It's been a good seven or eight years since the end of the so-called zine explosion, which, in case you missed it, was when mainstream media outlets like Details and the Washington Post seemed to weigh in on an almost weekly basis about the virtues of cut-and-paste self-publishing.
But don't bother mentioning that to Jessica Hopper, 28, or Al Burian, 34; both are long-time zine-makers about to embark on a multi-city reading tour. And not only will prose from their respective journals be delivered in venues not accustomed to nurturing the written word, but in some cities they'll be joined onstage by live musicians, or even a puppet show. (Eric Meisberger, a Heartattack contributing writer, will join the duo during their Pittsburgh appearance.)
But unlike your average zinester -- many have been known to display a less-than-stellar grasp of the English language, along with a stark refusal to use the spell-check button -- both Hopper and Burian are accomplished journalists in their own right.
Burian, a Punk Planet columnist whose work has appeared in Utne Reader and XLR8R, and who lives in both Chicago and Berlin, has been publishing Burn Collector for the past 10 years. Essentially a documentation of Burian's vagabonding lifestyle, the Xeroxed zine tends toward first-person expository writing, not unlike the now-legendary Cometbus before it. Open a copy to any given page, for instance, and you'll find the intellectual detritus of a life surrounded by service-industry jobs and cross-country Greyhound bus trips.
"Al and I were roommates for a couple of years [in Chicago]," says Hopper, who runs Hopper PR, a public-relations company for indie rock bands. She also contributes regularly to Minneapolis City Pages and The Chicago Reader, and for the past 14 years has been publishing Hit It or Quit It, a music fanzine that occasionally acts as a platform for her feminist criticism and essays. "We were really good friends, so we talked about one day going on a reading tour. We would come up with these high-concept, strange tour ideas."
Pittsburgh will be the team's first out-of-town stop, and Hopper asserts -- with a laugh -- that the event will be "a real traditional, punk-lit blowout." Her own performance will likely include the reading of an essay she delivered at this year's EMP Pop Conference in Seattle, about her true adventures as a high school poser. "There was this boy I liked and he was into grunge," she explains. "So I pretty much pretended that no music mattered unless it had the old-school Sub Pop logo on the back." Hopper's reading went over so well, in fact, that tale is soon to be anthologized. We can only hope for a similar performance this week.