I just attended the Portland Zine Zymposium. About 200 vendors proffered their wares. Being a Steppenwolf aficionado (it’s on my desert island list), I am drawn to this sort of event. Here is the connection: Steppenwolf has several zine-like aspects, and they’re core to the very structure and meaning of the book. First, there is the opening narrator, who is dabbling in a little indie-publishing; by his own admission, what respectable house would take this stuff? Even he is incredulous. Then there is the moment when the plot deviates into Harry Haller’s Records, essentially a found text. Then, and most important, there is the Treatise on the Steppenwolf, a pulpy tract handed to Harry Haller by a street vendor on a dark and stormy night. Magic Theater! Entrance Not For Everybody! The tract has a samizdat quality to it. What zinester would not be proud to have their own work passed along thusly, in the dark, in the rain, down a cobblestoned street. What zinester would not want their work to tilt the trajectory of literature?
Can I even say zinester? Is that just too appalling?
My observations from the event:
1. I so want to start doing this!
2. I was most drawn to the vendors who had crafted beautiful printed works. The book arts. This engaged me far more than the content, which can be challenging or, given the natural diversity, can verge on arbitrary. Yet there’s no reason why book arts and the written word cannot inform each other.
3. I took notes on the best tactics for display and engagement, that I might apply these when my book comes out.
4. There seemed to be an imperfect overlap between zines and comics. They share elements, but they have many differences too. The graphic art at the symposium was stunning. Much of it had expanded beyond zines into pins, prints, stickers, and paper ephemera. My traveling companion nine years old the child of my first marriage loaded up on stickers.
5. I enjoyed guidebooks and samizdats, and any minutiae my thoughts organize themselves around.
6. My cut-up project, described in earlier posts, would make a fine zine.
7. A lot of the zines reminded me of Tumblr feeds. Will I get tarred and feathered for saying that? What is digital’s role in this? Are zines analogous to slow food? I did mention the book arts; zines are a tactile experience, and Tumblr can never replicate that.
8. A goodly number of the vendors were librarians. I love that.
9. I saw virtually no crossover with the literary world, ie, the AWP book fair.
10. My kid felt there were too many cuss words and not enough free candy.