Sluts and Whores, By C.E. Hoffman, 197 pgs.

There was no sleight of hand in titling this collection of short stories and poetry by C.E. Hoffman. All forty-two of these pieces deal with sex work and sex positivity at various levels of comfort and eroticism. Sometimes it’s merely transactional, sometimes it’s the sort of soul-to-soul connection that we’re all striving for, but it’s always done well, a rarity for a writer this young who’s compiling pieces over a decade of their life.

The aspects of this collection I found the most engaging, and which kept the pieces distinct despite the subject similarity, were the elements of magical realism and science fiction that Hoffman employs to great effect in some of their stories. Characters weave in and out of each others’ tales, set against the backdrop of the ominously titled Big City in a dystopian future where the demarcations between rich and poor are set in stone and there’s literally no way to cross that line. There is an indication in one story that this could be late 22nd century, but that could also be hyperbole in the dialogue.

Hoffman’s writing style reminds one of Burroughs at his most straightforward or Irvine Welsh at his strangest, but with a presentation dominated primarily by women and queer characters, a refreshing change in this particular milieu. This style is most effective in a triptych of stories that appear later in the collection (Bitches/Bass Lines/And Suicide). The reader is presented with a series of increasingly horrible events from the changing perspectives of the three characters involved. It careens between Cronenbergian body horror to street romance effortlessly, without feeling jarring or off-putting.

Hoffman is definitely a writer to watch for, and I look forward to what they give us next. My hope would be that they use some of these recurring characters as a springboard to a long form piece. I put this book down really wanting to know more about Ez, Eden, Jude, and V as they navigate increasingly impossible lives in the unforgiving Big City. –Justin Bookworm (Thurston Howl Publications, thurstonhowlpublications.com)

This Hidden City, By Adel Souto, 223 pgs.

Adel Souto’s This Hidden City is described as “a tour of New York City’s esoteric side.” As someone who is into weird, non-touristy stuff when I travel, that sounds right up my alley. In addition, I lead walking tours around Boston for my job where I like to highlight such random odds and ends. So I went into reading this book with some high expectations.

Overall I wasn’t let down. The book is based off of a blog of the same name that Souto started in 2013. In the book he goes through each borough and covers the oddities that a lot of locals aren’t even aware of. With each site, he begins with directions of where to find the site. He also gives a history of the site or people connected to it. The info can be quite extensive—it’s clear Souto really did his research. (The academic in me would’ve liked to see some citations in case the reader wanted to do further reading.) There’s no rhyme or reason for choosing a site; they’re just places Souto heard about and found interesting. Throughout This Hidden City he’s included dozens of black and white photographs that are clean and clear. These very much add to the value of the book.

Most of the material is related to Manhattan although the other boroughs and a couple islands are included. There are old forts, abandoned spaces, parks, memorials, statues, and more. I appreciated that Souto included the 1920 bombing of Wall Street, a fascinating historical attack by anarchists. He also schooled me on some preconceived notions I had, including the final resting place (the Bronx, not Long Island) of colonial religious reformer, Anne Hutchinson. There is so much cool, random material here that it outweighs some of my concerns.

My primary issue is the lack of guidance within the content. There are no page numbers or a table of contents. There’s not an index, either. If you’re looking for a particular site or type of place to visit, you’ll have to scan the entire book. There is a small map of each borough with number locations for sites before each borough’s section, but it would’ve been more helpful to have a street map before each location showing the surrounding streets.

That all being said, this book is pretty badass and one that I will keep, in the hope that I can get to New York City and check out some of these amazing, unique sites. If you live in the city or are planning a visit, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of This Hidden City and get a different view of the Big Apple. –Kurt Morris (adelsouto.com)

Why Marianne Faithful Matters, By Tanya Pearson, 180 pgs.

I know almost nothing about Marianne Faithful—which, Tanya Pearson explains in her stunner of an entry to the University of Texas’s “Matters” series—is typical. Pearson says that “gender continues to be used as a tool to build a revisionist history that excludes women.” And she doesn’t just say this, she demonstrates it, she illustrates it, shouts it, bringing example after example both from Faithfull’s long career and Pearson’s own time in academia to help support her thesis. Pearson, who directs the Women of Rock Oral History Project, states that she has noticed in the course of conducting interviews, that successes happen due to “a willingness to take chances and accept opportunities.” Despite following a similar organic path to where she is today, the conversation around Marianne Faithfull continues to be in the context of men or through the male gaze: Faithfull, if discussed at all, is usually mentioned only as being pretty or in the context of dating Mick Jagger, not for her willingness to take chances as an artist or for her catalogue of albums. I’ve read a bunch of these Matters books, but this one, more than any other, made me reconsider not only Marianne Faithful, but the whole infrastructure of the star system and rock criticism—seismic stuff. A great read. –Michael T. Fournier (University of Texas Press, utpress.utexas.edu)

“A CHANGE IN CLIMATE IS TAKING PLACE VERY SENSIBLY”: DECONSTRUCTING MYTHIC AMERICAN HISTORIES, $6, 8½” x 5 ½”, 28pgs.

