Zine-y, messy, fantastically provocative

by Kitty Drake in June 2021
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Art & design Literature

One of the most electric publications to launch in recent years, Worms is a zine-y, messy, fantastically provocative magazine about books and the women who love them. The tone is personal and informal, and the subject matter is sometimes delightfully filthy. One interview with the founders of literary duo Smutberger, for example, details a plan to produce a “dirty little book that we mail out in brown paper bags… for masturbatory purposes”.

One central focus of this issue — number three — is ‘biomythography’ — a term coined by Audre Lorde to describe a hybrid of myth, history, and biography. A number of pieces explore pain and suffering in memoir, and how the memoirist exploits the more difficult parts of her life for dramatic effect. Examining this issue from a feminist perspective is illuminating, as pain — when experienced by women — is a kind of literary fetish. The legendary queer author and poet Michelle Tea is interviewed in the latest issue, and she speaks about the ways women are punished for hitting the self-destruct button, whereas men who endanger themselves are valorized: “Men can walk towards physical danger. They’re encouraged to, in sports or by joining the military. If a woman walks towards something that is physically dangerous then it’s like, “You deserve whatever happens to you”.

The ideas inside Worms are challenging, and not always neatly expressed. Interviews are rambling and conversational in tone, and the design is deliberately haphazard and largely black-and-white. To me, this is precisely what makes the magazine such essential reading: flicking through, you get the feeling of being part of a community of readers, exchanging live ideas, rather than neat soundbites.


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