Issue 25, November 2011.
by Amber Forrester
29 pg. at 1/4 letter size.
$2 through the author’s distro, Fight Boredom
Culture Slut is a pocket-size personal zine by Amber Forrester, who lives in Montreal and runs Fight Boredom distro, which specializes in “queer zines, feminist zines, perzines, travel journals, sex work tales, diary comics, cookzines and mental health zines full of secrets and adventures and righteous anger and total sassiness”.
As a personal zine, Culture Slut is uncommonly mature and thoughtful, and never self-important, which is tough to pull off when you’re writing about yourself.
And it’s also surprising. For example: when you see a zine with Patti Smith on the cover, you might brace to read another love letter to everyone’s favourite abrasive, mop-topped songstress.
And that’s totally OK, I love Patti Smith as much as the next person who grew up awkward and arty and desperate for non-sucky lady role models with cool friends and impeccable personal style.
However, the piece in the zine that Patti Smith enters into turns out to be how Forrester doesn’t like listening to Patti Smith due to some bad associaions with her music. The story of how inconvenient it is not to be able to listen to someone so widely beloved is poignant and well-told. Like I said, it’s a little surprise: just enough of a reversal of expectations to keep you on your toes and challenge your assumptions.
She writes about day-to-day topics you’ve read about before (relationships, breakups, bikes, apartments, neighbourhoods), but manages to come at them with a fresh and uncynical eye that willspark your interest and engage your sympathies.
What I’m saying is, even if you feel like personal zines mostly read like they all come out of some big angsty central tube somewhere, you may like this one. In fact I am going to go ahead and say you willl.
She also has some great stories about participating in research studies at McGill and drug studies for pharmaceutical companies. I won’t spoil hers, but I did the same when I lived in Montreal, and I can say that it has to be one of the best ways not only to get some cash, but to garner bizarre stories.
I had a repeated and lucrative gig that I am not sure the point of, but they molded an orthotic device to my mouth, and hooked it up to a robot arm that would push on my jaw. I had to sit very still, watch a computer screen, and repeat the words, “MAD. BAD. SAD.” To this day I am still not sure if there was toward some scientific end or just some sex pervert seeking very esoteric kicks, but hey, fifty bucks.
One of my many paid MRIs also revealed a deformity in my brain, which turned out to be benign, but only after a horrifying interval of emergency brain scans right before I was about to leave the city and move to a farm in Kentucky. So I can vouch that MRIs can be a valuable form of introspection, and not only cause you have to lie perfectly still in a little tube for a long time.
Forrester prefaces her introduction to this issue of Culture Slut with a gentle warning: “P.S. Please read in a safe space; I had a rough year.” Having read it, I can say that her heads-up is certainly not in vain.
My boyfriend actually read this one before me, having beaten me to the mail on the day this order came in. He kept looking concerned and going, “Oh no! Oh no!!” while reading it, so I knew to expect a hard read. Forrester describes the scary and hard moments in her life in a self-effacing, matter-of-fact way that’s very effective, but also makes her writing all the more heart-wrenching.
It also helps that Culture Slut is full of hope and strength and advice for self-care. Forrester writes about realizing quitting drinking, a subject which seems to be cropping up in a variety of zines lately, which is awesome.
Drinking is so entrenched in both mainstream North American life and in many of the various subcultures a person might belong to, that when you don’t drink for whatever reason, it’s hard to even find ways to spend time with your friends sometimes. I really enjoy reading about people’s experiences quitting drinking and staying sober and finding new ways to enjoy themselves.
So thank you to Amber Forrester for staying tough and staying rad and teaching us many great new ways to Fight Boredom.
- Lily Pepper