“The Worst: A Compilation Zine about Grief and Loss”
Various contributors, compiled by Kathleen McIntyre.
Issue 1, 84 pg. @ half-legal size, Issue 2, 64 pg. @ half-legal.
$5/$7 from the author, also available from Doris Distro, Click Clack, and Stranger Danger
OK, this one is not exactly hot off the presses: the first issue came out in 2008, and the second in autumn of 2010. So maybe everyone who likes zines and struggles with knowing a dead guy or two has already read these, but I just came across The Worst, was really impressed, and wanted to write about it.
I’ve definitely said this here before, but my favourite thing about zines, and something that I feel that zines do better than any other medium I know, is linking intensely personal accounts of difficult experiences to a radical analysis of aspects of society that shape those experiences.
This is something that McIntyre, who studies social group work in New York, explicitly set out to do when she was compiling the two issues of The Worst. She links the taboo around talking about grief, which silences and disempowers grieving people, to “the status quo myth that everyone in our society has all of their needs met by the system as it is and nothing needs to change”.
In her view, making grief a solitary experience depoliticizes it. On the flip side, sharing experiences of grief and learning how to help and relate to people in your life who are grieving, she suggests, can help you come to a radical understanding about how people and experiences are valued or devalued in a capitalist society.
So, the stories. These zines are interesting in that they draw on a diverse community of contributors, but a community nonetheless, so in some cases there are multiple stories by different wrtiters grieving the same lost friend, which is interesting, and poignant. It also helps you get a better sense of what the community of grievers McIntyre writes about might look like. I unexpectedly came across, as well, a contribution by a friend of mine about a loss he suffered, which I wouldn’t have known about if not for this zine. I think there are a lot of reasons why it’s worthwhile to put this stuff out into the world.
A pretty wide variety of experiences are represented here. The dead are family, lovers, friends. The living were estranged from them, visiting them faithfully in the hospital, just getting to know them. Writers’ reactions to their losses vary, and so do the ways they put them across. Some people’s experiences will resonate with you, others might seem weird or silly or wrongheaded, but it is instructive and interesting to see them in their diversity.
- Lily Pepper