TOUGH I'M SURE you've heard it ad nauseam, it still rings true: Portlanders like things to be small and digestible, preferably of the DIY nature, and certainly independent of corporate nonsense. That's why the zine is perfect for us; its creation and circulation is either entirely contingent upon one's own industriousness or is supported by the creaky beams of a publishing house with teeny profit margins. Plus, zines come in all sorts of fun colors and can fit in a bike bag without compromising space used for groceries, found objects, and whatever else you people keep in there.
With all that said, Powell's Books' Smallpressapalooza is not exclusively a zine fest. There will be zinesters at the five-hour reading marathon, as well as authors whose works have been released through independent publishers too transfixed with literary transcendence to fuss over money. Participants include zinester Alex Wrekk, Shatnerquake author Jeff Burk, and Publication Studio's Matthew Stadler—keep reading for short reviews of a few more selected authors.
Beach 90th by Justin Hocking
(self-published), reading at 5 pm
Beach 90th is an autobiographical zine of honest tone that describes New York City life and surfing in terms of war and Moby-Dick (it's an excerpt from Independent Publishing Resource Center Director Justin Hocking's upcoming memoir). Though it does use the word "kook" (a slang term for a novice incapable of following the rules of surfing etiquette) more than once, it is by no means an aggressive surf-pro piece, but rather, an articulate reflection on the ocean's ability to humble people to the point of peaceful coexistence (so long as they paddle out of its salty jaws alive). After a few trips down the "Urban Trail of Tears" between Williamsburg and Rockaway Beach and a near-death experience in an angry swell off the Oregon Coast, the episode rests upon how "we're inextricably connected to all living beings... all of us like molecules of water pumping through the tide-beating heart of the singular sea." Insert warm and fuzzy interspecies hug here.
Whiskey Days by Tommy Gaffney
(Night Bomb Press), reading at 7 pm
Tommy Gaffney lives in Portland, but let no mistakes be made; he is from Kentucky. And while the topics in his poetry go down more like Evan Williams than Maker's Mark, there is serious beauty in the burn of his straightforward delivery. Gaffney is not a poet that fusses over word sounds, nor does he need to concoct the most heart-wracking metaphors to get his point across; his poignancy lies in the fearlessness of his storytelling and his verse's unwavering ability to make you feel the truth.
Don't Smell the Floss by Matty Byloos
(Write Bloody Publishing), reading at 7:30 pm
Matty Byloos' collection of short stories is shocking, but is also so rooted in the vapidity of existence that it dulls a reader's response neurons. For instance, there is nothing overly disturbing about a heartbroken letter that a character receives from the leg he amputated himself; the way it is presented, he could have just as well received it from an ex-lover. Byloos' voice is dark and painstakingly omniscient, offering the most minute personal details of even transient characters that we only meet for a paragraph or two: "Turk fingers a constant rhythm with his left hand along the wooden hand of the shovel, one-two-three, one-two-three...." This does well to lift the characters from the paper and humanize them, but you never feel their anguish, you're only vaguely curious about it, thanks to the literary lithium slipped into Byloos' prose.