Martha Grover has been publishing her zine Somnambulist since 2003. The first collection of this zine, One More for the People came out on Tuesday from Perfect Day Publishing, a small press based out of Portland, OR. Unlike other zine collections, One More for the People is not a linear anthologizing of Somnambulist, but instead a selection of writing from the zine along with some new work, allowing the book to stand alone in its own right.
Grover’s writing doesn’t just document, it shifts stylistically depending on the subjects she is writing about, displaying her immense talent as a nonfiction writer. For example, when Grover recounts her childhood growing up with six other siblings and vaguely irresponsible parents on a property outside of Portland, she effectively captures the suffocation of so many people, the ways in which we escape, and the strange bonds of family. In the section about her diagnoses with Cushing’s disease, a rare hormonal disorder, the prose is stark, tough, and somewhat lonely. There is a notable absence of people other than Grover and medical providers, capturing the loneliness of chronic illness, even when one comes from an immediate family of nine.
Having to move back in with her parents and four other (now adult) siblings, the section “The Grover Family Meeting Minutes” is a hilarious transcription of the weekly house meetings her family had, paralleling the bustling section about her childhood, and the oddities of family. When Grover goes to grad school in the next section, she is again alone, her disease her company, with medical implements, side effects, and drug studies part of everyday life. One More for the People ends with a section called “Personals” that effectively captures the peanut gallery of humanity and how all we really want is to be loved and appreciated for the individual we are.
Each section of the book could stand alone as its own zine, with its own internal structure , however there is a subtle story arc to the way the pieces are put together, shifting from an overpopulated childhood, to the need to be alone, to the times we don’t choose to be alone, and for the need to be recognized as a unique individual in world of billions.
One More for the People is a beautiful, substantial book, both in content and design. With letterpressed covers and thick paperstock there is an attention to detail that comes from being born out of the DIY/ zine community with its nostalgia for the tactile act of packaging words.
I asked Martha a few questions about her book, her zine, and how to keep reading her work.
Which issue of your zine is the first one that deals with you finding out about your diagnoses of Cushing’s? Did this change what your zine was “about”?
I’m thinking issue 12 or 13 was when I started writing about Cushing’s. I never devoted a zine to the disease though—not in a direct way. I used my blog more for that—to give people a current take on what was happening with me. But the illness was always there in my zine, under the surface, bubbling up from time to time. I wouldn’t say that it changed what my zine was about—Somnambulist has always been about what’s going on in my life, or what I happen to be interested in, at any given moment. What’s weird is that if you go back and read some old issues—before I knew I was sick, issue 9 in particular—it’s eerie because I was dealing with all these health problems and writing about them, but I didn’t know how sick I really was. Now that’s spooky!!
Does it feel different to have a “book” out, even though you have been publishing your zine for so long?
It does feel different to have the book out—this is a medium that people take more seriously. I think the zine has been great practice for the book. I’m used to having my stuff out there where people can read it but now the difference is that more people are reading it and I don’t have to constantly explain what a zine is!
What was the selection process for the pieces in the book?
Once Michael [Heald, Perfect Day publisher] and I decided on the basic structure we went through the material (there was a ton of it!) and decided what fit and what didn’t. There was some stuff that could have made it into the book but didn’t, mostly because it didn’t fit stylistically or whatever. I think Michael was ingenious in placing the pieces in order—like a curator. He’s very good at his job.
Are you still writing your zine, and if so, how can people subscribe?
I am still writing my zine! I am just now finishing up number 18. You can subscribe by sending me $15 (this covers four issues): Martha Grover, PO Box 14871, Portland OR 97293, or going to my blog and paying me fifteen dollars throughout the paypal button (email@example.com) Either way just make sure you give me your current address.