Degrassi and all of its various offshoots has always been one of those cultural cul-de-sacs that I seemed to pass by long ago. I first became aware of the existence of Degrassi when I first started exploring the internet, circa 2000. All of the Canadian and Australian kids who frequented the various punk forums I visited seemed to be smitten with this show that I would later find out to be a CBC-produced series of teen dramas re-broadcast stateside on PBS. And it seemed to have a very loyal, fervent, cult-like following. The show and its fans also seemed to relish in the fact that they were onto something that was relatively unknown to most mainstream Americans. They were members of this clandestine society, wielding this wealth of Degrassi knowledge as power.
Degrassi Digest may very well be the cultural keystone that locks together the essential elements of Degrassi Mania, such that it can rightly be defined as a manner of mania. Degrassi Digest, it seems, began as a zine based out of Portland, OR, by a twenty-something graduate student who rekindled his love for Degrassi following a particularly troubling breakup. The impetus for the creation of the zine also, oddly enough, stems from the author’s personal distaste for art and artists, singling out Marcel Duchamp as a particular artistic villain, which proves delightfully ironic in that the Degrassi Digest in itself is full of the wonderful absurdity which inspired by the very art of master villain Marcel Duchamp in the first place. I digress.
What follows is a collection of five issues of the Degrassi Digest (as well as a collection of Degrassi-related comics and two bonus zines dedicated to cats and dogs, titled respectively The Cats That Are My Friends and Some Dogs That I Like), compiled into a short run paperback collection, each copy hand numbered. Tremendously funny and sweet, each entry borders on the personal zine, particularly a section which documents a side trip to visit old friends and additional members of the Degrassiatti in Chicago. These side trips into the personal, I find to be the most enjoyable, which isn’t to take away from the Degrassi-related content. It is more that, please forgive me, I am regretfully ignorant of the Degrassi world. And as I read more and more, I found myself not really relating with the cast (aside from the character Joey Jeremiah, who despite the protestations of the author, comes across as the Canadian answer to Arthur Fonzarelli) anymore than I had when I began reading the book. But I did find myself connecting with and rooting for our wounded hero, the anonymous author, and Degrassiphile. Self-deprecating and sincere, each new entry is an endearing look into the author’s persona, as much as it is a look at his obsession for Degrassi. –Jeff ($10 or “cool trade” to Degrassi Digest, PO Box 56551, Portland, OR97238)