In the mid-1990s there were a number of books published on the “zine revolution,” many of which seemed more about cashing in on the new “trend” rather than exploring it in a worthwhile manner. While I read most of those books, I somehow managed to miss Duncombe’s book, which is a shame, because it is without a doubt the best of the bunch and the only book on zines I would actually recommend to people.
Duncombe relies heavily on actual zines for his content, dividing the book into chapters that cover the various types of zines that can be found in the zine underground, while admitting that such attempts at classification are always imperfect given the variety of zines. He mixes the right amount of quotes from actual zines with political/social analysis without relying too heavily on one or the other.
Duncombe is at once both optimistic about the oppositional and radical nature of zines, as well as realistic about their limited scope and their prospects for achieving influence outside of their underground scene. His analysis of the politics of alternative culture and the inclusion of various sociological theories works quite well–the book retains the sense of passionate opposition that makes zines so great while putting them into a larger context without taking the excitement out of them.
Stephen Duncombe, Notes From Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture, (Verso, 1997).