As a general rule on this blog, I don’t really review self-help books, recipe collections, and now I will no longer review Do-It-Yourself books. (I will, however, continue to follow excellent Do-It-Yourself blogs). What this book should really be called is Zines for Dummies, (but only if you want to zine mostly like the author of the book). It’s called Stolen Sharpie Revolution and this might not be a fair review because I’ve never before reviewed an instruction manual, but because I have an obligation to keep my word, I’m going to do my best here.
Stolen Sharpie Revolution is “A DIY resource for zines and zine culture,” and I think that short summary on the front gives the reader the exact truth of what’s in the book. Stolen Sharpie Revolution is a factual based “zine-like” do it yourself manual on how to build a zine, where to find a zine (distros), binding ideas, the zine community, how to manage the USPS, zines and incarceration, zine events, and templates. With all this information, this book would be a great resource for someone who wanted immediate involvement in zine culture or just wanted a wiki-page of stratagem to create zines or find them if interested.
I really enjoyed Alex Wrekk’s take on why she began creating zines and what their function is in society. I don’t know much about the creation of zines, and I think a lot of people believe zines died when the blogging world came along, but I think zines are the perfect private space between blogging, and art journaling. Except, Wrekk brought to my attention that zines are not just private things, they are made within a community of people that are cutting and pasting, creating, innovating, and using resources and recyclables to tell others their thoughts and beliefs. I love the cut and paste aspect of zine culture, the tangible way someone can tell their feelings through artistic means even if they aren’t a superb painter, or a poetic writer, or a person who can draw more than a stick figure. It’s a form of expression, a form of resistance, and a form of rebellion. My favorite line, “It is about taking control back from the corporate consumer influences, telling your own story, and creating things on your own terms.”
In this way, I would love to see people use this book as the beginning to some free expression that they can’t spray paint into a tunnel, write into a private journal, or just a trickle of something they want to convey in a community of people. The problems I had with this book go beyond the influences it has, but instead deals with the things it could have done (or my expectations for what it could have been).
This book was remarkably wordy for a DIY book, and with very few example pages of actual zines. Instead, the writer stuck to stark black and white, copy and paste, zine design. I realize that zines are not a lucrative project and that this may be the case with the creation of this book, but in an undertaking of writing about zine culture, one way to get people interested (in more than just blogging) might be to include zine pages that are particularly moving or inventive, and show evidence of more zines, and zine creators. It might be nice to show more voices from the community or get other perspectives. This book is past its fourth edition (which is the last I could see on Goodreads) and if this is the case, why does it not have the perspectives and pages of other zine authors who want to share their art in a book that actually reaches out to potential future zine creators? I’m not sure.
I think this book is perfect for a teenager who needs an outlet and that’s the reason that I will put it in my classroom for my students to use in imagining their next creative pursuit that doesn’t need to necessarily have a technological spin, they can use good ol’ glue and scissors to create magic. I was a little surprised at how copy machine heavy this book is (Wrekk seems to rely on the copy machine for a lot of her zine creation) because copy machines are curmudgeons, they only sometimes work, they have to be constantly unjammed, and they have all these secret compartments that cannot be discovered unless you’ve worked in a public school for 47 years and it’s time for you to retire, but no young teachers will let you because you know all the nooks and crannies of a copy machine. Having to rely on a copy machine is not something I want to experience. Pages 31 to 42 in the book are dedicated to solely the use of a copy machine and the next chapter after that, how to afford one. I hated both of these chapters. I think my loathing of the copy machine is a little bit impartial in this review.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I didn’t necessarily love this book. I thought it was good for the goal (of creating zines in the same stream of Wrekk’s zines — which from Goodreads reviews are zines that started becoming popular in the late 1990s), but I think it lacks a lot of other perspectives, and just general aspects of other styles in zine culture. Wrekk is very bias towards her own style and that kind of turned me off from her perspective because I wanted more than a literal how-to (down to how to mail and produce zines) and more of an inspiration booklet that made me want to join in on zine culture.
This book doesn’t do much inspiring, it imagines that the reader is already leaning towards zine culture, rather than beginning in the culture without any real idea of what a zine looks like (like me). I was also displeased aesthetically because the book is all black and white, way too many small words on a small page (on most pages) and the patterns on the back of the pages can sometimes seem overwhelming. I once had a Barnes and Noble employee tell me the best sellers are the books with a lot of white space, I believe Wrekk could take a hint from this customer service representative.
All in all, it wasn’t that I hated this book, or really loved this book, it’s just that I don’t think it did justice to its mighty goal – to get other people to join the zine community. I read instruction manuals if I want to know how to put together my television, not to get inspiration on how to build one.