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Pearl: A Contemporary Foible—Zine (1996)

Hand-Illustrated Zine

(Writer • Illustrator)




The title of the story is significant on many levels. It is a play on words in that Pearl is not only the character’s name, but also a precious and desirable object of value. An oyster creates a pearl from an irritation, beginning as a grain of sand, which is smoothed over with many layers. One can also discover a pearl of wisdom–similar to folklore or fable–stories traditionally intended to teach moralistic or cautionary ideas about the world. I have purposely chosen the word foible instead of fable, to indicate the existence of a persistent and nagging fault like the grain of sand, and juxtaposed it with the word contemporary to signify that the problem is a current cultural issue. Also, through consonance, foible is similar to the word bauble, which is a small gem or trinket like a pearl. With the inclusion of the doll and the violent means with which Pearl attempts to deny any association with it, the story is intended to recall notions of childlike understanding incongruous with adult experience. Pearl appears on the cover with a pearl in her mouth, which might indicate that she knows the information contained in the story, and that she is attempting to communicate it in some way. However, when she gives up at the end without discovering any real transformation, she is clearly unable to realize any meaning through her own journey. 
PEARL: A CONTEMPORARY FOIBLE is a comment on the cultural myth of the journey. In the postmodern landscape this myth is a fallacy: we are taught to believe that we can all attain perfection, but our notion of perfection is skewed by desires created in the marketplace. Pearl begins her journey wandering in the desert, situating her within Baudrillard’s “desert of the (hyper)real,” which soon leads her through a series of spaces that are quite small, closed, and personal. Literally translated, Pearl tries drugs, drinking, sex, and changing her appearance during the journey. She encounters the doll and tries to destroy it, but cannot escape. Figuratively, Pearl experiences a series of choices, and symbols such as the snake heads, the doll, the billboard, and the television, are coded in such a way that it is apparent that these choices are negative, unfulfilling, and severely limited. Overall, my intention was to structure the story to create a sense of anxiety and loss. The fable becomes an allegory to expose the letdown of capitalist culture. The momentum builds then deposits the reader in front of the television. What else can Pearl do other than accept the fact that the doll exists and attempt some sort of reconciliation? This is necessarily incomplete–for Pearl to truly accept what she already knows would be a fate worse than watching nothing but distorted versions of herself on television, because she cannot escape the society which subjects her. There is nowhere else to go. The cultural myths laid out before us promise the fairy tale, but the reality of existence is totally different.



E X H I B I T I O N   R E C O R D


2008 Multnomah County Library Portland, OR –Selection, Zine Collection
Registered with The Writers Guild of America (WGA)






g e n r e / c a t e g o r y :  Zine

w r i t t e n   a n d   i l l u s t r a t e d   b y :  Kelly Wittenberg

l e n g t h :  20 pages


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