Zine Reviews : June 2000
Duplex Planet #156
Reviewed 6/25/00 by JPB
have been one hundred and fifty-six issues of The Duplex Planet. Wow.
It's going to take a whole paragraph to let the reality of that impressive
feat settle in.
Anyway. In case you haven't been fortunate enough to cross paths with
of the one hundred and fifty-six issues of this zine that are floating
around out there, let me fill you in. Editor David Greenberger visits
nursing homes and adult centers in Portland, OR, and has conversations
with the residents: Duplex Planet documents these conversations, and
for about twenty years (more?) now. There was a period where a number
underground cartoonists tried their hand at illustrating the results
Clowes perhaps most successfully), and somewhere along the line a
Planet book came out, but through it all Mr. Greenberg has just continued
his visits and conversations.
The results, as you might expect, are often remarkable. If I remember
correctly, Duplex Planet used to have a little more of an edge to
it - Mr.
Greenberger would ask questions like "Is there life on other
planets?" and the resultant answers would be pretty weird and
off-beat: they would come close to the
realm of "outsider art." But it's grown increasingly apparent
that Mr. Greenberger isn't interested in ironizing the elderly - that
he's interested in them less because their answers are "weird"
or "freaky" and more because he's genuinely interested
in their perceptions.
recent issues the warmth (love?) that he has towards the people he
interviews comes through more and more clearly. In this issue he mainly
just lets the interviewees tell their stories: they shape the direction
that the telling will take; for the most part he contributes encouraging
prompts and stays otherwise out of the way. (In Cornelia Richardson's
piece, he remains entirely silent.)
skeptic might think that this approach would result in a high percentage
of boring Abe-Simpson-type rambles ("I tied an onion on my belt
- as was
the style at the time"), but the results are consistently interesting.
all our recent concessions to diversity, our national cultural discourse
still dominated by the voices of middle-aged (or younger) well-connected
men: Duplex Planet is interesting simply because it provides a forum
for voices located far outside of that sphere. They're the voices
that largely haven't been heard before, and so the stories that they
tell contribute towards an alternate understanding of the American
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