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The Third Biannual Mildly Informative Booklet Depicting Graphical Representations of General Occurrences and Observations by Sarah McNeil

 

Sarah McNeil is the kind of person you want to be friends with. She’s the kind of person who can reduce herself to a series of graphs and charts and remain witty, warm and endearing. She’s the kind of person who can execute what might be as a laboured concept with ease and empathy.

The third issue of General Occurrences is, for the most part, similar to the first two, but it isn’t necessarily derivative. The production is minimal, 40 pages of black lines on cream coloured paper (it makes for ideal public transport reading), but McNeil manages to turn the banal - details of her daily routine, her ambivalence towards coffee, a list of attributes she looks for in potential friends – into something candid and pithy, without embellishment or verbosity. It’s difficult to say why we should care whether the author will ever finish her quilt, but we do. It’s refreshing to read something that is simultaneously incredibly revealing and completely free of wordiness.

 

There’s an impulse to look for oneself in each of the graphs. I, for instance, share in McNeil’s habit of misspelling occurrence. There is something discernibly Wellingtonian in her pie chart of people she recognises in town, ‘Actors from Lord of the Rings, People from shops, People I met while drinking, People I am avoiding, 90s Childrens’ television presenters, don’t know where from’. This pursuit of the self attracts a kind of sheepishness when we look at works of fiction, we are coy about being attached to characters because they share our traits (see Mad Men’s Sal and Kenny), but here it seems almost encouraged. It seems twee to write it down (and we must make allowances for twee, this is a zine review after all), but we can’t help ourselves in agreeing that ‘nice food’, ‘nice people’, ‘nice art and music’ are all good things.

 

The zine lacks effacement and judgement. McNeil invites us to share in her shortcomings, her eccentricities, her daily routines. It’s like a first-impression gone well (albeit, she has crafted this impression) she is forthcoming, and she is charming, and we can’t help but find common ground with her.

 

Review by Simon Gennard


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