News:

Zine Review: When Deadlines Become Zombies #1

ZINES_DeadlinesWhen Deadlines Become Zombies #1
Zine, Z.F. Thrimej, 26 pages, www.zfthrimej.wordpress.com, zfthrimej@gmail.com, $5

While I have read (and dug) many a hand-written, cut-and-paste perzine about mental illness, bullying, and race, I have to admit this is the first one I have ever read that is completely written in rhyme. And Deadlines Become Zombies not only rhymes – it also has a killer layout. However Deadlines is a zine that wants you to come to it and navigate its small type with its maddening tendency to change direction, which caused me to squint and flip the zine around to the point where I began to lose the thread a little.
While Deadlines is funny and detached in some ways, there is sincere feeling here as well – real pain. I was impressed that some of the pages were colour photocopied, but more stoked that the zine included a suggested soundtrack at the end; this is one of my favourite carry-overs from ’90s zines. The soundtrack is an eclectic mix of music and stand-up comedy including no-brainers like Fugazi, New Order, and Gil Scott Heron and comedians like Bill Hicks, David Cross, and Richard Pryor. While $5 is on the pricey side for a zine (probably due to the colour photocopying), if I saw a future issue of this, I’d probably pick it up. (Chris Landry)

Book Review: Too Much on the Inside

BOOKS_Too Much on the InsideBOOKS_Too-Much-on-the-Inside

Too Much on the Inside Danila Botha, 227 pgs, Quattro Books Inc., $18 

Aptly set in the heart of Toronto’s mecca for self-expression, Queen St. West, Too Much on the Inside depicts the inner conflicts of four young individuals from South Africa, South America, Israel and Nova Scotia. Danila Both’s first novel serves to reflect the alienation and loss of identity behind the veneer of multiculturalism in Canada’s largest city.

Botha’s greatest achievement lies in the power of her highly authentic and often disturbing portrayal of these disparate voices. Motivated by political violence, personal tragedy and the suffocating expectations of family and church, desires for escape are exposed through personal flashbacks weaved throughout the plot. However, it becomes apparent that geographical distance does not ensure immunity from the torturous ruminations and memories of their previous lives.

A former ballet dancer, Marlize, leaves her native South Africa after an unspeakable crime dismantles her family. Dez feels smothered by his Catholic upbringing in Belo Horizonte: the expectations of which lead him into an ill-judged marriage despite his insatiable sexual curiosity. An obligatory stint in the Israeli Defence Forces, followed by a failed relationship, spur Nikki’s quest for independence and self-discovery in Toronto. A chance encounter in a record store leads her to embark on a doomed relationship with the emotionally damaged Lukas, the description of which is both harrowing and illuminating in its honestly. A sensitive and artistic individual, Nikki’s attempts to heal Lukas and cope with his intensely self-destructive actions only exacerbate his angry and violent outbursts, thereby shattering her self-worth: “I didn’t want to fight him because I wanted him to hurt me.”

Not without hope, Botha’s characters are nothing if not resilient. Recently landed immigrants, and indeed anyone who has experienced the simultaneous elation and dread that accompanies embarking on a new relationship will see themselves here. Too Much on the Inside will surprise you with its insights and comfort you with its wide appeal. (Susan Carolan)

Zine Review: Unproductive #1

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 4.34.37 PMUnproductive #1
Comic, Robbie Robert (artist), 28 pgs, unproductive.storenvy.com, $3

If you like your humour darker than your coffee, then Robbie Robert’s Unproductive comic series might be right up your manic-depressive alley. Vignettes about powdered meat, brain tumors, and disfiguration are played out using egg-and-stick characters who float up and down the page in an alienating abyss of black and white. Although lacking a central narrative, this self-described “death illustrated issue,” which came out last April, actually broods over a life of desolation, where our characters masturbate to Internet porn, hang themselves, and literally rot from loneliness. In one particularly memorable moment, an egg surgically snaps his teeth apart with toe-clippers in order to appease a critic. What makes this all funny, I suppose, is the absurdity of how we might respond to those critics, experts, or marketers who otherwise try to convince us that this hurt is somehow our fault. In this way, while Unproductive #1 is sad, it’s also wonderfully cathartic. (Jason Luther)

Zine Review: Drawing Thinking of You Dancing

Drawing ThinkingDrawing Thinking of You Dancing
Comic, Jason Kieffer & Mairi Greig, 46 pgs, jasonkieffer.com, $5.

