Pulling Weeds from a Garden By Nathalie Tierce, 47 pgs.

Mar 15, 2022

Inspired by her mixed-media paintings and drawings, Pulling Weeds from a Garden is Nathalie Tierce’s second book. In the introduction, Tierce says, “The symbolism that developed in these works came from the turbulence, fear, and confusion we were experiencing and trying to wade our way through” in response to the onset of COVID-19, the subsequent lockdown, and the “disturbing, deeper currents running through our society” that the pandemic has made many aware of.

Considering the strong emotions fueling the symbolism, the artistic works in Pulling Weeds from a Garden are exceptionally vivid and bring to mind visions from nightmares, thus accurately reflecting an examination into the uncomfortable components of the psyche. Bodies of human figures and beasts—and sometimes a monstrous mix of both—twist, stretch, distort, hunch, bend, and reach against backdrops often scratched and splattered with red that could be interpreted as blood or the draining of a life force. These are expressions of the subconscious, and they are highly impactful.

A brief paragraph of free-form prose accompanies each work of art, with some of the writing inspired by Aesop’s Fables, according to Tierce. The works have titles that include “Fireside Dance,” “Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” and “Speeding Back to the Comfort of Hell.” Most of the works are mixed media on watercolor, with some being pastel on paper and acrylic on canvas. Pulling Weeds from a Garden largely functions as a showcase of these works, which put modern-day horrors in artistic perspective and perhaps aid in the processing of the difficult thoughts and emotions that arise from facing such horrors. It’s a potent release. –Gina Murrell (Indigo Raven Publishing, 350 N Glendale Ave. Ste #306, Glendale, CA 91206, nathaliepierce.com)

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What about Tomorrow? An Oral History of Russian Punk from the Soviet Era to Pussy Riot By Alexander Herbert, 288 pgs.

February 13, 2020
I tend to compare any “oral history of punk rock” to Marc Spitz and Brendan Mullen’s classic documentation of L.A. punk We Got the Neutron Bomb. However, author Alexander Herbert strikes an entirely different out-of-tune chord in What About Tomorrow? As Surgey Guryev, singer of Moscow band Chistia Lobov, explains: “In the world of punk, there are two opposing poles, probably: California punk and Siberian punk.” Where the L.A. book is scandalous and fun, What About Tomorrow? utilizes a sociological lens that we are all familiar with (punk rock) to magnify life in the Soviet Union and its transformation into modern Russia. In composing What About Tomorrow?, Herbert, a Brandeis University research fellow, traveled extensively to Russia to conduct interviews as well as utilizing a few secondary sources (such as everyone’s favorite/least favorite, Maximum Rocknroll). The interviews portray a parade of characters, each conveying their own mixture of guts, wit, and determination, using underground music to navigate their way through the doldrums and/or violent oppression of everyday life in their homeland. The outstanding social/historical research combined with the intensity of the characters results in a fantastic read. While American punks celebrated excess and lawlessness in newly abandoned city streets, the early chapters of What About Tomorrow? document an entirely different planet, where Soviet punk pioneers fought cultural isolation and the threat of crucifixion at the hands of a hard-line government. They discover punk via European short-wave radio channels banned by the government (“In England there are idiots just like us!”). Rock clubs were moderated by KGB agents, and some of the interviewed recall backing out of their local scenes under KGB intimidation. Other characters completely and mysteriously disappear. Punks are conscripted into the military and/or institutionalized just for being punks. They discuss all of this as if it were a minor annoyance. The book moves along in chronological order, and we find punk scenes suddenly facing the transition from authoritarianism into capitalism. “Chacha” of Moscow band Naïve states: “The new country that called itself ‘Free Russia’ had no idea what was going on and tried to create capitalism without anyone knowing what it meant.” We see a dominant interest in financial profit, a rise in violence from the culturally accepted far right, and smoldering government corruption. As this continues into modern times, there is a chapter on Pussy Riot who don’t seem to fit in here, aside from their politics. I would have liked to see the pages labeled with chapter information, as there was plenty of cross-referencing to be done, and there could have been a little more info on each character as they were introduced to keep them from blurring into each other. Other than that, this book was a great read—a fascinating study of the history of punk rock in Russia and its relationship to the political/social climate. –Buddha (Microcosm Publishing, microcosm.pub)

Screaming for Pleasure: How Horror Makes You Happy and Healthy By S.A. Bradley, 266 pgs.

May 29, 2020
A long time ago, I had the wild notion to do a zine about horror movies. I decided to do a lot of research rather than just jumping right in. So, I read a few film books and they just about killed me. They all had that maddeningly dry and stultifying grad school tone. That sort of ivory tower horseshit ruins both film and criticism. For a while it ruined me...for horror, anyway. If I’d read Screaming for Pleasure rather than titles like Tensions of the Eye: A Critical Analysis of Horror Filmography and The Landscape of Fear, maybe I would’ve finished that zine. S.A. Bradley’s bug-eyed and fanatical approach to horror was what I was looking for. Bradley writes with the fervor of a fan but is also erudite and compelling. He gets at the psychology of horror not by using the biggest words possible to describe how every camera angle is a phallus. Instead, he relates horror to his own life. The first chapter deals with what he calls the “First Kiss,” the movie that “hooks” you into “a lifetime of getting scared.” For Bradley, it was 1973’s Don’t Look Now, a childhood experience he calls “scary, overwhelming, and thoroughly exhilarating.” Bradley was drawn to horror because he was raised in a fundamentalist Christian cult that left him with a predisposition for fear of god, demons, and hell. Horror was how he took agency of some of that fear. His deconstructions of horror film interweave these personal stories all the way up to when he’s in his early twenties, just out of the military and drifting from town to town, feeling aimless and disconnected from humanity, unsure of what he wanted to do. This brought him to a small town and a mom and pop video store run by true film fans. Striking up a conversation with the owners rekindled his passion for horror and, finally, led him to his current entrenchment in the horror community, his ultimate redemption. His enthusiasm never waned. He started going to horror cons and making friends, which made him start podcasting (Hellbent for Horror), and then he began writing this book. All this is not to say that Screaming is a thinly disguised memoir, it’s above all, a film theory book. It just has a very personal tone. I love writing that’s full of zeal and joy at paying dues to whatever dorky thing gives your life meaning, the kind of writing where you don’t even have to be into what they’re writing about, you just dig the earnestness and dedication that comes off the page. Screaming is that kind read. –Craven Rock (Coal Cracker Press, PMB 800, Ste. A, 1250 Fairmont Dr., San Leandro, CA 94578)
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