a long time ago, in the 80s, i made zines and xerox comics with a rotating band of co-conspirators. it started in high school with pamphlets of bad poetry about ronald reagan and nuclear destruction, as anything good from that time period did, of course.
while living with my three best friends in a chaotic environment known colloquially as the ‘pig vomit deth haus’, we took to cutting up coupon inserts from the newspapers and rearranging the pieces into collages of absurdist/dada consumer goods, when we weren’t drinking, smoking, playing very unstructured noise rock or pretending to study. thus, the Coupon Book, perhaps my finest zine moment, was born. There were three issues, and we handed them out to friends, sold them in record shops, and sent them to people in the post who sent us money or their own zines in trade. But above all else, our handiwork made us laugh hysterically.
another friend, a gifted cartoonist (he was once mugged for a case of beer as he was on his way to a party at our house), who turned into an ambient electronic composer (and still draws beautifully), introduced me to a publication called factsheet five, which was a sort of massive review of independent press magazines and zines and other self-published ephemera. i sent issues 1 and 2 of the Coupon Book to factsheet five, wherein they were favourably reviewed, which was exciting, and as a result, many people sent me requests for the Coupon Books accompanied often by quarters stuck with tape to pieces of card.
i made other zines, and made drawings and paintings and wrote slightly less bad poetry about subjects that weren’t ronald reagan. my co-conspirators formed bands and built glass-blowing studios and moved to georgia and did other stuff.
now, after all that, here’s how life is strange. i recently found out that mike gunderloy, the publisher of factsheet five, donated a portion of the huge archive of zines he accumulated while publishing the magazine, to the new york state library, where it is now housed in manuscripts and special collections. it’s apparently one of the largest collections of its kind in the world. imagine my surprise when i went to the new york state library webpage and did a database search and found an entry for issues 1 and 2 of the Coupon Book (click the link, then type in ‘the coupon book’ and you should get to the entry). on the catalog record, it’s listed as ‘a humorous collection of mock coupons’, and the topical subject is listed as ‘wit and humour’, all of which entertains me greatly.
i love that my goofy zines are part of that collection, that i can look myself up on the new york state library website. it’s a quiet, almost anonymous thing, but a thing nonetheless, the sort of thing that makes me think, ‘how did that happen? we were just cutting up newspapers to have a laugh.’ it also means that at least one artistic activity i engaged in has become part, even if only a tiny part, of a history that’s bigger than me, which is rewarding and humbling. and strange.
I’ll finish up with another page, and when i can find the masters (probably in a box in the roof), i’ll scan a few more pages in and make another post.)