Zine World: A Reader's Guide to the Underground Press
(POB 330156, Murfreesboro, TN 37133-0156
86 pp.; 4/$14; Summer, 2001)

by Tim Scannell

It has a new location and full-format size (8.5x11), but Zine World is still the best reviewer of what the Underground Press has on offer--300+ in a crisp, three-column format. The all-volunteer staff of twenty-eight readers are passionate, insightful and superb!

Underground Publications are non-corporate, literate sidebars, personal bylines, diaries and special features. They include short story, manifesto, collage, comic strip, fanzine, rant/rave, essay, satire, language-play and even serious instruction. Here is a sample dozen, highlighting their unique content: a history of abandoned Brooklyn buildings (24 pages/$2.50); dreams a fellow keeps having about Jack Kerouac; tips on eraser-carving; mean things Tommy did as a child/ interviews with Starbuck employees; poems about stuff "dark and scary" (illustrated by the author); stories of "personal injuries and illnesses"; a dairy of Rob, who lived in a "crawlspace," who records his "fear and depression while dumpster diving"; a how-to on "building an arched-roofed home out of straw-bales"; true-tales of "retching, most of them being alcohol induced"; an all-gum issue of Sugar Needle product and packaging (16 pages/$1.00); or Ditch and Violet #1, their "interactions with shape-shifters, Mott and Hoople, and the revolt of the animals". There are dozens of review/interview/groupie zines on metal or rock or punk or rap or Western bands. Hundreds of other odder - wonders and/or obsessions, usually 1-3 dollars (or offered in trade).

Reviews of e-zines are included, but there is a preference for print journals. There are also thirty pages of columnists who discuss, variously: the woes of whether Fact Sheet 5 will/won't return; the arrests of zinesters and their publications (usually high school); or troubles encountered in distribution. Iris Arnesen writes wonderfully about The Opera Glass (a self-produced, independent zine). She fights long and hard with the "General Director" of the local opera company, but finally--and cleverly--wins the right to hand out her material. There is also a very important 6-page article about "middleman" companies that promise distribution of UP material, (better learn to distribute your creations yourself), letters from readers and a classified section, too.

Jerianne--dedicated, erudite, and witty--does a fabulous editing job. The larger format is perfect for easy reading, and its 100-word reviews are meaty, concise. The best UP review around… by miles and miles. Highly recommended.

(A prolific, independent reviewer, Tim Scannell is a regular contributor to the magazine. He lives in Washington State.)