I was in Chicago last weekend. Generally, when in a city other than my own, I try to make it to at least one bookstore, if not more. In this case, I beelined for Quimby’s, as well as nearby Myopic. (I picked up a used copy of Charles D’Ambrosio’s The Point at the latter; that, I’m sad to say, is a little out of the scope of this column.) This was, I believe, my third visit to Quimby’s, and I remain impressed by their blend of zines, comics, and literary fiction; Portland’s Reading Frenzy or New York’s now-departed See/Hear would be good points of reference. (I’ll admit that I was a little thrilled to see two anthologies in which I had work on their shelves.) While there, I picked up a number of zines; two of those, along with one chapbook I’ve been eager to discuss, are up for discussion today.
“This is not a zine put out by an obsessive fan,” writes Joshua James Amberson in the introduction to The Prince Zine. Instead, Amberson focuses on Prince’s albums, the numerous contradictions in his public persona, the films he’s been involved with, and his work as a producer. (I will admit that I’d totally forgotten about Under the Cherry Moon.) It’s a good pocket-sized look at Prince’s body of work, and for a zine that runs 58 pages, it gives a surprisingly comprehensive overview of Prince’s music and persona.
The concept behind The First Line is both simple and evocative: each writer in an issue is given the same first sentence, from which they can spin a yarn on whatever they like. This issue, that sentence is “I started collecting secrets when I was just six years old.” And, as one might guess, the stories largely share an intimate mood, some evoking the youthful desire to collect secrets in the first place, others looking at the accumulated weight of a life gathering hidden information.
I didn’t pick up Bojan Louis’s Troubleshooting Silence in Arizona when I was in Chicago, but its blend of literary chops and political fury would have fit in neatly with a lot of what I saw on the shelves at Quimby’s. Louis is writing specifically about the Tucson Unified School District’s removal of dozens of books used in the district’s Mexican-American Studies program. It hits that perfect spot where political outrage and personal experience mesh; throughout the piece, Louis maintains an analogy to electricity that grounds the work in his personal history and allows for some vivid imagery on its own.