By Shelley Lynn Jackson
40 pg. at 1/3 legal size (I think)
$3 from Pioneers Press
This zine does an interesting bait and switch, but what you get is perhaps more, rather than less, than what you expect. Chainbreaker is usually a zine about bikes, but in this issue, Jackson writes about the loss, in rapid succession, of several friends and relatives. She writes about telling someone, “As long as no more friends of mine die this year I feel like I might be okay,” checking her voicemail, and getting the news that another pal is gone.
The cliché that god, or the world, or what have you, only dishes out as much pain as you can handle is an especially stupid and damaging one, I think. Of course, what happens will, and it’s okay if it rips you up, breaks you, changes you permanently. Living through a string of deaths in such close succession, Jackson casts around for meaning and for connections among seemingly unrelated events, and she finds them. Although this zine is full of pain and not easy to read, Jackson’s writing is calm, insightful, and full of love for her friends, both the ones that are gone and the ones that were left behind.
She writes eloquently about how her view of death has been shaped by living in New Orleans, a city recently and many times over marked by tragedy, “the land where people die”, but also a place with a culture of joyful communal celebration of the lives of the departed. She finds that:
"We learn from death. We learn about our loved ones through our search for clues to understand why they are gone. Honoring their memory can uncover hidden reasons that those people existed in our lives. We can take these gifts and decorate our lives with them. We can honor their life and death by honoring our lives."
This zine has a beautiful letterpressed cover, showing a merry, dancing skeleton. Chainbreaker #5 is a lovely artifact and a wonderful tribute to Jackson’s friends and family (and to her own eloquence and fortitude). Ultimately, I think that when you ask yourself what it means that so many wonderful people are gone from your life, you can only answer that it means you’re living well, you’re doing it right, you’ve let yourself care about many fine people and them about you. And, as Jackson finds, losing people heightens your awareness of the strong, beautiful, irreplaceable ones who are still in your life.
- Lily Pepper