Sunday, July 20, 2008

Brave New World

Just got back from the SF Zine Fest...perhaps I should provide some clarification. For those who don't know what a "zine" or "little press" is, it's more or less a extremely small publishing venture by someone, usually of short stories or poetry, and usually of the yet unknown. McSweeney's, of Dave Eggers's fame, started out as a "zine" or "little press" publication. The books are usually homemade and consist of plain copy paper with colored paper covers--nothing about these magazines are glossy.

I went thinking I would spend hours and hours there, but to be honest I felt a bit out of place, for several reasons:

  • I was probably the oldest person there, and oldest by probably a DECADE.

  • I was probably the best-dressed person there, in that my peircings didn't look like they had blackened bull-horns protruding from them or that I was wearing deoderant.

  • There was SO MUCH PAPER used that I felt a bit heady, like an alcoholic who joins AA and then goes to a bar.

  • I was probably one of three people there who weren't socially and artistically angry.

The thing that you must understand with San Francisco is that for any festival in this City there is a "type" that is going to attend it. With this festival it was the predominantly white and express-yourself-by-dressing-in-hemp people, all very young and mostly college-bound or attending. Not that this is a bad thing. You go to a mostly homogenous festival and you realize that the reason why you came here is to meet who in the City publishes chapbooks, and I found out. Most of the books were the same, the size of a large index card, with a cartoon character on the front saying something angry about the world--a room-sized thesaurus of "mean people suck" sentiment.

There were some stand-outs, although I don't know what kind of expression they meant to convey. They were the avant gard, the ones who didn't bow to dark colors or a war against a modern ideal. The first table that stood out was a table of a press that looked to have a seagull for mascot, with muted blue color and simple and direct writing on the inside. Their book was professionally cut and bound and did not use the popular staple as binding material. The second table that impressed me was manned by a delicate Asian woman who used shades of tan, white and pink in all of her artwork, with subjects of typical pre-packaged desserts--ice cream sandwiches, Oreos, NutterButters, etc. These two stood out because the art and the writing didn't seem angry, pure and simple.

Is happy or observant the new "hip"?

It's a brave new world if you can find something nice to say at all.

I didn't walk out of the show won over, but I did walk out of the show satisfied in my choice. Those two happy booths were worth it, and from it I gleened what I needed.

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