unimaginable heights


Talita: All of these are zines I collected between 2014-2016, while living in the UK. They are pretty varied as I went through different phases of zine discovery, from an "acquire everything you can afford" policy when I first got into them to being more selective and focused on what seemed really interesting to me: low-budget, photocopied, writing-heavy perzines, and how-to DIY zines. I'm in a long process of organising my collection for the first time since moving back to Brazil, and I decided to re-read all my zines and write short reviews of each of them. I'll be posting them here as I go:

Towards an Insurrectionary Transfeminism

Two A4 sheets folded and stapled, one being the cover, and the other containing the essay in very tiny type. Makes a lot of points that I think are very valid about the constitution of the trans subject. I particularly like this quote: "The constructedness of the trans subject and the trans body is no more tied to the history of capitalism and domination than the constructedness of the woman as an identity and body, or the constructedness of racialized identities and bodies". What stayed with me the most was in the end, when they talk about a human strike, and the implications of the fact that trans women can't reproduce. I related it to a point Sheila Heti makes in Motherhood, that people who oppose abortion don't want the child to be born, what they really care about and can't let go of is that the woman becomes a mother.

Athemaura #12

Athemaura is the zine series I've collected most consciously and assiduously. I don't know why it's been so special to me, but every single issue seems to touch on at least one theme that is particularly dear to me. This one has a lot of writing on the shittiness of being a temp worker, a beautiful and beautifully personal eulogy to Mega City Four, tiny odes to the exclamation marks of everyday living - bird sightings, discovering a new favourite brand of biscuits - and, of course, as usual, Fliss is an eloquent voice on how zines have changed, what zines can mean, and how they are still relevant. She writes about her history with music fanzines in the 90s, the rise of zine fairs, discovering perzines in 2005, and through it all makes an important point about how the internet can help foster a stronger community around zines, countering the simplistic narrative that the internet has "replaced" zines.

The Runcible Spoon, Volume 4, Issue 13

I see this is from Summer 2014 which is when I first started getting into zines, so this was probably one of the first zines I ever bought. The Runcible Spoon seems to be a zine series about food, and this one has the theme "Bland", haha! Quirky. Fun. I don't know, it's got a kind of expensive feel, in colour and glossy paper, and a lot of proper-magazine lingo which I can't tell if it's ironic? Like "volume", "issue", what's the deal with that? And they have an editor-in-chief, managing editor, THREE assistant editors and a DESIGN INTERN. The tone of the writing is Tumblr-funny and the visual style is art student, cut-and-paste (I almost misspelled that as "cunt") chic.

The Chapess #5

Another 2014 purchase, when I was still trying to figure out zines. The Chapess seemed to be pretty big in the UK scene at the time, featured quite prominently at zine fairs, had lots of Twitter followers etc. But frankly, I never figured out why. A lot of this writing is not even bad, as I'm rarely offended by bad writing in the sense of it being rambling, jumbled and/or awkward - this is really just plain boring. Angry rants at ex-boyfriends, stories about twinkly, drunk nights in college towns or one of those cities like Madrid or Chicago... shoutouts, however, to "Silence and Trading Intimacies", which I will hold close to my heart for a long time, and to that AMAZING drawing of the people having sex between two houses in the desert and the guy's penis looks like a traffic cone!

How to Sleep

Yes, this one is special, like everything else I've read by Anatomic Air Press. I've actually avoided finding out too much about Sinoun because their name and their work seem to belong to such an unearthly, perfect realm I don't want to spoil it by making it too tangible. They just kind of exist in my brain, and I remember them sometimes and it makes me feel good. Sinoun once sent me a letter and a drawing of a sloth riding an elephant because I was sad. This little zine teaches you to sleep, in such lovely, simple and true terms the word for it has got to be 'wisdom'. We all need more wisdom on how to sleep.

Athemaura #2

The library issue. This is bittersweet, because it was made in 2011. The writing is beautiful, though, and the initiative wonderful: write about how libraries have been important in your life. I wonder how many similar stories there are to this one, of a teenage girl finding out about 80s bands and fanzines, having their identity and personal mythology awakened by the force of a rich collection and a welcoming, public space. "I still remember the wintry day when I walked back grasping my borrowed copy of Wish. I shut out all consciousness of the world around as I walked along devouring the art design of the booklet, with its strange and poetic lyrics so colourful, imaginative, and newly unique a universe to me. I rode home on euphoria, and herein began a new and dear pursuit. My visits to the library became vital; feverish".

