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

The Secret Blue Book

Posted on September 29, 2005

Via a short essay the enduring power of the uniformed schoolgirl as fetishised erotic image is examined in A5 twenty-pager Some Notes Towards A Poetics Of Porn, part one of The Secret Blue Book trilogy. Image references are provided, and amongst the paragraphs devoted to the likes of The Belles Of St Trinians and TATU, emerges an intriguing observation: "An important element of girls' school mythos is that whilst first to fifth year girls are represented as innocent and inexperienced, a transgressive and taboo moment is implied as taking place between fifth and sixth years; girls become young women – experienced, glamorous, seductive and sophisticated. So where and when are such transformative moments of myth and legend deemed to take place?"

These hidden and deeply secret moments are made explicit in the 160-page, square-bound, part two of The Secret Blue Book trilogy. The Fifth Form At St Elmo's is an onanistic fantasy – part satire, part parody; or neither – set in an English girls' school, and featuring the borrowed characters of The Four Marys from Bunty. With fifth formers having already passed the watery blood, their dorm is gripped by sexual awakenings of a Charles Burns' Teen Plague-like contagion. Bedclothes are soon stained with cunt juice as one by one the girls use their prickly pears roughly and the caretaker's Negro boy's thirteen-inch column of pure lust becomes the object of their desire. Add to the wall-paste mix a horny headmistress's intimacy with a vodka bottle, a submissive chaplain's cross-dressing and a well-thumbed Tijuana Bible, and you've got lots of Mary fingers making Mary jelly up Mary cunts.

Porno Fun - this A6 Tijuana Bible and catalyst for much sexual abandon at St Elmo's - accounts for part three of The Secret Blue Book trilogy. A cartoon sex comic, it contains a hard-core Confessions Of glimpse into the life of an encyclopaedia salesman and continues the author's frank handling of the salacious. Working well in the context of its resonance with the exuberant prose of St Elmo's, this Eight-Pager either provides more gleefully dirty fun, or administers the final bludgeoning blow to libidos by a disdainful author reacting with invented reality to a fiction that already exists, and mindful of the notion that the erotic is the humanisation of the libido, pornography its trivialisation.

Available from www.bookartbookshop.com and www.homebakedbooks.co.uk