title: Silence Speak: Lam Pei’s Improvised Comic Vol. 1
creator: Lam Pei
date: February 2012 (4th edition print; 2008 original print run)
I’ve always liked bilingual books, where recipes or stories were printed in two different languages on opposing pages or right underneath one another. They make more sense to me, increasing accessibility and market. So I’m always looking for these type of mass market books and was surprised when I saw this self-published bilingual zine. It’s a personal comic zine by Lam Pei in both Traditional Chinese and English texts. Printed on recycled heavy stock, it has a nice weight and slightly textured feel in your hands. The English isn’t perfect, but it looks natural on the page. Design-wise, the confluence of the two texts side-by-side on the page is mostly harmonious with a complementary contrast.
What is interesting, and somewhat ironic, about the effort in communication of this zine, i.e., be accessible to a wider audience via its bilingualism, is that the base concept behind the booklet is what is normally not communicated. By that I mean the contents of this zine are like those in a personal diary or sketchbook: unattached thoughts, annotations and doodles not originally intended for public consumption but for personal notation and expression. Mind objects that normally have no form or structure outside of the author’s mind; internal and inarticulate thoughts and ideas that often don’t make sense to anyone but the one who thought it up. The author herself mentions how, in these pages, what is perfectly understandable to her may or may not be understood at all by someone else (but then again, that’s how anyone who writes a perzine feels, isn’t it?). In her own words, the zine communicates through “self-dialogues” and “whispers,” communication avenues that are esoteric in nature.
For the most part, the narratives, in the form of comics or single illustrations, are clear and effective with some sequences reflecting an almost dream-like and surreal aesthetic. Some of the stories are fantasy, whereas others are illustrations transliterating events, memories, or thoughts. Each one of them is short and brief, but meaningful. All are independent of one another. The art style (although a little more scribbly than Nara’s) somewhat reminded me of Yoshitomo Nara, innocent but deviant at the same time. It has an unpolished look that lends the pages charm and sincerity.
Overall, it was an enjoyable read. I liked the unstructured flow within the comics, which easily bled one panel into another by having minimal boundaries. I was also surprised by how relatable it was, even when it was obscure.
chewing: blueberry bagel