A Review Asks Only Whether One Can Live With It Or Die Of It

I've been reviewing small press publications on www.bugpowder.com for a few years now. Totemic small presser Andy Luke recruited me; he'd been impressed with my essay, Closing Shots From A Grassy Knoll, and was convinced that I could restore some cheer to the reviews section.

Ostensibly a scoff-mixture, Closing Shots From A Grassy Knoll discusses the pathogenic presence in UK small press of comics creators eager to produce work sterilized by an ambition to be adaptable to the strictures of an intrusive company bent on 'product development', and who derive a vanity-buzz of satisfaction from tucking themselves into deadlines and knocked-off scripts. "This budding hack is fuelled by little more than the desperation for a sense of celebrity," I wrote, "and must be destroyed."

My muscular reviewing-style grated with small press enthusiasts' indulgence in self-satisfied congeniality and writer/artist shape-throwing, but I refused to conveniently dismiss creators with throwaway compliments, employing instead a reviewing discipline based on four simple tenets: 1, perspective is to be achieved; 2, the standards by which one is judging the work are to be made clear; 3, credit is to be given where it is due; and 4, one should not be such a fucking misanthrope, you above-being-human narcissist.

Regularly achieving three of the four principles with my aesthetic evaluations, and quickly developing an obsessive-compulsive urgency for production of symmetrically paragraphed reviews, the meaningless absurdity of opinionative writing soon revealed itself to me. I was not deterred.

John Robbins

Little Jimmy's Day In London

Posted on October 9, 2003

Styled on a children's book for 4-6 year olds, but with nods of misjudged humour in the direction of a crossover adult market, 'Little Jimmy's Day In London' (400 words approx.) may satisfy neither the young nor the old. With politicians described as men who wear suits and lie a lot, and beer and turps associated with the homeless, its fatal flaw is the inability of the author to recognise that in the context of a book for children, socio-political opinion (especially when inappropriately sour) should exist as subtext for adult deciphering, rather than as a surface reading for children. The shaded, pencil drawings are nice, though, and the A6 landscape presentation neat and polished. Creator Adam Davison just needs desperately to eliminate confusion by re-adjusting his focus on a target audience.

24 A5 pages, £1 - available from www.smallzone.co.uk