Book Review: I’m Not Scared of You Or Anything


Jon Paul Fiorentino, illustrations by Maryanna Hardy, 172 pgs, Anvil Press,, $20

I never know what to expect from Jon Paul Fiorentino. He creates poems out of pop culture phenomena, writes funny books about cringe-worthy situations, and then suddenly he’s making conceptual works out of Archie comic books. His latest work I’m Not Scared Of You Or Anything is a collection of offbeat short stories featuring stalker pen pals, painfully graceless teenagers, a child with an annoying birth defect, and more. Punctuated by illustrations by Toronto artist Maryanna Hardy, Fiorentino’s book plays with the short story the way comedians play with everyday life. No matter where the he takes the story, it ventures into the realm of the moderately disturbing. I couldn’t help but find myself connecting with a few of these oddball characters. These surreal stories are interwoven through the lives of artists, loners, losers, and awkwardly needy friends. It’s a meditation on those who never get a second look or chance. If you’re looking to know how Žižek would sound through the voice of Teen Wolf, or if you are curious to take a peek at the world of competitive pillow fighting, this is your book. (Jacqueline Valencia)

Book Review: Chloes


Dean Garlick, illustrated by Nicole Legault, 80 pgs, Lodge Press,, $14

When we first encounter Chloe Fortin, the titular character in Dean Garlick’s latest novella, things aren’t particularly terrific. She’s mourning a recent breakup and seems to have lapsed into a severe depression, moping around her Montreal apartment, avoiding friends and work. A parakeet mysteriously lands on her windowsill; she names it Viktor. She starts finding cigarette packs and opened bottles of wine around the house, with no recollection of buying either. Later, she slouches past the bank where she works, and sees herself working at the counter, serving customers as normal. Are there really two Chloes? Or has she truly lost it once and for all? Chloes is alternately funny, disturbing, surreal and tragic — Dostoyevsky’s The Double with a distinctly acerbic and feminine touch. Garlick’s Chloe is an unreliable narrator to be sure, but there’s a lot of fun in this uncertainty, and she is  beautifully realized. Anyone who’s suffered through a particularly haunting breakup — and the resultant bout of depression— will relate to the dregs of Chloe’s existence. Her flaky ex, Anson, is particularly well drawn — he’s the Kombucha-swilling, underemployed, accordion-playing type of Montrealer who’s almost immediately recognizable. Still, as Chloe’s memories of their relationship play through the narrative, his presence (and lack thereof) represents a darker burden, one that Chloe has to claw away from in order to reclaim a singular existence. Nicole Legault’s  delicate, evocative B & W illustrations deepen the book’s strange tone. (Alison Lang)

Zine Review: Zoom


Poetry zine, Stephen Cain, issue 1, above/ground press,, $4

This is an excellent collection of poetry for people who don’t care if the words make sense. Cain plays with sound, sight, and meaning in a chapbook that hearkens back to the Dada days of early modernism. He engages with sound poems by the likes of Kurt Schwitters and Claude Gauvreau in a process of reversehomophonic translation. He listens to poems that lack semantic meaning and finds words in them. It’s all quite fun. Compare Hugo Ball’s lines “zitti kitillabi billabi billabi / zikko di zakkobam / fisch kitti bisch ” with Cain’s ”city kitty liable billy’s bi billy’s bi / sicko the psycho man / fish kitty bisque.” The transfer from meaningless sounds into words with definitions pits sense against nonsense. Cain is a man drunk on word spitting and hollering joyful absurdities. His juxtapositions are rapid and twitchy and unexpected. The work demands to be read aloud. Cain is a professor at York University, where he has initiated many a student into the secrets of Dada, Surrealism, and the avant-garde. This guy is deep in the history of experimental poetry, and thus finds himself in line with innovative Canadians like The Four Horsemen, Chris Dewdney, and Christian Bok. His work strikes a balance between thoughtfulness and playfulness that is appealing even when it doesn’t make a lick of sense. Highly recommended to weirdos. (Neal Armstrong)

Broken Pencil on PYSO Podcast!

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 11.32.28 AM

The Toronto-based PYSO Podcast (short for “Put Your Shoes On”) recently released a Canzine episode. They interviewed zinesters Emily May Rose, Tess Eneli Reid and Broken Pencil editor Alison Lang. You can listen to the whole podcast below. Be sure to follow them online for new episodes.

Zine Review: 398


Litzine, Elizabeth J.M.W., issue 13,, $3

The subtitle for this collection of short stories — “The Rejects” — is apt on multiple levels. Its characters more often than not get the short end of the stick, and the stories themselves, says author Elizabeth J.M.W., “were not originally intended for 398. But they got rejected.” In “Apocalyptic Breakup,” a woman — possibly the last one on Earth — gets dumped in the middle of a zombie Armageddon. In “About Us,” a college dropout watches helplessly, as his relationship disintegrates. Only in the closing piece, “In The Flies,” do we see something resembling a stable relationship, but by that point we’ve been conditioned to suspect there’s more going on than meets the eye. While all of 398’s tales are charming, it’s “Apocalyptic Breakup” that stands out, even in the thick of a zombie-saturated climate. You’d be hard pressed to find a narrative about people trapped in a house, waiting for the undead to bust through the door, that isn’t thrilling to read. Reviews of previous issues of 398 seem to suggest that it typically focuses on the fairy tale genre, but these stories (zombies aside) are all down-to-earth endeavors. The deviation in theme was worthwhile; it’s reassuring to see rejects getting a second chance. (Scott Bryson)

Zine Review: Paper and Ink


Litzine, Martin Appleby (editor), issue 2,, £4.50

Reading the occasional British zine can be an amusing enterprise for North Americans; it’s not every day we get to look up a word like “numpty.” Vocabulary aside, Hastings, Englandbased Paper and Ink — so named, because of its hard-copy-only existence — stands out initially because of its proclivity to tread on stylistic thin ice. Each poem and short story in this issue is presented in a unique and occasionally garish font (more often in the titles than the body text, thank-fully). It’s a potentially disastrous format but somehow manages to work in this case, with the font changes often capturing the differences in mood between the entries. The theme for this edition is “Home,” and there’s no skirting the subject; each piece is explicitly on topic, and provides an intriguing glimpse into the varied ways people choose to define home. For one contributor, it’s a house full of squabbling relatives. For another, there’s no identifiable thing called home — there’s only a vague notion of what it’s supposed to be. This is all perfectly passable poetry and prose, but one contribution stands out: Jennifer Chardon’s “Your Life Is The Story You Keep Telling Yourself,” a series of short prose fragments that she refers to as a “collection of musings.” While the individual pieces appear to be from unconnected narratives, she weaves them together with skillfully-placed segues and shared, relatable themes: turmoil, escape, longing. (Scott Bryson)