Books Aloud – July 2005

Destroying Yourself is Too Accessible
Written and Illustrated by Zach Hill
TNI Books
Street: 2004
The impeccable drummer from Hella, Zach Hill, is out with a book and companion CD that bespeaks the post-modern condition. Like Hella, it is spastic, detached, noisy, [insert crazy adjective here], but is peppered with a bit of interesting taste that doesn’t overload the senses. This book is like a natural history museum and the accompanying CD a recorded guide to this museum. Each page has a drawing to accompany a little paragraph-or-so blurb at the bottom of it. The “story” is laid out like an anthropologists’ findings put on display; the picture comes first and the necessary explanation next. Each picture is given the exact same size; the proportions all around kept equal. The same can be said about the text; equal length, space and proportion. But what makes this so great is not just the “tribal” quality of the drawings, but the acutely arranged, oddly figurative and metonymically linked words that, if they don’t bring the picture to life, at least keep it cautiously at bay. Words and pictures here paint the same controlled parallel universe. The CD becomes more controlled and offers the final and third dimension to the story. This museum is anything but boring and crowded; it slowly bends open in a well-composed, three-dimensional, ethnographic study of one drummer’s lost culture and its accompanying beliefs. –Erik Lopez

Running on Emptiness: The Pathology of Civilization
John Zerzan
Feral House
Street: 03.01.02
The message is simple: dismantle civilization, erase community, level technology and return to a life devoid of peripheral complication. John Zerzan is an anarchist philosopher attempting to show the world that the majority (if not all) of the world’s social and economic problems are a result of civilization’s constant striving to advance by way of electronic upgrade and distraction. Zerzan is intelligent, entertaining and full of the sort of wit that allowed an understanding and appreciation for his point of view even though I fundamentally disagree with his assertions. His rejection of civilization for a Walt Whitman anarchy seems delightfully light when compared to the burden of modernity; but only if you define utopia as living in a self-imposed exile from connection. Zerzan would live in a world pulled close to him, friends and neighbors within hand’s reach; no e-mail, no instant messaging, no phones. But ultimately, trading in technology for a more primitive life is simply swapping out one set of difficulties for another; Zerzan clearly prefers the problems of yesteryear. Still, he’s not as heavy-handed as you’d expect––there is a definite charisma in his take-it-or-leave-it approach that makes the reading enjoyable and enlightening. I’m not wholeheartedly convinced of his ideology, but I am greatly entertained and educated by it. –Ryan Michael Painter

Locas: The Maggie And Hopey Stories
Jaime Hernandez
Fantagraphics Books
Street: 10.17.04
Combining equal parts Jack Kirby, Archie Comics, punk rock, and Mexican-American culture, Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez’ Love And Rockets series became a milestone on the underground comics scene when the Hernandezes, with occasional help from their brother Mario, started up the book in the early 80s. Their love for comics and a heavy influence of their East L.A. surroundings shines through and has garnered the title critical acclaim from all over the board. Jaime’s illustrious Mechanics stories happen to be just one of many facets of Love And Rockets. Mechanics tells the coming-of-age tale of Maggie and Hopey, two young punk girls from the barrio of Hoppers 13. Not only is the eye-catching artwork completely amazing, but it’s immersed in some of the most warm and down-to-earth writing inside the world of comics or otherwise. Even when dinosaurs and rocketships enter the picture, it’s totally believable, not only because the subject matter is written so well, but it’s done in a very non-contrived manner. Locas is an amazing hardbound anthology of every Maggie and Hopey story ever published in the first series of Love And Rockets, ending in the mid-90s. If I could give this a higher recommendation, I would, but I’m doing my damndest to not get carried away here. –Jared Soper