin Sampsell, the proprietor of Future Tense Books. It is a tiny, beautiful and strange book of vignettes about childhood. In precise prose, Sampsell picks up on the unusual memories that often get lost when we tell our stories: parents obsessed with diy, the tough, sad kid in school, porn stashes and dog bites. The book is peppered with fabulously obtuse marginalia by Mike Daily and weird art by Melody Owen.