Zines and Noir- what I’ve been up to this past week

This past week felt like the longest week in history with the continuing quarantine and recent police brutality. I tried my best to distract myself with consuming film noir and Noir stories along with a zoom session with the fine folks at Quimby’s book store in Chicago. Each month, Quimby’s has a “‘ zine club” where people gather and share recent ‘zines they have found or bought. As a first time member, I mainly listened rather than presented but it was nice to be among people with similar interest. The next meeting is at the end of this month and I have already prepared by reading zines purchased last November while taking notes.  Meanwhile, I’ve been  pursuing the various twitter discourse regarding current events only to find myself stressed out by it all. I’ve been a little better about it today and fortunately, I have a few Zoom events to look forward to this week in order to keep my mind off things.

My current  obsession with literary noir  came about naturally; I was pursuing the libby app and found that there was a small collection of mystery short stories anthologies published by Akashic Books that took place in various cities such as San Diego or all the way across the world in Istanbul. I had seen a few of these collections at our local library but never bothered to pick one up until now. It’s an excellent way to  experience other places’ culture  while also reflecting on human nature. While I am not necessarily  a cynical person, I would say the Noir genre may be one of the best reflections of our society today; protagonists, whether detectives or criminals, are often working class trying to get by in a hostile world that lacks resources or  security.   I have explored noir stories set in Orange County, Los Angeles, The Bronx, Staten Island, San Diego, and Brooklyn. The one collection that I’ve disliked so far is Brooklyn Noir 3: Nothing but the truth, which is a compendium of true crime stories set in the New York City borough. Unlike the nuanced, empathetic narratives of other books,  Nothing by the Truth felt exploitative and rather conservative, like articles from The New York Post where every minority is depicted as a predator and tough cop  is in the right. I have nothing against true crime books when they are able to explore the sociological context and the environment in which a particular crime took place. This is best displayed in books such as Devil in the White City which explores a series of murder during the 1934 World’s Fair. Brooklyn Noir 3, unfortunately, feels like it only sets out to thrill rather than intrigue and analyze.  With that said, I would recommend any of the other Noir collections  that Akashic has to offer; it is an excellent way to  visit different cities in an age of limited travel.

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