MRTW: Books and Zines and Things Like That

Reviews of books and zines and stuff I've read recently.

MRTW: Books and Zines and Things Like That

I used to frequently do a series on this newsletter called Miranda Reviews the World. I haven't done one in a while, but it's back because I just want to talk about some stuff I've read recently. I was gonna wait until the end of the month, but I simply cannot.

When I was in Chicago at the end of December, I bought a lot of these things at Quimby's. It's the greatest store in the world, but when I was there last the photobooth was gone and in its place was a bunch of like gift type items. I can't knock that, and it always did feel on the verge of breaking down for good, but I was bummed to see it gone. Anyway, in order of date I started, here are some of the things I've read physically in my hand this month.

Cometbus #52: Spirit of St. Louis + #59: Post-Mortem

This is probably my second favorite Cometbus issue. I like the narrative, even if there are points where the Gen X-ness of it all feels out of date in a "Oh I forgot this sitcom I watched in 2010 made this joke yikes" kind of way. It's about punks in St. Louis, as you may be able to guess. It's the first thing I read this year mostly just because I had it on me when I flew home for the holidays.

I also reread Post-Mortem because I was planning to read Jim Rutland's book about SST and I always think about this book whenever I'm reading about catastrophic punk labels. I wrote about Post-Mortem a couple years ago (while I was obviouly still in law school) because I think it's a pretty interesting and super readable look into why things like SST failed by exploring the things– and people– that are still around.

You can find Cometbus wherever zines are sold, and I mean that to the fullest extent possible.

Last Night at the Casino #14 + #15

I really love Billy McCall's zine Proof I Exist. It's a series I pick up just about any issue of and would encourage you to do the same. Sometimes it's movie reviews, sometimes it's stories from childhood, sometimes it's about bands. It's always funny and charming and everything you'd want in a zine. Last Night at the Casino is just as good and consistently narrative driven about, well, working at a casino. He also makes a zine about zines called Behind the Zines and has a distro. If you have a place near you that sells zines, you can probably find his work there right now. If you don't, you can pick some up from his etsy page or probably through whatever your online zine distro of choice is. (I find myself using this one more than most.)

Anyway, buying these introduced me to Billy McCall's Patreon, which I'm happily subscribed to now. I love his work I think it's great.

Corporate Rock Sucks: The Rise and Fall of SST

I found this book frustrating in a broad way. I'm willing to break down my problems with it into Me Problems and Book Problems, though.

Me Problems:

  1. I'm not actually that much of an obsessive so my interest in exhaustively listing why every man who stepped foot near an SST office was a crazy and wild special genius feels more boring than I'm sure many people would find it.
  2. I struggle to buy into unique genius rhetoric in general. These kinds of books buy into genius delusion hard. I imagine if I wasn't the type of person to be acutely aware that every musician I've ever truly admired was either Just Some Guy or, worse, A Bad Person, maybe I'd like it better. But I found myself desperately uninterested in knowing musicians who made art I love best from a young age.

Book Problems:

  1. I found it paced oddly. The last few chapters felt rushed (the "Fall" part of the title) compared to the first half of the book. That's the part I liked best. Departures of long time staff and the way the label changed as new people were hired were both interesting to me. The legal issues and Greg Ginn's attempts at reviving Black Flag without trying to remove his head from his own ass were both interesting. Just felt like the pace wasn't what I would want for the kind of detail that was included earlier in the book.
  2. If I ever have to read "this guy was in this band with his girlfriend" again I'll scream. Almost every time a woman is mentioned in this book it is in a two-dimensional, tossed off way. Even Kira Roessler doesn't get the kind of care and attention that every other man in this book does. There's a bunch of women who worked at SST that get mentioned by name and a qualifier for how they got their jobs that are like "she used to party at the church in the 80s and was around" or "she dated this guy." And while I believe those things are true– and maybe relevant and sometimes interesting– it feels insulting and dismissive in a book that is so frequently obsessive about the details of the men around in similar positions.

I still found the book informative and interesting enough, but I found it tough. At the end of the day, any label that implodes like this was a victim of the ego and lack of business skills that plague people who think you can run a successful business on the back of passion for music and art and someone to be angry with. There are plenty of current, successful labels that aren't paying their artists or that treat their staff and staff of other businesses they work with poorly. Best to divorce ourselves from genius narratives.

Artist Publisher's Reflect on Book Waste

This is a riso printed book about dealing with the waste created by bookmaking. Specifically, it's about art books. I picked it up because I'm familiar with the kind of waste created due to zine making, but also because it looks really cool. Anyway, it's a series of interviews with different bookmakers about how they minimize their waste. There are ideas for what to do with offcuts and tips for how to get the most of the paper used. If you're interested in the behind-the-scenes parts of making physical stuff, I'd recommend it.

It's published by the very cool Temporary Services and available through Half Letter Press. The same people own those two things, but it's worth the distinction I suppose because I would recommend you take a look through the Half Letter website.

Inside of Artist Publishers Reflect on Book Waste and Brand Names.

Lowbrow Reader of Lowbrow Comedy Issue #12

The Lowbrow Reader is a comedy journal published by Drag City. I didn't love every essay and poem, but there's one in there about Kramer types throughout media and the one about UCB's long running show Whiplash. I'm not invested in UCB by any means, but the stories were funny and charming in the way people remembering stuff they care about can be. Not sure why I bought it, but I liked it enough.

Brand Names

This is a zine also made by Billy McCall. It's a riso zine. It's about different things that are genericized brand names. I genuinely didn't know Dumpster was a brand name. Learn something new every day.

Illustrations are done by Sully Kaiju. Looks great. I love a good riso.

Everyday Mythologies

Small collection of three essays about collecting things and becoming interested in cars and struggling with your family. It's wonderful. I was influenced to pick it up based on the presentation. I love when a small press makes highly intentional, somewhat impractical presentation choices for their books. I love this ones jacket and the embossed, shiny title. I love that the actual book is printed all over with diagrams of roofs and bridges and bowling in cricket and all kinds of stuff. I think it's so charming.

Written by Joshua James Amberson. Published by Two Plum Press.

Revolver Magazine

I subscribe to Revolver. Very good looking magazine. I don't find myself compelled to read a ton of Revolver's online content, but there is much to be said for flipping through something because it's in front of you and enjoying it. Particularly liked Emma Madden's profile on Poppy– which is available online.

Chicago Reader

I continue to subscribe to the Reader. Again, much to be said for reading something just because it's around. I end up reading more stuff that I wouldn't be generally drawn to and it's a positive force in my life to be able to do that. Also feels good to support journalism in this way. Feels even better whenever Megan Kirby shows up.

Did you know I make things you can purchase online? Would be cool if you checked that out and get some of these things out of my house.

My own zines and stuff I've put out for other people!

Zines I've made with my friends I do a podcast with!

Miranda Reinert is a music adjacent writer, zine maker, podcaster and law school drop out based in Philadelphia. Follow me on Twitter and catch me pining for a trip to Quimby's: @mirandareinert. You may also just send me small bits of money at @miranda-reinert on venmo if you want. As always, thanks for reading!