Six Months a Roller Derby Newbie

I got this at Housmans, the same month I'd started going to fresh meat sessions at a roller derby league in High Wycombe. Both disappointed me in similar, difficult to explain ways. This is a very short zine, aesthetically endearing, but just underwhelming. Girl gets into roller derby and enjoys it but there are difficult moments but she powers through them and has fun. That is the normative, simplistic narrative I got sold when I thought roller derby could save me, and that became very frustrating very fast as I found my challenges to be much more complex and deeper than what was considered acceptable. Which is a shame, because I really enjoyed skating. Life goes on.

Same Heartbeats #4

This was actually in a folder of old zines a friend of mine was giving away, so it's from the distant year of 2010. Beautifully designed and illustrated, almost all of it covers feminist topics and feminist events Nina organised and/or attended. It's very immersive, not only in the theory it discusses but in this particular world, of grassroots activist circles of Central Europe in the early 21st century. I'm reading this zine almost ten years after it was written and some of it feels almost historical, considering the visibility feminism has since gained in mainstream media, and how the political landscape has generally changed. I was only 16 years old when this zine was first came out, and to be honest at that time this type of content would have seemed really new and exciting to me, there wasn't much like this available. Nina's writing is serious, generous, and responsible, she seems to consider the weight and impact of her every word.

The Real Ramona #1

I love it. So much. It's sort of scribbly-looking drawings, this issue called "The PTSD issue" with bits about Karla's childhood and personal experience with PTSD and then more informational bits about mental illness, therapy red flags, etc. It's just really, really good, and I like it when stuff like this goes so much beyond the stereotypical and vague statements about "struggling", it's so much more meaningful if someone says: My mother forced me to wear jeans, or, I hit my therapist's couch, you can understand that the struggle is real and part of life, not this ethereal entity that befalls the unfortunate and then you need to seek the equally ethereal entity called "help" and then you'll be fine. Thank you, Karla, for making this!

Winged Snail Mail #1

A mail culture zine. Cutesy. Inspiring, if you're in the mood for it. It gives you a feel for the richness of snail mail culture, or a particular niche of snail mail culture, the niche that's kind of crafty, twee, really into swaps. I am a reluctant fan of such things, given that I really am incapable of making anyhing look nice, but I love looking at them. Oh, how I love them. If only you knew the intensity of my desire for a nice life. But I can't tell a good-looking sofa from a poo-looking one, until I see it in a perfect living room, and then it makes me swoon; I like my living room, but it's not the same. There's always a towel lying around, and the different types of wood don't all match.

Typical Girls: girl heroes in children's books

I'm not gonna lie, this isn't my kind of thing at all. I believe it, too, came in my friend's old zines bundle, because there's nothing about its concept or presentation that seems very appealing to me, I don't see why I would have bought it. It does what it says: it's a short list of girl heroes in children's books, like Ramona Quimby and Pippi Longstocking, illustrated. The drawings are very good, the writing quite basic and clearly not the focus, and all in all, it did nothing for me.

The Real Ramona #2

I'm a Karla Keffer fan forever. This is just so good, it's hard to review it. It's about Gone With the Wind... and fantasy worlds... and sexuality... and the mixed feelings of leaving abusive situations... I'm so in love with it. It's scriggly, and fun, in a way that makes me want to draw, and write, and be alive. It's sincere and life-affirming and not annoying at all.

Building: a DIY guide to creating spaces, hosting events and fostering radical communities

I don't wanna sound like a grumpy asshole but if this promises to be a guide to "fostering radical communities", it is not. There's a lot of common sense advice on the logistics of hosting local, low-budget, marginally-legal events. There's nothing about how to make sure your events won't be boring. Not in line with my personal sensibilities. If you're into organising punk concerts this could be interesting.

Wish You Were Here: the underground issue

Kate hasn't got an Etsy yet (though she promises she's working on one) but I've linked her Twitter account because you deserve to find her. This zine made me very happy. It's about travelling to places underground, more specifically the Secret Nuclear Bunker in Essex, the Shell Grotto in Margate, and the Capuchin Catacombs in Palermo, Sicily. There's also a section in the middle all about statues. All three places seem absolutely amazing and this has inspired me to be a better person and live a better life.

Smile, Hon! The Claudia Diaries #1

A fictional comic by Karla Keffer, of the Real Ramona reviewed above. Claudia is an interesting and confused teen starting out at a new school in 1991. She gets bullied, gets exhasperated, leaves voicemails, has panic attacks. I think I've made it clear that at this point I worship anything Karla Keffer touches. I love the drawings in this so much it hurts.

