Ottawa Zine Off! Zines #6: Lily Pepper The Overland Route

Lily Pepper Ottawa zines Greyhound

The Overland Route A.K.A. Greyhound (not actually sure what to call this one?)
Lily Pepper, 15 pages

“I transferred to another bus in Atlanta around midnight, and rode through Alabama in the dark, fading in and out. I felt very far from home, I was somewhere different from what I know. Things took on magic realist qualities, and I remember this leg of the trip in vague, allegorical terms. Did I really see one of the many shacks we passed ablaze, with old men in overalls standing around placidly watching it burn?”

I’ve read a fair amount of Lily’s writing on her highly recommended zine reviews tumblr, but had no real idea what to expect from her personal writing (this is, I believe, her second zine). While it may be, as she says on her tumblr, “written in haste and edited not enough,” this tiny zine is also proof that Pepper is a gifted storyteller.

A travelogue detailing a 10 000km two week Greyhound trip using a Golden Ticket-esque Voyage of Discovery Pass that allowed her unlimited travel through the United States, Pepper’s zine is rich with unique experiences and vivid details. I’ll lay down a warning here that this is one of those zines that may well make you look upon the over-familiar square that is your backyard and see only your own sedentary cemetery plot; in here are days spent “dreaming wildly” in New Orleans, “an ill-fated romance with a frontiersman who made me a wallet out of a deer he killed and tanned” in Nashville, being so feverish she doesn’t notice having almost bussed into world murder capital Ciudad Juárez.

There’s no sense of self-indulgent “adventure porn” in Pepper’s writing. She’s frank about spending much of the trip sick and miserable, thrumming along on a “giddy nihilism of sleep deprivation, junk food, and truck-stop coffee.” But in the nowhere of moving, in America’s dissociative vastness,  she is a lidless eye intensely stimulated by that superficial strangeness of new places:

“I read a lot about American history, especially histories of colonization and resistance. But you have to see this stuff first hand, you have to see the scared and pimply teenager in army fatigues holding an automatic weapon in Penn Station under a video screen urging people to Say Something if they See Something, showing white people calling the cops on nervous brown guys. […] I was travelworn and heartbroken and probably a little unhinged, but I felt like I was onto something with this fever dream of America, the banana republic that frustrates all efforts at irony or parody, its truth constantly exceeding the strangeness of fiction.”

While the Discovery Pass has been discontinued, Pepper notes at the end of the zine that bus trips across the States remain relatively cheap. Perhaps this zine will convince you to give it a try. Get in touch with Lily on her tumblr and she’ll be happy to send you one.

Also, if you’re following along with these Zine Off! roundup posts, be advised Lily finished hers already, so be sure to check those out.

JM’s JaM: The Vulgar Boatmen – Traveling

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