zine review: cul-de-sac #7

Cul-de-sac #7
The Adult Geek Issue
by Liz Mason & Julie Halpern

I’ve known Liz Mason through zines for many years, probably since I first began selling my zine Thoughtworm on consignment through Quimby’s in Chicago in the early 2000s. We traded zines, too, and I always enjoyed reading hers, both her own perzine Caboose, and the zine Cul-de-sac which she co-publishes with her friend Julie Halpern. Zine time can be very slow, though. It had been 20 years since the last issue of Cul-de-sac appeared! So when I heard there was a new one out, I was really looking forward to it.

As someone who hasn’t been reading perzines lately, it was interesting to read one written by two people close to my own age (that is, a bit older than most people I know of who tend to write perzines). This new issue, subtitled ‘The Adult Geek Issue’, addresses the shifts in one’s milieu associated with aging, though not always at a straight angle.  Liz and Julie take turns penning essays on topics ranging from the light-hearted (changing taste in pop culture, celebrity encounters both direct and indirect, love of the television series Ancient Aliens) to the more thoughtful and serious (the regrettable disintegration of one’s D&D group, the experience of feeling like a square peg in round subcultural holes, a personal history of miscarriages).

Two of Liz’s essays particulary resonated with me. The first is one in which she discusses how she has never felt like she fit in with any subculture (be it punk, geek, zinester, etc.), despite her best efforts. Her point that ‘when you start to identify with the idiosyncrasies of what makes you you, you have to exist outside the group’ is an insightful one. In order to make peace with one’s status as an individualist, one must eventually learn to accept this somewhat bitter truth. The other essay of Liz’s that struck me was a rather rambling one titled, in part, ‘It Is Normal to Have a Shitty Time at the Party.’ In it, Liz hits on topics such as aging, personal identity, what it means to leave a legacy, and the importance of making honest human connections. This essay, like much of Liz’s zine writing, is funny, pensive, poignant, and pleasantly digressive all at once.

I suspect that many people approaching middle age who have struggled to fit in, lurked around on the fringes of society, however you want to phrase it, will find something relatable in this zine. And it’s been a fine reminder to me of that special type of raw, open writing I often find in zines that I so rarely encounter anywhere else.

Cul-de-sac #7 is available through Quimby’s, both in-store and online. Or you could go the old-fashioned route and mail $3 to: PO Box 477553, Chicago, IL 60647.

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