Trabant No. 5
A zine covering several years in and out of circus school battling gravity, health and self doubt and kicking butt.
I got mine: as recommended reading from a friend. On a post-it note on the front of this zine he scribbled, “The writer’s a little hippi woo, but the circus”
You can get yours: Well, the email is still active [megan (at) somethingsbegun.com] but the zine is now out of print. I know, right. What’s the point of reviewing an email two years old that nobody is likely to get their hands on. I need to reassess my life choices. The zinemaker hasn’t done any other zines since this one, either, but never say never.
Rookie mistake: It’s quite funny, I thought this zine was called Rabant. It wasn’t until I tried to google it that I realised this zine name had a T in front. As in German car, as in satellite. So don’t be fooled by the cover art.
Initially dubious: I start the zine and it’s all about a day in the life of circus school, cool, but my interest immediately wanes reading how the zinemaker washes her hair at 7.10am with baking soda and rinses with vinegar. And how she’s making eggs topped with local salsa and store made guacamole (my care factor has dropped another two points) and how she’s whizzing protein shakes (care factor now close to zero). For a second I wonder if this is going to be one of those zines that meticulously document every meal the zinemaker has. I remember a David Roche zine like this about every felafel ball he ate in Australia. And I swear sometimes Giz’s zines can be entirely devoted to chronicling fregan meals retrieved from dumpsters and what dandelion leaf he ate on what day of the week in what European city. Even on the telephone to my mum I’m not that interested in hearing what she had for dinner. Is this going to be a food-porn zine about eggs fried in bacon fat in cast iron skillets, hand grinding coffee beans and adding half tea spoons of spirulina to shakes? Well,the zine does involve a beef stew recipe, but it’s okay. Keep reading.
How Does It Work: You know, this zine is super ambitious. It covers three genuinely epic years of the zinemaker’s life and it can move in and out of different time frames in the writing, but damn, it’s done with so much craftmanship that at no point was I confused or having to backtrack. In addition the zine hones into each year, which have their own sections. The structure works perfectly.
Aesthetics: You can’t go wrong with a touch of handwriting, plain arial generic font and some stuck down photos. And of course a dash of manual typewriter to break it up a bit. The whole layout is nice, simple, and easy on the eye. I was kind of expecting more line illustrations to appear within the zine, to kind of connect the cover to the contents, but it’s not the case, so you could argue the cover is a bit disconnected. Across the body of writing some pages have little ‘break out’ grey rounded boxes of self contained reflections with their own little headings which also introduces new fonts.
Maybe that’s introducing one style element too many – maybe the break-out text boxes could have just been done in handwriting – but this is me also just me overthinking it. Summary: Great, clear layout dealing with massive amounts of text, while still feeling personal.
Precarious: When your whole life’s purpose and mission is CIRCUS and getting up in the morning to down those protein shakes and manipulate your body to do cool stuff and…your body breaks down.
Yep, it’s largely a zine about chronic illness, I guess, but it’s unfair to categorise it as such because the scope feels so much broader. The writing is pragmatic, non hysterical. There’s evident sadness and frustration but never in a wallowing ‘poor me’ spectacle. The zinemaker describes a ‘lost’ year and what’s most apparent to me is the sheer determination to recover.
You read in this zine about the utterly consuming dedication to circus training and how, deprived of health, the zinemaker has been robbed; and as the reader? you feel that investment, that absolute commitment. And things do gradually reassemble: Yoga, running, a girlfriend, easing back into recreational circus classes, then the joy of returning to circus full time.
You’re excited but you share all the zinemaker’s trepidations: can she recover her fitness? Will the sheer intensity grind her fragile health back down? will she reclaim her passion and thrive or will there be some horrible disaster to break her spirit? Damnit just the sense of pressure to succeed had me holding my breath as I turned each page. Circus is hardcore – and it could apply to any kind of discipline that requires athleticism and performance elements.
Resilience: More than about illness this is about recovery, management and truces. There’s no brilliant happy ever after resolution to the zinemaker’s story, but just the hardness of circus life. A life where one is most successful as a performer at honing their attention, learning and listening to their body – but without obsessing over it. You don’t blindly buy into alternative medicine anymore but you’re also no longer affected by the hopeless sense of despondency western medicine can make you feel.
The hippi woo factor: You know what, it’s pretty low on the hippi woo levels. The spiralina word count starts and pretty much stays at a single mention. In fact it’s a happy middle ground the zinemaker arrives at between unorthodox tricks and supplements (hot and cold showers to shake up your body toxins, taking glutamine) and following prescriptive medicine. And there’s a sense of acceptance that while western medicine isn’t perfect, it is based on science, and sometimes science is the only thing you have left to surrender to when you’ve been willing to try anything and everything from the sales bin of the food coop store. (results may vary). The only other option is the reality of uncertain diagnoses by specialists who don’t know what exactly is wrong with you, but are okay in saying that to your face, and sometimes, uncertainty is the only certainty you have.
Suspense: Yes, there’s a return to circus school and there are the worst possible scenarios: injuries, scans, tears, depression. And yet, also: doggedness, determination, creativity, experimentation, pride, artistry, performance. Honestly, the drama and anticipation in this zine pisses all over dance movies and the best soaps because fuck it, it’s all so real and so effectively written.
You will enjoy: If you can get a copy, read it. You don’t need to be an athelete or performer to fall into the all-consuming world of this zine. You don’t need to ‘get’ chronic illness to care about what happens next and you don’t need to be into food porn. This is just, hands down, an amazing read. It’s honest, courageous, open, grounded and insightful.