Notes from Underground and Unmarketable

Right now I’m at the Milwaukee Zine Fest fundraiser double feature screening of Pump Up The Volume and Times Square at the Public House. I have such a great time when we do fundraisers that I hope we do more, and similar zine events throughout the year.

I participated in a zine reading at People’s Books this week that was one of the best I have ever been to. I will write about that event some time in the coming week. For now I’d like to talk about the book we read in the last few weeks of our writing workshop and the related book that it reminded me of, which will hopefully spur further reading.


I was rereading my old copy of  Notes from Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture, and had a few thoughts I wanted to share. I feel like a large part – perhaps too much – of the book is about money and related topics. It runs throughout but especially in the last two thirds of the book in the consecutive chapters of Work, Consumption, Discovery, and Purity and Danger. Sure, these are a part of the zine community but it seemed to be the driving force and was a little too simplistic, like all zines are written because the authors hate their jobs and feel they have no place participating in  mass media. Of course this is not always the case. It just seemed to come up too frequently, like I couldn’t get away from it as I read.

There was a part that I had totally forgotten about that talked about Kurt Cobain’s suicide in relation to selling out that was kind of disturbing. As someone that was deeply affected at the time of this event and that still thinks about it today it seemed like too much to link this deeply emotional event to the slight mainstream interest in zines and the few negative affects it may have had. Popularity v authenticity. That section also looked at the  increase of distribution, sales, and the knowledge that a title exists to the decline of trades, communication, and “underground culture… sold as style,” which felt like a bit of a stretch from Kurt’s suicide.

In this chapter, Purity and Danger, there are some points that reminded me of another book that may be of interest to anyone reading this.

Anne Elizabeth Moore’s Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing, and the Erosion of Integrity

I picked this up the last time Anne came to the Milwaukee Zine Fest (I think it was the year before last) and I was pretty hooked on it right away. Like Notes from Underground I chose to read it in chunks and out of sequence. Though it is not devoted just to zines it does discuss them a lot and is about the corporate comodification of a few aspects of DIY culture (mostly that Anne experienced first or second hand). The chapter about Star Wars and Riot Grrl v Grrrl is really interesting and though I remember the site and a bit of the discussion at the time she gives the whole story and a weird more recent update, which I found riveting. There’s also the story of Zines and Starbucks, the Toyota Yaris DIY campaign, the Minor Threat v Nike debacle. There’s even a bit about Jay Ryan of The Bird Machine – my favorite poster artist. I feel like this is a good follow up to Notes from Underground so if you liked that, especially the second half of the book, and wanted to get into it a bit more check this out.


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