What We’re Reading: The Media on Coming-of-Age Zines, Comic Books and Bad Poetry

The creative team behind our favorite online newspaper The Media tells us what they’re currently reading.

May 19, 2014

Tired of reading the same recommended books from the usual sources? Just think of our bi-weekly What We’re Reading column as your non-committal book club with FADER and some of your favorite bands, artists and tastemakers. For this installment, we asked the creative and editorial staff of The Media, an ad-free, bi-weekly, online newspaper. If you're in the New York area on May 25th, The Media is throwing a fundraiser concert featuring solo sets from Ted Leo and Swearin's Allison Crutchfield.

“Until Now: A Magazine About Coming Of Age,” No. 1
If you follow The Media, you will quickly pick up on some running themes: one is that we like talking about our feelings and another is that we are hopelessly pre-nostalgic. Also, when we first launched, we did a Village Voice interview, during which the journalist asked us, “Who do you think is going to read something called Fuck the Media? My coworker thinks it'll only be conducive to 14-year-old girls listening to emo music.” That was pretty cool to hear. We like to think there’s something about our approach that is simultaneously skeptical and feelings-y in a way that embraces an eternal teenager spirit. That said, I’m sure you can imagine the excitement with which I flipped through the first issue of Until Now, an entire magazine of essays and reflections on “coming of age,” all very much in line with an ethos that editor Alexandra Citrin sums up in the editor’s letter: “The business of coming of age never really plateaus, as there is no age (16, 18, 21, 25, 30, 40…) or arbitrary life event (menstruation, graduation, first job, first marriage, first divorce) by which to scientifically pinpoint the exact moment we learn whatever wise lesson is supposed to carry us gracefully through the years with the ease of what a child might believe an adult existence to be.” liz pelly, editorial facilitator

“Secret Bully” No. 1 + 2 by Cynthia Schemmer
I only picked up a small handful of zines on my trip to this year’s Brooklyn Zine Fest. Among those were two by Philly writer and musician Cynthia Shemmer, the first and second installments of her personal zine “Secret Bully.” (The name of the zine is pulled from an inspired Joan Didion quote on the way writing can be an act of quiet aggression, a way to impose and invade).“Secret Bully” number one is full of reflections on Shemmer’s ever-changing relationship with New York City, where she lived until a couple of years ago. It includes heart-wrenchingly honest retrospective snapshots (on leaving New York, moving to Philly, the loss of a loved one, the terrifying nature of new romance) plus longer narrative essays on exploring the geography of New York City. Reading this zine for the first time I was immediately overwhelmed by not only the palpable sense of bravery it takes to write so vividly about such deeply personal experiences, but also by the skill it takes to also make those experiences feel raw and relatable. liz pelly

Lyrics sheets
I've also spent a lot of time lately reading lyrics to the new albums by Parquet Courts and Angel Olsen. liz pelly

We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy by Yael Kohen
This book rules!! The oral history is a compilation of quotes from people ranging from club owners to TV producers to THE Joan Rivers herself. My favorite chapter so far has been about the early censorship of women on network sitcoms and how revolutionary comedians like Mary Tyler Moore were for doing things on TV that now we take for granted (ie: living alone, having a job, being a ~*~single lady~*~). I love praising my feminist liberators and this book is a non-stop ode to bad-ass ladies that refuse to be limited by a bunch of dudes threatened by how funny girls are. faye orlove, creative director

Loki: Agent of Asgard by Al Ewing, Lee Garbett, and Nolan Woodard
Last month, the first issue of Loki: Agent of Asgard came out. It was green-lit in response to how fvcking cool teenage Loki was in Young Avengers. I'm like, um, uh, "in love" with Loki. (I'M NOT ASHAMED OK?!?) He's a gender-bending mischievous shape-shifter with incredible wit and Kurt Cobain hair. Swoon. Swoon. Swoon. The series opens with Loki in the shower singing show tunes and proceeds to feature him hacking into a government database in order to confront records of his old self in an existential attempt to find solace in his own identity. Also did I mention he's like, really dreamy? faye orlove

Punk by Mimi Thi Nguyen & Golnar Nikpour
This chapbook put out by Guillotine Press is super cool and super short, presented as a dialogue on punk between Mimi Nguyen and Golnar Nikpour, two women of color bearing complicated histories with punk culture and punk press. Their conversations never settle on a neat answer to what punk can or should be, glossing more broadly on its elasticity as a term, and its personal and political failures. While suggesting that defining punk is a lot like trying to explain your life goal—difficult and rarely worthwhile—this zine manages, nonetheless, to cover a lot of historical ground. Anyone who can relate to feeling simultaneously attracted to and alienated by their ‘punk’ scene might find their struggle cathartically transcribed in this dialogue; it’s the best thing I’ve read in a while. chris lee, contributing editor

BAD BAD by Chelsey Minnis
I don’t like ‘good’ poetry. I used to work in a bookstore with a lot of staged readings and I think it was around that time that I started to develop an irrational hatred for poems about death, water, and birds. Chelsey Minnis doesn’t do ‘good,’ and that’s okay. BAD BAD is loud and intentionally annoying. Printed off in an Ed Hardy-esque font, it literally advertises “CHILDISH!” and “DECADENT!” on the cover. Most of BAD BAD is, somewhat embarrassingly, about poetry itself, the acts of conceptualizing it, submitting it, and capitalizing on it—and the portrait Minnis sketches out is not a positive one. Instead, it’s narcissistic, indulgent, and totally shallow, or at least not deep in any obvious way. Indeed, BAD BAD hardly seems to care about depth, but it does get at something kind of serious: what it’s like to fail as an artist, writer, and human, and why you bother trying at all. chris lee

Preacher by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon
A preacher with a troubled past (long story) fuses with a Heavenly creature (longer story) which gives him supernatural powers over humanity. What does he plan to do first with his newfound abilities? No big deal, just track down God and make him answer for his sins. When I first came across this series I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy it since, as much as I love comic books, I’m not usually a huge fan of religious stories. Little did I know that religion, while certainly a driving plot element, takes a massive backseat to sex, drugs, and and violence. The most refreshing thing about the series, though, was Ennis’ distinctive brand of dark humor which helped take the edge off some of the more unsettling scenes. Not sold yet? Did I mention our titular preacher’s best friend is a vampire? matt orlove, web developer

From The Collection:

What We're Reading
Posted: May 19, 2014
What We’re Reading: The Media on Coming-of-Age Zines, Comic Books and Bad Poetry