This year’s San Francisco Zine Fest seemed particularly poignant in that more people than ever before came up to yours truly and gave him (that is, me) their zines. Plus looked me full on in the eye. Now in this day where so-called virtual reality has replaced so-called real life, the above is not to be under-rated. About 150 years ago if you wanted to hear a real human speaking to you, you would have to be in the same room (or at least nearby). Therefore you could note their total physiognomy, body language, gestural vocabulary, nuances of vocal inflection, eye movements, smell (if any) and a thousand other subtleties (and obvious-ities) telling you WHO THE PERSON REALLY WAS. (Unless the person is a skilled psychopath; the kind Burroughs talks about who can con you super-fast out of anything you have.)
Monday morning I became ill-therefore a perfect excuse to lie in bed and read all the zines. By luck, the first one I read had a fire to it so contagious I am forced to share it with you NOW (excerpt follows):
“[I] discovered ‘Ex-Animation,’ a photo-copied monstrosity that sh-t all over the glorified desktop publication that I had just created. I mean, this thing was rough! Most of the text was written on a typewriter with a few broken keys. The rest was hand-written and pasted half-assed onto the page. The collages and line drawings were primitive at best. The images were oversaturated, as if the creator had made copies with the Xerox machine lid open. And the staples were bent in half from using the wrong kind of stapler and then bending them in half with pliers or something.
“Not only was this self-described ‘zine’ the most amazing thing I’d ever seen in print, the writing was poignant and personal. There were short pieces about traveling to England, working as a stripper and getting molested as a kid. Even a few poems. I was blown away. The writing wasn’t polished or stylized. It was just raw. Obviously written without drafts or revisions. Just straight words from the soul. It was apparent that this hot mess existed because it had no other choice but to exist. Which was what made it so compelling. But what astonished me most was the candor. At that time, honesty was very difficult for me. I was all about facades, living in a fortress of fantasy. I wanted to write without reservation, but I was afraid to go deep, in case I exposed the hidden wounds from a f-cked-up childhood and spending my teenage years in institutions and foster homes. Besides, I figured nobody wanted to read about those kinds of experiences anyway. So I kept writing about what was safe: the lost years of my twenties, wasted in a constant state of inebriation, chasing drugs and alcohol with dysfunctional and abusive relationships. And I never used my real name. I put out several more zines before I moved on to chapbooks and then eventually started publishing paperbacks by other writers. In the spirit of DIY ethics, I handled all the aspects of publishing myself, from design to distribution. But I was going nuts from the pressure. And it’s not like I ever had any money. After a while I realized that drive and determination were not enough when the walls were crashing down. So I threw in the towel.
“I never lost the itch to put words and images on paper, but I always swore that if I were to start publishing again I would only do a hand-made photocopied labor of love. I hadn’t forgotten about ‘Ex-Animation’ and how I felt when I realized that the glory of publishing wasn’t in competing with the newsstand. It was about raw honesty. Truth. Conviction. All the things I was still struggling with. I’d always believed that my past experiences were a disease and that sharing them would infect others with my trauma. Mine was a story I never wanted to tell. I’d kept it buried so deep, for so long, that I figured it would eventually drift from my memory. But twenty-five years later, it still follows me. Even today, I may have given up the drugs (the f-cked-up relationships were harder to kick), but I am still just as lost as when I was in my twenties. The past may never make sense to me. But if I’m ever going to be whole again, I have to purge these m! emories by embracing the pain. A few years ago, I started writing everything down. As honestly as possible. Every day I wrote. Once I’d opened the flood gates I couldn’t contain the deluge. The process was like draining an abscess… When I was finished, I had over a thousand pages. Most of it crap. But I figured I was ready to do what I’ve wanted to do since that fateful day when I picked up my first zine…” [end of excerpt]
I ended up reading every word of this zine, titled “The Nasty Oh-Dear,” aka “Piltdownlad” issue #4. The author also gave me #1, “The Guero Chingon Stories – Five short tales about growing up a whiteboy in East L.A.”, and #3 “Junior Careers: Adventures of a Teenage Door-to-Door Salesman – Trying to make a buck selling candy in the San Gabriel Valley.” These were completely fascinating and felt like they had been written back at the time they were LIVED; I’m guessing the author kept journals or-? Then I tackled the perfectbound 5″x8″ 307-page BOOK titled “A Masque of Infamy” and it was hypnotizing. I thought **I** had had a bit of a “challenging” childhood, but compared to THIS narrative, I felt I had totally “lucked out.” Finished the book this morning. Understood why he called this “a novel” rather than an “autobiography”-America is far too litigious a society to permit a **true*! * autobiography from ever being published!
Then I read his zine #6 “Institutionalized” containing legal documentation for what had happened, small narratives from four points of view, etc. This total experience-zines plus “novel”-combined to give possibly the richest “autobiography” I’ve ever read: complex, multi-faceted, uncensored, honest-yet “creatively (and invisibly) engineered” to provide a compelling narrative that I didn’t want to put down…
I recommend this book and ALL the zines that this author, “Kelly Dessaint,” has produced-order from Phony Lid Books, POB 86714, Los Angeles CA 90086. http://www.phonylid.com – essential 21st century noir reading…. Oh yes, Punk Rock plays a “beacon”-like role here…
As publisher-editor of the 1977-79 zine SEARCH & DESTROY, V. Vale helped bring international attention to a Punk scene as prophetic as more publicized ones elsewhere. The publication was launched with $100 each from Allen Ginsberg, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and published at City Lights Bookstore, where Vale worked at the time. For Vale, Punk provided a launching pad for a host of cultural-anthropological explorations, including Industrial music, the writings of J.G. Ballard and William S. Burroughs, feminism, pranksterism, studies of The Body, plus “Incredibly Strange” filmmaking and music, which he has chronicled with the RE/SEARCH series of publications that he founded as **sole proprietor** in 1980 (he has the original DBA certificate hanging on his wall).
The characters were well developed, the descriptions amazing and a story line that made me laugh and angry at the same time.
Read the rest of the review here.
Wes Funk, author of the novels Dead Rock Stars and Cherry Blossoms, offers some praise for A Masque of Infamy:
“A Masque of Infamy is my kind of book! A no-bullshit novel – the type that reels the reader directly in with smooth passages, gritty dialogue and countless references to rock ‘n’ roll culture. The world needs less syrupy-sweet superficial feel-good yarns and more stories of surviving the human condition. Dessaint delivers.”
Read more on The Rooster.
On the last day of the Blog Tour, a review from Read Your Bookcase:
Kelly Dessaint definitely had a story to tell. He did a great job writing this book. There were scenes that just broke my heart.
The Book Fidelity blog reviews A Masque of Infamy:
The humor in this book can make one forget that it is, after all, based on a true story.
BookSpin reviews A Masque of Infamy:
When I was asked to participate in the book tour for this novel, my inclination was to politely decline. I explained to the delightful lady who asked for my participation that I primarily read nonfiction and didn’t normally make time for fiction.
The few times I do dip my foot into the fiction pool is when the plot is unique or in some way appealing to me by piquing my curiosity. I re-read the synopsis of A Masque of Infamy and, for whatever reason, the curiosity factor kicked in.
Read the rest of the review here.