ZINES ARE CREATED PRIMARILY BY SAD, LONELY GIRLS WHO hate everyone at their high school, angry urban-radical types trying to foment revolution, and unusual chocolate-bunny-worshipping folks who are obsessed with water beetles or breakfast cereals. They may be thrown together for fun, or to voice an opinion, and they contain perspectives you won't find in the mainstream media. The zines reviewed below are mostly filled with exceptional writing, displaying much fervor for their subject matter and no shortage of personality. They are most easily obtainable through the mail, although Bust can also be found at a few quality newsstands.
Doris. As revealing as leafing through a lover's diary, Cindy's deeply personal zine Doris manages to be profound and affecting every other page or so. In issue No. 10, Cindy falls in love with a boy. They go on vacation, hitchhiking their way from Siberia to Norway. While traveling on a train in Chechnya with a bunch of young Russian army conscripts — each of whom, a medic tells her, has killed 10 to 12 men — she meets a soldier who gives her the silver star from his army jacket. When they reach the town of Abakan, he marches off with his unit before Cindy, who develops crushes easily, has figured out what to do. She searches the town for him, but instead meets a short guy who harasses her. (Her training in a women's self-defense class proves useful.) No. 10 also has a hilarious letter from Scam editor Iggy Scam, which details his futile attempts at squatting in college libraries, plus a cartoon in which Cindy and friends play a 30-inning game of kickball before realizing their makeshift home plate is a bag of shit. Doris is an astounding little zine, beguiling in its innocence and overflowing with spirit. Issues No. 10 and 11 are $1.50 each, in money or stamps, to P.O. Box 1734, Asheville, NC 28802.
Bust. A women's magazine without anorexic models on the cover or how-to-manipulate-your-man-into-staying-with-you-forever articles inside, Bust is one bad-ass rag, radical and ahead of its time. Calling itself “The Voice of the New Girl Order,” Bust is hefty and laid out like a real magazine, but the writing is mostly in the first person and there's a theme for each issue. All the contributors are women, as are most of the interview subjects (e.g., Candida Royalle, the Donnas, Erica Jong, Miranda July). The writing tends toward the insightful and extremely personal. $3.50 to P.O. Box 319, Ansonia Station, New York, NY 10023. Bust Magazine
Dishwasher. Pete chose dishwashing as a career because he values his free time. As a dishwasher, he can quit a job whenever he likes. (Finding a new dishwashing job is rarely a challenge.) Pete, whose motto is “One guy . . . 50 states . . . lots of dishes . . . plenty of time . . .,” travels across the USA, tackling mountains of dirty dishes and dealing with abusive restaurant owners and fit-throwing, classic-rock-loving cooks. As with other menial-labor-themed zines such as Temp Slave and McJob, the goal here is not to extol the virtues of crap wages and arduous work, but to provide a forum for the editor and other dishers to vent and explore new ways to slack off. In recent issues, Dishwasher has become more political. No. 15 has an interview with dishwasher David Wagner, who became a union organizer and was then forced to take on his own corrupt union, which had cozied up to management to such an extent that it wasn't the least bit interested in negotiating for its members. Every issue of Dishwasher includes Pete's adventures on the job (in No. 15, he's on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico) and dishwashing quotes from literature (Woody Guthrie, Liberace, Charlie Parker and Charles Bukowski were all plate scrapers, and George Orwell was likewise a plongeur in Paris during the Depression). $1 to P.O. Box 8213, Portland, OR 97207.
Error. Former Maximum Rocknroll columnist Sam McPheeters has thrown together a fine, eccentric little zine here, with excellent contributions from noted zine editors Iggy Scam and Aaron Cometbus. McPheeters' writing also has a lot of flair, piling metaphors on top of each other and, in the lengthy record-review section, musings on just about anything but the music — occasionally interesting, mostly masturbatory. The highlights of No. 103 include Iggy Scam's bad-luck/good-luck tale of freight-train-hopping across the country to get to a wedding; the “Amps for Christ” column, which is a DIY guide to building musical equipment; and McPheeters' poetic tribute to a decaying Richmond, Virginia, office building in which he lived. $2, or $1 for back issues, to P.O. Box 603050, Providence, RI 02906.
Roommate Stories. While flipping through Roommate Stories, you'll likely bump into that ex-roommate who put liquid dish soap in the dishwasher, causing a white blob to ooze forth; or the one who hit the snooze button repeatedly on his alarm clock, waking you up every 10 minutes with “Eep . . . Eep . . . Eep.” But you'll also find truly awful roommates, like the one who calls the cops on his roommate because he thinks he's a drug dealer, and the girl whose idea of a practical joke is writing “Die, Erica” in glow-in-the-dark paint on the ceiling above her roommate's bed. The guy-who-drowns-chickens story is still bothering me, mostly because it's the drowner who tells the story, as though the bird lover who brought the chickens home was the bad roommate. Roommate Stories is written by both readers and contributors, and the stories range from poorly written to downright idiotic to riotously funny to disturbing as all hell. No. 2 is $2, No. 1 is $1, from 5606 Pecan Ave., Orangevale, CA 95662.
Brooklyn! It may always stand in the shadow of Manhattan, but Brooklyn is undoubtedly the center of the universe for editor Fred Argoff, whose zine is an inspired, informative tribute to his favorite New York borough. His “Brooklyn Lexicon & Pronunciation Guide” will floor you with entries like “Wonnid. Wanted. I wonnid pizza, not a hot dog!” Argoff also discusses Brooklyn's history and architecture, and complains endlessly about how rarely Brooklyn is given a fair shake. $2.50 to 1204 Avenue U, No. 1290, Brooklyn, NY 11229-4107.
Thrift Score. A zine dedicated to the pursuit of the occasional pearl buried beneath the stacks of dusty National Geographics and John Denver records found at any thrift store, Thrift Score includes stories such as “Can '70s Clothing Hurt You?,” “Find a Thrift in Finland” and “Lamp + Plant = Plamp.” No. 13 deals with recent alarming changes in the discarded-junk business, including shiny new Goodwills that resemble Kmarts, and thrifts that used to provide decent stuff for poor folks targeting collectors and antique dealers instead. There's a hilarious cartoon lampooning the overpriced items at the Salvation Army “boutique” in Santa Monica, such as a deteriorating foam boogie board with a missing cord for $48. Another example of out-of-control thrift-related inflation is a purse-phone, identical to the one that appeared on the cover of Thrift Score No. 1, and recently sold for $2,587.50 at a Sotheby's auction. A bible for those who shun the retail world in favor of other people's used tube socks, Thrift Score is a great read for both the casual thrifter and the most hardcore cheap-junk enthusiast. $1 to P.O. Box 90282, Pittsburgh, PA 15224.
Thrift Score web site