New Paltz musician & zine author Kate Larson

Panel from No Better than Apples. (Kate Larson)

We all have one great novel within us, or so the old truism contends. But if that is true, is it because all the sow’s ears of our pedestrian years will eventually add up to a tale worth telling, while presidents sign bills and quarterbacks make touchdowns; or is it because we are all irrepressible 24/7 storymaking machines? I prefer to think of storytelling not as something done by the great after the fact of their greatness – live first, tell later – but rather as our most basic mode of processing experience and making meaning. The narrative impulse seems to precede and structure experience, not simply to package it with a ribbon bow and a moral.

And maybe it is not a monolithic novel within you, after all – one big thing collected at the end – but something more like a zine or a blog, a steady tapping of your narrative and interpretive instincts. My own great novel, for example, is stalled on page zero and I can’t seem to resolve the hero’s struggle with non-existence. Meanwhile, I pile up words and thoughts by the thousands here and on social media.

New Paltz-based musician Kate Larson makes noise locally in the lovely and weird art-song quartet Klessa (on hiatus) and in the rambunctious indie pop band Go Ogres. A true champion of the local and the do-it-yourself, Larson is also well-known as an event promoter, a publisher and perhaps most of all as a master of the defiantly low-tech, micro artform known as the zine. In fact, in the micro world of the self-published zine, Larson’s reputation has gone somewhat macro – and justly so.

Her intensely personal zine, No Better than Apples, has been gathering a devastating narrative force in its last few issues. The most recent issue, Number Nine, is both hard to read and impossible to stop reading. Regarding the arts-of-self, it is too easy to assume that the intensity of the art hinges on the intensity of the experience that it documents. Surely the blossoming power of No Better than Apples has a lot to do with the enormity of the personal issues that Larson has been facing, but don’t mistake Larson’s work for the simple transcription and gilding of her reality. Don’t underestimate the vivid spirit of invention and her virtuosic command of this sui generis narrative form. This stuff is high experimental art, not Dear Diary.

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