Sarah G. Wenzel

Sarah G. Wenzel, University of Chicago Bibliographer for Literatures of Europe and the Americas, at Regenstein Library, Tuesday March 12, 2013. (Abel Uribe, Chicago Tribune / March 12, 2013)

A: "Jane" was originally reproduced in 1975 and it documents the clandestine abortion services in Chicago during those years. We included it in the show because it relates to women's issues right now. We wanted to contrast it with the purely personal zines.

Q: What was the next stage?

A: The '90s were the onset of the Riot Grrrl movement within punk culture. They were women who agreed with the punk aesthetic and political positions but were very upset with the very misogynistic aspect of much of punk culture.

Q: Since 2000, are zines concerned more with lifestyle and less political themes?

A: It's not that they're less politically inclined. I think they are less an immediate response to a crisis. My example has been Occupy Wall Street. It's not that there's no zines about Occupy, but that movement was created, maintained and held together by social media, not by underground print media.

Q: The zines you've chosen are beautifully mounted and artistically appealing. Even if a zinester writes about ugly issues, she says it so attractively that you are held spellbound.

A: We have to give credit to the authors who can write or arrange text on a page in such a way which goes back to the dawn of printing and even manuscript writing, since many of these are written by hand. These authors are able to create works the way great authors have always been able to really draw you into their text and their subject.

Q: The advent of new technology has made it possible for zines to go beyond the book format. One even documents a long CTA ride in 28 panels?

A: This is the zine we use to talk about shifting boundaries that defy imposed categories. Daniel Resner completed a 15-hour trip throughout the entire system. His zine extends over five feet. It charts the entire CTA grid with a map and a blow-by-blow, station-by-station account. And, online, he has a recording of all the sounds — the doors opening and announcements of all the stops — which was his audio proof that he'd done this marathon trip.

Q: Why does the exhibit focus mainly on women's zines?

A: Every exhibit needs a focus. One of ours was autobiography. That's an area of interest on campus and ties into several classes like Gender Studies. Once you put autobiography and self-publishing together, women's self-publishing comes to mind as a focus because, for many women until relatively recently, that has been the only method they had for writing their life stories.

Q: Two women merit a full case, Marian Runk and Corinne Mucha. Are these, in your opinion, stars of the exhibition?

A: I find their work incredibly appealing. They've been doing zines for a long time and I find it very interesting to see how their work has evolved over time, how it changes according to the type of zine they are creating.

I think (Runk is) one of the zinesters who manages to convey very much in very little, both image and text. As she says, it's essentially a process of simplification and reduction. And that really appeals to me. The words are few but they convey so much in terms of emotion and character.

Q: Mucha has a way of dealing with her personal obsessions hilariously.

A: Yes, one of my favorites is "The House of Worry" where she talks about "How one day, I became so rich that I built a monument to house all my worries. It is tightly guarded so my worries do not escape." And Mucha writes, "Each type of worry is given its own floor."

Q: How did the collection get started?

I went to my first Chicago Zine Fest three years ago and I was completely overwhelmed. I thought "What a terrific opportunity to collect something that really relates in literature to the city."

Q: So, is Chicago a leader in zine culture?

A: I don't think zines have leaders. It is a major hub, along with New York and Los Angeles, Seattle and Milwaukee.