The Zine gods have been against me. A truly bizarre conspiracy. For months now, I have longed for a Hand Job, that lit zine that teased me from afar. John Cooper Clarke held his copy, I’d read the blog, all the accolades. The deal was set, it was on it’s way. Then one rainy morning around 7am there was a knock at the door. I opened it blurry eyed and see the guy from the share house down the road, holding an empty envelope. It was wrapped inside a plastic bag with a Royal Mail explanation printed in bold black ink on its cover. He, was all hunched, and not making eye contact. Holding it out to me by his fingertips, like it contained anthrax. “Think this is for 41 not 47” he mumbled and scurried off. Totally surreal. I closed the door and shook off the water, examining it like CSI whatever. Checked out some likely suspects and discovered yes, it was my zines. WAS! being the correct word. As it seems now they were strewn like decoupage in the bottom of a wet ER postbox somewhere in England. The Queen was very apologetic. So I broke the news to Hand Job HQ and a week later a new bundle arrived fresh and dry. Three issues from the vaults, a time capsule of how their style has developed and a who’s who of great British indie lit.

CLjvTS4UMAAWXL0The manifesto hasn’t changed ‘Anarchy and Freedom’ just no more cut and paste shadows or bright red hand stitching. Gone all ‘la-de-dar’ as they say. In doing so they have lost none of their edge, cut with a sharper blade it feels somehow louder. The layout by Sophie Pitchford is stunning, playing with space and alignment, making the read flow without effort. Her photography that I have seen is superb. Of course having great writers, artists and photographers to layout helps make the whole process feel like it just naturally falls into place on the page.

So, to the writers and Issue 7. All the best lit zines in Britain seem to have a Ridgwell up their sleeve. This first story actually sounds like a typical night in his company. ‘The young, hungry and rejected by mainstream‘ creating ‘the culture you deserve. We are the SHAMBLEISTS, Now Fuck Off!‘ Such a bitterly creative spleen vent. Frustration and anger turn into characters. Helter Skelter is a ‘right on’ table turner. A fantastic mad fantasy based somewhat on the truth of trying to become a writer. Great to see Joe has just added a few new releases to his shelves of limited editions. Ridgwell Stories via Bottle Of Smoke Press and Burrito Deluxe via Leamington Books are both well worth a squiz.

So back to HJ and I land inside Ian Cusack’s Universe Of Life. This feels like a sigh of intergalactic integration into the big lights of London. A grinning one pager that I really enjoyed.  Andrew Climance’s thoughts on his grandmother are as soft and comforting as a hug in her dressing gown. Recalling and really only understanding that day of grief years later through poetry.  If two snippets from Dean Lillymans’ brilliant novel Billy And The Devil via Urbane Publications doesn’t pique your interest, a quick look at his website surely will. Baby Sitting and Jack Is My Dad’s Dog attack all my senses. Specifically illustrated by Paulina Kalwarska, it becomes hyper real, beautifully ugly. Very much like the feelings the somewhat disturbing This Could Be A Good Thing by James Collin Kelly evokes. Each character speaking in turn. Each their own agenda. Three worlds and the collision in my mind cripples me.

3 Poems by Gwil James Thomas, titles that are poetry themselves, Things Shouted At A Full Moon Whilst Howling Like A Drunk, Rabid Dog – Poem Scribbled Onto A Sick Bag At Thirty Thousand Feet and my favourite Reflecting On Everything That I Loved About Your Art Exhibition… totally agree on the “bring back free toys in cereals” bloody nanny state! Paul Heatley’s 40p conversation is a well written piece straight out of the pages of experience. Mathew Williams saucy silhouettes compliments Neil Laurenson’s Under the Obscenity Act. Time, death and National Archives often reveal all sorts of what the’s? One no more bizarre then Maggie and her aversion to sex toys. Worried about injury, and inspired by the rants of crazy Mary, she wanted them all banned…just think she wasn’t using hers right. Which brings me to Suzie Cichy’s illustrations. Doodles of doodles and bottles of plonk – just hilarious. Like a nightmare of identikit images from a tv binge of Embarrassing Bodies, but it’s a nice little breather. There are some beaut pics in this issue, including some artwork which is best viewed on Hand Job’s website. The Plutocrat by Michael Powell focuses on the polarization of wealth. His annotation makes a powerful matter-of-fact statement on society. Then there is Mick Marston who, to me, had a touch of the Clockwork Orange‘s about this piece, not quite sure why it sings to me like that, maybe it’s the menace of a big eyeball. Farmers Market Of Organic Egos, well need I say more, Colin James says it all in an anaphylactic nutshell. Finally it’s time to Wander the dichotomy of dreams “Through peacocked feathered, Waterfallen beauty” editor Jim Gibson had me at ‘slag heaps’ a great piece and street scape to match. I now have a new boyfriend, his name is Magic Mike New Year, New Me.  But I think the only thing he strips is lead from church porches. Apparently he may be dead. Great Zine.

To keep up to date with past and future issues, look here

 

 

 

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