Jason Kieffer and Maira Greig’s Drawing Thinking of You Dancing is exactly as sweet as it sounds. The zine, which consists of 46 pages of drawings of a dancer, captures the strenuous actions involved with the process. The drawings are strategically placed and sized, some pages
featuring multiple drawings revolving around one big drawing, and some pages featuring rows of
drawings that incrementally become larger until she arrives at the ultimate pose.
While at first glance the zine may seem too repetitive to be all that interesting, the range of positions and
expressions are explored to the point where you feel as if you can feel the dancer becoming more in tune with herself as the workout progresses; you feel the unsteadiness, for example, as she lands incorrectly.
The zine becomes only more visceral with the occasional employment of sound bubbles. The choreography and isolated poses captured in this zine, void of actual motion, allow one to better connect with the dancer as a person. I also like that the title of the zine gives us some information about the emotion behind the zine, and points to admiration. The lack of narrative detail allows the reader to more closely appreciate the drawings and project their own narrative, which makes it only more accessible. (Rachel Davies)

Book Review: Skein and Bone

Skein-and-Bone3-sm

Skein and Bone V. H. Leslie, 290 pages, Undertow Publications, undertowbooks.com, $23.99 

Since 2010, Undertow Publications has been a champion of weird and slipstream short fiction — a genre not often given its proper due. Their most recent release is V. H. Leslie’s debut collection Skein and Bone. Leslie has produced an elegant collection of fourteen sorrowful, occasionally supernatural tales that skirt the line between the horrific and the surreal.

In “Namesake,” a woman with the surname Burden seeks the means to shrug off her family’s unfortunate legacy. The young boy at the heart of “Family Tree” must deal with shifting family dynamics as his father, having grown feral, abandons his natural role, forcing his son to grow up faster than he would have liked. “Bleak Midwinter” offers readers a different glimpse at the end of days, twisting childish symbolism — snowmen — into dark, oppressive entities. And the lonesome mapmaker of “The Cloud Cartographer” ruminates on the loss of his sister while traversing a cloudface that doubles as a Limbo of sorts.

The strongest stories in the collection also happen to be the most lyrical and imagistic. The titular “Skein and Bone” follows two sisters who, while travelling through France, enter a mysterious Renaissance chateau filled with impossibly corseted mannequins perpetuating an alarming “moral rigidity.” The short but devastating “Making Room” opens a window into a young relationship and the monsters under the bed — the skeletons of boyfriends past. And then there’s Dulcie, the beleaguered star of “Preservation,” who takes to bottling her emotions like preserves in a pantry, including “a whole row of jars filled only with profanities.”

From a bruised blue room embodying one woman’s idea of Hell, to a man lost in the wallpapered forest of his child’s nursery, Leslie’s writing is saturated with loss — not only in terms of death but also loss of control, of identity, and of purpose. To this end, Skein and Bone is a beautiful collection as heart-wrenching as it is strong. Leslie’s shorts are like personalized tragedies, gift wrapped and served alongside a lavish feast. (Andrew Wilmot)

Excerpt: Studies in Hybrid Morphology

Studies in Hybrid Morphology is a story collection trapped in the body of a scientific journal. Presented as a series of faux-scholarly articles, this genre-bending mash-up offers an array of surreal stories and flash fictions exploring the beings we want to be, can be, should not be, and will never be.

You can purchase the whole book for just $1 here! 

Matt Tompkins has awarded himself honorary degrees in bioanthropology, physiology, and zoology. His fiction has been peer-reviewed by Post Road, The Carolina Quarterly and other journals. Matt’s next collection of experiments, Souvenirs & Other Stories, is forthcoming from Conium Press. He conducts his research in upstate New York, where he lives with his lab partner and two small assistants.