Athemaura #5

Yes, another Athemaura. Told you I had lots of them. The fox on this issue's cover reminds me of my cat Fuzzy. It's about being cool with growing older, good things about a new library job, attending a roller derby event, memories sparked by a memory box (full of tickets, flyers and that sort of thing), the beautiful campaign Wot No Books!, a couple of recipes, a wistful list of local places now closed, and then reports from "little moments when I find amazing feats", more specifically a visit to Dalston, East London, which sounds full of green and communal spaces. Finished up with "Some things I ought to note down that have been a source of lovely feeling in the recent past", my favourite, and "Some music that I've enjoyed whilst reading this zine". Maybe the world can be saved by mini peppers on window sills and kitten stickers on Oyster cards. Maybe not, but maybe. Anyway, it's nice to talk about this stuff.

DIY or Don't We? #2

Submission zine of stories relating to togetherness, collectivity, cooperation, community. Those are rich and tough topics for me and I've noticed I've become a bit over-cynical about them. None of the entries particularly inspired or intrigued me. I guess I've just never had personal experience of anything that could be called a 'local whatever scene', so I'm skeptical. I have complex feelings about this zine but I don't think I can or want to express them in this short review.

Food Fantasies: and how to execute them

Sigh. I don't know. This isn't for me. If you're into this, we're very different people. I just don't get why this needs to exist. All I can do is imagine some overachieving 19-year-old, with blue hair and a pink teddy cardigan, who plays the violin and loves Leonardo DiCaprio, picking this up at a zine fair and leafing through it and chuckling and saying "This is great". Is it, though?

Deafula #7

I really love the layout on this. It's interesting without being gimmicky or distracting and it's just a pleasure to read. This issue is mainly focused on accessibility and it's very real and contains lots of practical, very important information. If you're an organiser of anything this should be mandatory reading as it's basically one of the best and most straightforward things I've ever read on accessibility. It's good.

Imaginary Windows #6

I believe this, or the other issue of Imaginary Windows I own, was the very first zine I ever bought. I don't know what compelled me to buy it, I am almost sure I saw it on a Facebook page called ZINES. Erin Fae triggered a brief but intense obsession with letterpressing. Erin Fae led me to consciously elaborate my thoughts and feelings on my own body for the first time. Hell, for all I know this zine is why I quit my job in 2014 and started writing again. And as disastrous as the long-term results of the particular decisions I made at that particular time were, it felt then, and it feels now, like it was the start of something. The weird sequence of events between 2014-2016 somehow left me feeling closer to myself, surer of who I am, than when I started and that is what I wanted, right? It hurt and left a mess, though. This zine is made by, and about a person with a life very different to my own but the point is she is excited about her possibilities, and she helped me feel excited about my possibilities, too.

Achromatic Dissolutions #1

Not sure how to write about this. It's so weird in places and the narrator seems, to me, somewhere between a wanker and a kind soul. All the New Age stuff in it is supposed to make me cringe but, taken as a whole, has more of a magical realist flavour. A portable cat and a really long grey hair. Basically this zine is one of my most prized possessions.

Sonorus #1

Feminist perspectives on Harry Potter. Not every essay was super insightful, but that's cool, there should be something for everyone. I especially liked the ideas about Slytherin and assimilation. I love the look of these pages and all the little photocopy mistakes here and there, this is a very recognisable zine aesthetic and one I'm often drawn to.

Call My Name #1

Really quite lovely. It's the most typical sort of perzine, and I don't mean that in a negative sense at all. All handwritten, full of rants, mostly around body image and self-confidence, beautiful eulogies, namely to Kimya Dawson, recipes, you know the sort of stuff. It's got a sweetness to it that I think will be apparent to everyone, in a way this has a strong 'young girl', coming-of-age vibe, which can be endearing or grating depending on who you are. But all in all, it's well-written and just nice.

Athemaura #8

This issue is centered around four unusual choices the author has made in her life: the choice not to marry, the choice not to buy a house, the choice not to have children, and the choice not to drive a car. It's short, and straight to the point, she talks a bit about why she's made each of those choices, and how it gets annoying having to constantly justify herself. Having similar priorities myself, I can relate to what's being conveyed in this zine, and I appreciate its existence.

This Heart is Homebound

A zine "on toxic beginnings, non-traditional upbringings, and redefining family". I've got a piece in this, titled "Who's afraid of Christmas day?". It was my first zine submission ever, back in 2014, crazy times. So I feel bad saying this zine isn't exactly up my street, but if I'm honest, it's not. It's a lot of poetry and, I don't know... I guess because I submitted to this, and I relate to the theme so much, I expected to feel strongly about most of the writing, and I just don't. It's like we're not talking about the same things. I don't even feel qualified to review any of this writing.

