The Urban Hermit is a zine written by the eponymous author, whose real name is Sarah O'Donnel. The late 1990s saw an explostion of personal zine writing, and while many of them are interesting in giving voices to the previously voiceless, not all of them are known for their literary execution. The Urban Hermit is a nice exception to this.
The material treated in this zine is much like the material of other zines, and for that matter is probably stuff that most young people are familiar with: sex, politics, travelling around, angst and the like. Although she bills herself as a "Hermit", she ends up interacting with many people, and pages of the zine can be taken up discussing their foibles. While the Hermit is bisexual and a vegan, and generally a counter-culture type person all around, she doesn't indulge herself in angry political ranting, or getting involved in in-fighting among the different factions of The Left. If anything, she treats the pretensions of leftists and counterculturalists in a down to earth, if somewhat sardonic way. And although she is more then willing to discuss what goes on in her mind, she never becomes self-involved, and she describes her adventures, whether they be in her home in the Pacific Northwest, or in Hawaii or Australia, in detail that lets you know she has her eyes open.
The writing is something else, and as opposed to the minimalistic (aka scrawled out in the margins of a junior high diary) fashion of other personal zines, is rather stylized, although not at all artificial. The technique she uses is to take a phrase used to describe something ridiculous, and to repeat the phrase over and over again through the pages of that particular issue of the zine. For example, in one of her zines, she used the phrase "make their own hummus lesbians", and variations on it, consistently throughtout her zine. In any one issue, she may use dozens of coined phrases such as this. Her phrases are so funny because, while they seem long and complicated, they often seem to be dead on descriptions that allow you to really imagine who she is talking about.
Unlike many other zines, she doesn't use much clip art or drawings, and instead focuses almost exclusively on text.
She also often goes on tour to promote her book through readings. If her phrases and odd textual rhythm seem distinctive on the page, they really come alive when she reads them aloud. She imitates the voices and patterns of the different characters on stage very convincingly, and also is an accomplished freestyler.
The back issues of the Urban Hermit zine, along with a full length, bound book entitled The Flow Chronicles are available from Microcosm Publishing.