What looks like an essay deconstructing mythic American histories (as the title might allude) at first opening is actually a collection of collages exploring the same. The basic idea is pretty straightforward: the enclosure of land, domination, capitalism, and other American hallmarks cause climate change pretty much by design and have pretty much from the start. The collages incorporate quotes from a sundry and interesting ye olde timey publications on colonialism, nature, and the like, with images of everything from medieval (I may have gotten my specific eras mixed up here) paintings of peasants and Christ and kings and suchlike to more recognizable advertisements of the ilk that leave a bad taste in your mouth. I’ll admit it; this one fell flat for me in that the collages felt more like a collection of images on a theme that has been well-established for some time. –jimmy cooper (Will Dee, etsy.com/shop/sappressing)

ADANG ROCK N’ ROLL ZINE #4, $?, 5½” x 8½”, copied, 16 pgs.

This newest issue of Adang is short and to the point, with brief but occasionally illuminating interviews with Danny Kroha, The Spits, and Tampa’s LadyGrrrl Records, among other punk rockers and creators. Also includes a good piece on Sister Rosetta Tharpe and her connection to Richmond, Va. (the home base of Adang). Overall, it’s a good mini-document of punk connection and holding-pattern optimism during the weirdo pandemic year. –Matt Werts ([email protected])

ALMANAC, $5, 5” x 8½”, black and white, printed, 10 pgs.

Two random, unnumbered issues of Robert Crumb-inspired fantasy punk. It’s workman like and funny enough to entertain you while you’re on the toilet. I think that’s the ideal place for this kind of thing. It’s nonsensical, a bit surreal, a bit anti-status quo. Good art. You can tell a little that each panel is drawn individually and not as one larger page, but that’s not a huge deal. Just comic nerd shit. –Gwen Static (Shane M., 1511 NE 45th Ave. #9, Portland, OR 97213)

ALTERNATIVE INCITE #3, $4, 7” x 8½”, printed, 40 pgs.

An anthology zine that encourages its readers to “follow the creative impulse.” Included are essays from different contributors relating to the topic that we all cannot seem to avoid: the pandemic. I found it interesting that one of the first writings takes on the push in our society to always be productive and to have a purpose, and how that can be suffocating and overwhelming (especially during this part of history we’re all living through). How maybe we should all give ourselves a break, allow ourselves to be idle, and that’s okay. The very next essay however, is a writer telling the reader to “Just do it,” in regards to making art and creating. A pretty distinct shift of tone from the previous essay (reading the words, “Just get to work—now.” felt extremely off-putting). Luckily, the later part of the zine grabbed my interest back with an interview of a designer of fonts and a story about a man who rowed a bathtub across the English Channel. –Tricia Ramos (Alternative Incite, PO Box 3067, Laurel, MD 20709, butter-lamb.com)

ASYMMETRICAL ANTI-MEDIA #12, $1 or trade, 5½” x 8½”, black and white, copied, 8 pgs.

The tagline of this zine is “The Review Zine that Loves Antiquarian Windmill Tilts” and the cover is an image of what looks like dental students practicing on dummies. The entire zine is a DIY cut and paste layout that looks fantastic. Primarily this is a zine review zine, though some music slips in here and there. Their main requirement for submission is a tangible piece of media with a physical address. These days that can seem like a tall order to some, though I’m glad Jason is keeping print alive and weird. The reviews are from all over the world, though mostly North America and Europe. Razorcake even got a review! My only criticism is there are a few typos (though, they honestly add to the ephemeral charm of a print zine), and that most of the reviews start out with “This is” and the majority of the review is just describing the zine. I struggle with that in my own reviews, trying to inform the reader about the subject, but also cast an impartial and kind judgment on it. After all, someone worked really hard on the things they’re submitting. Jason has so many reviews that they bleed over and fill the back cover even! I really enjoyed this line about social isolation in his intro: “If I’m going to be alienated I want my alienation in hardcopy, I want the print version.” Keep it up. –Kayla Greet (Jason Rodgers, PO Box 10894, Albany, NY 12201)

BEHIND THE ZINES #11, $3, 5½” x 8½”, copied, 40 pgs.

Behind the Zines is “a zine about zines,” and “this issue, once again, has a mix of first-timer contributors as well as returning regulars,” says creator Billy McCall in his intro to Issue 11. All contributors talk about their relationship to zines, whether it’s friends made through zines (“Postal Bliss” by Laura-Marie), zines as a way to process “scary feelings” (“A Decade of Shit’s Fucked” by Gina Sarti), virtual zine fests easing social anxiety (“Anxiety Fest with a Dash of Zine” by Alexa Lima”), an appreciation for the USPS as a deliverer of zines (“Staying Postal” by Razorcake’s own Todd Taylor), and more. Plus, there are interviews with zine makers Jolie Ruin (The Escapist Artist, Double Chinchilla, Skurt Cobain, SlutCake), Liz Mason (Caboose, Awesome Things, Most Unwanted Zine, Prizes) and husband Joe Mason (Chicago Gets 4 Stars), and Alicia H. (The Grasshoppers Are Coming). Fun bonus on the back page: retro zine reviews from the 1990s! –Gina Murrell (Billy McCall, [email protected])

BUS STOP PRESS NEWSLETTER #14, free, 8” x 11”, copied, 1 pg.

Very brief, charming newsletter that shares basic info about new releases and updates on the punk/anarchist scene near Marseilles, France. Also includes some philosophical, vaguely paranoid ideas about how the COVID lockdowns could shape the counterculture for the worse. As someone with no connection to the Marseille scene (I’m sitting in a house in upstate N.Y., U.S.A.), all of this is new and intriguing. Mostly I just love the idea of a bus stop pamphlet as a way to share radical punk news. I’ll be checking out the Camarada/Cicadae split tape and the benefit compilation for La Salle Gueule. –Matt Werts (busstoppress.bandcamp.com)