Review: Proof I Exist

Proof I Exist #40
Perzine, Billy McCall, 23 pgs,, $2

Billy McCall is a celebrated, prolific zinester who has both judged and won some of Broken Pencil’s annual awards. The unassuming bio blurb on his website — “middle-aged white dude living in Albuquerque” — belies his voluminous resume as a zinester, not to mention as a singer, graffiti photographer and board game manufacturer.

I’m bowled over by his fecundity. Intimidated, really. I’m not sure why. I am not trying to make a board game.

This sense of awe is my essential reaction to reading Proof I Exist #40, along with pure enjoyment of the material. The author’s prose is engaging, covering an eclectic array of topics without seeming scattered. Honest and reflective, McCall provides anecdotes that are both workaday and philosophical, in a voice that adds to their relatability. He talks about “writ[ing] without fear,” resolutions vs. goals, learning to listen, shame about the past and the fading line between artifice and reality. It’s a darned good little read.

The zine calls to mind the capitalist question of our times: how does one continually produce quality content? I suppose it helps being old enough to have amassed countless tales. But it’s more than that: to be this creative, you have to be consistently taking in information from a myriad of sources. McCall’s implicit curiosity about life is what makes his written musings feel like you’re engaging with them instead of reading a navel-gazing old LiveJournal account.

McCall acknowledges the challenge of releasing control of your art and letting people judge it as they will. It’s a balm to read that even this heavyweight struggles with doing that. The last couple pages of this issue are his admission to feeling the alienation that we all feel these days, as well as an entreaty to be there for others. McCall is doing a lot with his existence beyond proving it, and we’re lucky to reap the rewards for only two bucks.