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Two Zines by Katie Haegele

Reviewed by Chris Auman

White Elephants by Katie Haegele

White Elephants

On Yard Sales, Relationships, and Finding What Was Missing

Sweet, funny, wistful, slightly sad yet somehow optimistic—how do I describe Katie Haegele’s writing? Well, maybe Katie found a few better words herself, like the Portuguese word saudade or the Welsh hiraeth. Both seem to get at that feeling of nostalgic sadness that's hard to pin down. Katie wasn’t necessarily using these words to describe her own writing, only that she’s familiar with the feeling they represent. That’s what White Elephants is about, really. It's about regaining the past and reclaiming something that has been lost. It’s about buying a bit of saudade. Of course, there’s also something satisfying about finding a good bargain.

White Elephants covers four yard sale seasons in four sections. Throughout the book, Katie schools us on the differences, sometimes subtle, between yard sales and estate sales and their more churchy rummage sale cousins. Different clientele, different proprietors and sometimes very different vibes can be found at each. Katie gives vivid, humorous descriptions of the people she encounters and the stuff they're either buying or parting with.

White Elephants is about more than this, of course. Katie’s dad died when she was twenty-one and as a result of this tragic event she developed a friendship with her mother, a fellow yard sale devotee, that she might not have otherwise. White Elephants is also about relationships and community (Katie still lives in the town she grew up in, just down the street from the house she grew up in.) The last section, "Yard Sale Season Four," sees Katie embarking on a new relationship that might take her away from all of these things.

You can read White Elephants for tips on which sales might be best for finding used books or records, clothing or accessories. You won't be disappointed if you do, but read it for a story about loss, family and the comfort old things and you will be rewarded in kind by this well-written, heartfelt memoir. Now that's a bargain! [Microcosm Publishing]

Slip of the Tongue by Katie Haegele

Slip of the Tongue: Talking About Language

Katie Haegele is a freelance writer and a research assistant at a linguistics institute. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications (Utne Reader, Adbusters, Bitch, etc.) and her travel column “The Dubliner” even won an award from the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. She is also the creator of the long-running zine, The La-La Theory, which analyzes various linguistical (I want that to be a word) subjects. For someone so involved in language, words and the writing process, it was a shock to learn that she finds the act of writing so difficult. In the introduction to her recent book of collected writings, Slip of the Tongue, Katie states, "I don't find writing easy to do, not even a little. I don't even enjoy doing it most of the time." Writing is hard work, no doubt, but Haegele makes it seem so easy, or maybe I should say, her writing is so easy to read one would think the process to be effortless. Not the case, apparently.

This book is broken down into two sections. The first is a collection of essays; the second contains journalistic pieces. In the first section, Katie gives her thoughts on various subjects related to language, which includes selections such as "Who Gives a Fuck About an Oxford Coma," "On the Word Slut" and "The Prick with the Stick." Don't worry, these essays are not as bawdy as all that, but they are interesting. Section two features writings on the history of graffiti in Philadelphia, the origin of the word 'ye' (as in ye olde this or that) and the logic behind the La-la Theory which posits that human language was developed as an imitation of music.

In these short pieces, Katie reveals a lot about herself as she ponders these many things related to language. Words are loaded, they are powerful and they can have a huge effect on us. It's hard work turning thoughts into words and getting them down on paper. It's hard work, yes, but somebody's gotta do it and thankfully one of those somebodies is Katie Haegele. [Microcosm Publishing] [thelalatheory.com]

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