Sonorus #2

There's a lot of discussion on whether various female characters are a badass. Each page layout is a joy! Honestly a standout. I think my favourite article is about problems with the Hogwarts house sorting system, because that is one of my biggest pet peeves with Harry Potter (another big one is how in Quidditch scoring goals is useless, unless you score a 150 point difference). The collage where the lines to the Sorting Hat song are jumbled is quite amazing.

Always and Forever: a zine about friendship

Another comp zine. I don't know much about friendship. It has an early-2000s feel and a lot of the contributors seem to be "older". This zine made me think about how I'm bad at making friends, and about this time I got nervous about going to a show with a group of girls who seemed nice but whom I didn't know very well, so I took my stupid then-boyfriend with me and he ruined it.

FUCKED: on being sexually dysfunctional in sex-positive queer scenes

Took me a loooong time to get through this one because it's so raw. I think it's almost impossible to not have a strong response to this zine. It circumvents so much possible bullshit that could come with the topics it covers. This zine rocketed me into my Return of Saturn. I'm coming out of it soon.

Mrs. Noggle #2

A collection of break-up letters, unedited & unabridged. Published in 2007, the letters span like 10 years, starting in 1995? So this is crazy. First, it's 15 years old and zines that are this old hit differently. Ephemera and all that. But the content itself feels ephemeral in the bizarre way that really intense e-mails from the distant past always feel. I know I've written e-mails like this, but its nuts to read someone else's break-up rants and pleadings. It's amazing. She gets into the details, it's really like she's sitting next to you on your sofa reeling from a fight with her boyfriend like: "So then we went over to Seb's... no, this was before his ex called... and then we were there and we were pretty drunk but he was still saying he had to get home because he had to get to work tomorrow... no, Molly hadn't arrived yet, then she did and she was so so drunk and she was like..."

Insomnia and the Oneirophiliac

Sinoun! Why is her work an extended universe? Why is it perfect? I don't think I can say much about this zine without spoling it, but it's great.

Dreamtime Pamphlet #1-4

Zines are from 2007. Arati seems to be a herbalist now. This is all quite woo - I can't read the word "telepathy" without seeing Jack shaking his head at me, lol! But the zines are so nice, as sculptural objects, nice handwriting, size, colours. My favourite dreamtime pamphlet is #1, called Taking your camera into dreamtime - she literally tells you to get a camera and take pictures inside your dreams! I love lucid dreaming. 135.3 was the first Dewey Decimal number I memorised. I've been restless the past few days and maybe not in the ideal state of mind to read about meditation and plant guides, but the camera...! I just loved imagining that. Around my neck. A dream tourist.

The Man Who Lived Inside His Camera

It's fun tracking down links for these zines sometimes, maybe especially the older ones. I didn't know the authors of this were part of the Robert Streets Social Centre, or that they had moved so many times in the last few years. Onwards. This is adorable, everyone can see it's adorable. I got the eye pyramid of the dollar! Look, there's a cut up dollar inside it, which for some reason I love a lot. This is a fiction zine, and I related to the woman who buys the camera because she is a kind, somewhat shy woman of intellect :) and it's true that the light is cleaner in Europe. Why is that?

High on Burning Photographs #8

What I liked about this is how it's a real little story. Like, it's a proper autobiographical short story. With a very interesting structure. Although Ocean Capewell talks generically (to the general reader) of a "break-up", without revealing many details because this is about the privacy of real people, she quickly manages to convey what is happening: expulsion from paradise. A few crucial moments. Being saved, saving herself. It starts more or less with her crying at Salvation Army and an old lady is dancing to Stayin' Alive. Weeks earlier she'd been scared to realise that even random weirdos couldn't make her feel better anymore, and now she's relieved to "be inspired by the strangeness of life again". I loved this part. There's a lot of good stuff. Re-reading this now reminds me of what attracted me about zines between 2014-16: they were written by people who admitted openly to struggling, but also who had found an outlet, writing, and through it had found friends and community. It seemed like a plan. I don't receive signs the way Ocean does - when I do, they are muted, ambiguous, a bit scary. No one would say I "will be all RIGHT!" But I have my life, and we all have ours. I guess that's what I like about zines, now.

A Nights Journey: a trip through the night on board the sleeper train to eating disorder recovery.

It's about working in the sleeper train between London and Scotland, written in a kind of impressionistic way, I just got all these images of the long night, the sun rising, the Scottish hills, walks through different cities, watching movies to pass the time, darkness and artificial light, phone screens, whispers, "excuse me?", the "useless" thoughts, Mars bars.