If you take a quarter-sized zine, pack it to the brim with short stories and toss in some cartoons, you have the main ingredients that make up 398. Serving up a whole whack of fairy tales, 398 is a litzine that has created a Wonderland all its own with stories of crazy cornfield mazes, swimming pianos and magic. One thing to truly appreciate about this zine is its accessibility: its reading level will provide a comfortable challenge for children but will also engage older readers. And while the stories are fantastical, they have substance and avoid sugarcoating reality. Take “The Piano that Swam” for example:
“My mother died. / My mother used to play the piano / My mother died, but father kept the piano.
I would sometimes catch father staring at the piano after her death. It was as if he was willing it to play like mother used to do every night after dinner while father did the washing up. He’d say, ‘It’s a pleasure to do the dirty work when accompanied by such beautiful music.'”
Intrigued? I was. Of course, there are also stories that follow the traditional formula of storytelling, like this one: “There once was a boy who owned a forest, one could even say he was the King of this forest, although no official title was actually given.”
So of the nine stories in issue 10 (two new stories and seven from previous issues), there is quite a diversity of topics to choose from. Elizabeth J.M.W., the zine’s wordsmith, approaches her stories with such elegant simplicity that returning to the mythical land of my youth was a welcomed expedition. (Amy Greenwood)
litzine, Elizabeth J.M.W., issue 10, $3.25,9638 Avery Lane, Windsor, ON, N8R 2A2, email@example.com; myspace.com/zine398