The Dirt Palace: Life and Death

Review by Lizzie Lanyard:

I chose this zine for its beautiful exterior:  an illustrated six-pointed star overlaid by a blossoming thistle flower, embossed on a leather cover. Product of an all-female group that explores the cutting edges of the feminist movement, it is an avant-garde, multimedia, aggressively feminist publication celebrating the 10-year anniversary of its organization, The Dirt Palace (see http://dirtpalace.org/), with collected works on the theme of life and death.  Yet its exterior belies the fetishized madness and ugliness that lies within. The zine best speaks for itself, however; a story begins with, “Later, finally, last, we lived in the country. An inheritance was involved. Louise wore old shirts with the sleeves ripped out…” and the tone slowly darkens to “I wanted to keep rabbits. I imagined cutting, with an impeccably sharp blade, the throat of a downy bunny,” and culminates in, “If we style ourselves as killers we appropriate death’s horror for our own fortification; we eat its strength, like a cannibal who eats the heart of his enemy” which reads to me as the naïve and unkind ruminations of a child, imagining its ego to be the only ego. The zine appropriates the language of life and death, as if it possessed the enormity of death by embracing it.

I find the writing to be successful in the way that it masterfully negotiates its undercurrent-turned-riptide of rage; I find the tossed-off illustrations to be successful in communicating their themes of putrefaction and psychotic self-absorption; I even find the included mix-tape to be successful in evoking sticky slaughterhouse floors (I was reminded, honestly, of the House of Shock in the Warehouse District—I recommend, but don’t go alone). Because, while it was not my favorite, it does fascinate me, and I have been picking it up and putting it down, starting this blog and scratching out my words, asking around for the opinions of friends and family (including, yes, my grandmother) for days, trying to trace the causality of its mounting casualties.

Review by Tori MacManus:

The Dirt Palace seems to focus on issues a young woman might deal with, such as responsibility with children, personal image, drugs, and sex, presented in a somewhat odd manner. There are different styles of articles, including an “Ask Aunt Reba” section, several short stories, excerpts from longer stories, poems, and illustrations.

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