Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Somnambulist Number Nine


By Martha Grover
PO Box 148711
Portland, OR
97293
USA

In her introduction Grover talks about how she’d just been rejected from a whole bunch of different grad school programs for writing. Some of them were for fiction, and some of them were for non-fiction. With that as an introduction, and the way the zine is split into different sections with titles and bylines, I started wondering how much of the stories told were true and how much were made up.

The stories (true or not, they’re still stories) are told in the first person, and seem to tell about every day things, but they manner they’re told in, and the way dialogue is presented, seems stylistically more like a piece of fiction.

I would just accept that these are true life stories, and that Grover just spends more time writing and editing the content of her zines so that the writing seems “better”, except for the fact that the stories seem to concentrate on the negative (repetitive jobs, injuries, hanging out and drinking with a guy who’s anti-psychotic drugs stop working when he consumes alcohol) and are all kind of depressing (and, in the last case, scary).

Perhaps this says more about how I consume media than anything else. I always seem to assume comics that feature regular people doing regular stuff are based on real life events, while well written prose that is not straight up journalism (ie. newspapers or pop science books) or written by hand must not be real. This really shouldn’t be the case, as I write loads of zines about real life things that have happened to me. I don’t think I ever put much dialogue in mine though.

So yeah, there are stories about Grover’s meetings with various doctors, some time she spent with an urban primitivist, and a piece that flows surprisingly well considering it kind of jumps around between different people, places, and times. There’s also a piece by Kyle Sundby that seems to be about why lots of people think he’s a jerk? It was kind of weird.

I like the way Grover writes these stories, but I really don’t seem to be able to tell you why. This review isn’t very helpful. I’ve actually just gone and found a review of this issue on Broken Pencil. I don’t normally do this, but I wanted to see what someone else thought of this zine, and if they had perhaps managed to express it better than me. They have not.

That review is not very positive, but makes me wonder why the reviewer bothered to read the zine if they don’t like perzines. The reviewer says the zine is just filled with stories of depression, apathy, and embarrassment, and then asks how it’s art, and if it’s pleasurable. Yet you might as well ask the same question of any thing you don’t enjoy, from opera to comic books to TV shows. I suppose when you come down to it, the idea of art is in the eye of the beholder.

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