Damn. Remember Burn Collector? Remember Al Burian? Not that either of these things is forgetable, but Al seems to have taken a few years of from the zine making business and kind of fell off my radar.
Reading BC feels like such a singularly Chicago thing to do. Most of what Al writes about takes place there and I first found out about it when I was hold up in my absolutely frigid shit hole apartment, in the throws of writing school, getting bored with most of the required texts. BC offered a kind of refuge, a metered and comfortable voice talking about the places and people I was starting to familiarize myself with.
Reading this time around I was trying to figure out why Al Burian’s style is so damn compelling. It’s not crafted masterfully or anything. It’s not like there’s a ton of lush imagery or drastic conflict arcs. On paper it just appears to be a collection of loosely connected observations on life.
But I think that’s precisely why it’s so compelling. There’s a comic panel in the new BC where Burian’s hastily scribbled version of himself proclaims, “Best to keep it simple… to the point… that’s the only way I’ll be able to have a hope of capturing the chaotic maelstrom of my existence even fractionally…” The fact that it’s not literary makes it appealing. It’s a clear, uncynical voice, not critiquing something disposable like a new album or movie, but critiquing every day life.
One quote in the book I must take issue with:
(Regarding the cold in Chicago and how it strengthens you) “It sucks, but at times there is a euphoric shock to that knowledge, the only we know what we’re feeling feeling that makes you suddenly love everyone around you with an intensity of unified righteousness that they just don’t have in Florida. In Illinois, it takes effort to find the good, and that makes it all the more remarkable when it’s there.”
I’ve lived in both places and the hellish cold that occurs there did nothing to instill that kind of camaraderie in myself or anyone else I knew in that town. It just made you want to curl up in your bed and wait for May. I’d argue that Florida has some of the most beautiful, driven and creative people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know personally. And if it takes effort to find the good in Illinois then it takes a goddamn journey to the center of the Earth to find it in Orlando, and if you do find it you feel like you’ve stumbled upon the treasure of the Sierra Madre.
But I’m sure you didn’t mean it like that, Al. I still like your stuff.
(regarding bike messangers) “These people are like vegetarian hell’s angels, displaying similarly brazen, hard-headed pride in their chaotic, dangerous mode of living – and they’ve got to be proud of themselves, because no one else is on their side.”
Also, he skillfully picks apart an essay written by Dan Clowes in 1998. Impressive.