Miscarriage. The Abortive Attempt. Nos. 13 (1977) – 14; 16 – 19; 20; 22 – 30; 30 (bis) – 36 (March 1978) (dated per the postal cancellation). [Title and subtitle vary.] Collection of 23 weekly issues (ca. 2-6 leaves each). Boston / Jamaica Plain, MA (10 Priesing Street) 1977-1978. (47328)
Like most cities in the United States, Boston can lay claim to a punk-era history all its own. The venerable Boston Groupie News, the Subway News, and later, Forced Exposure are among the better-known chronicles of such indigenous noise and youthful exuberance that flourished along the banks of the Charles River between the mid 1970s and the late 80s. Now we can add Miscarriage to the list of essential Boston underground fanzines.
Early in 1977, when punk had recently emerged as a global license for teenagers to misbehave, two young women from the city’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood called Loretta Baretta and Carmen Monoxide began to self-publish an anarchic nightlife report they called Miscarriage: The Abortive Attempt.
F.A. Bernett Books has recently acquired 23 issues of this remarkable but otherwise (as far as we can tell) undescribed serial, which chronicled the early New England punk scene from a female fan’s perspective. Though by no means complete, the set comprises a mind-blowing archive of sexual gossip, original artwork, fashion criticism, music reviews, band interviews, photographs and original comics from the primal years of punk rock nightlife in Boston, between 1977 and 1978.
With an unstoppable barrage of text spiraling across its pages in neatly lettered block script, every hand-collaged and photocopied issue of Miscarriage is a densely layered labor of love that requires its reader to rotate the page dozens of times to follow the snaking trail of Baretta and Monoxide’s nocturnal adventures.
When they weren’t out making the scene, Baretta (Penny Greenwald) and Monoxide (Carmen Wiseman) must have been hard at work on the next issue of the magazine. On a weekly basis the duo published adoring coverage of local artists including The Ann Prim Group, The Real Kids, The Infliktors, La Peste, Lou Miami, as well as international acts including The Viletones, Patti Smith, Half Japanese, Nick Lowe, Blondie and others.
They also commissioned graphic art (like the excellent “Kronichk” below) and poetry from their gang of friends around the city, threw wild parties, issued stock certificates in “Stillborn Productions,” and dreamed out loud on paper with more intensity and editorial commitment than virtually any other DIY publisher from the era.
Like its rough contemporary Sniffin’ Glue and Other Rock ‘n Roll Habits, the power of Miscarriage lies in its immediacy. This isn’t a glossy magazine ginned up by cynical adults to sell punk rock style to the suburban masses, nor does it pretend to be one. In all its glorious mess, the ‘zine is a near perfect example of untamed American youth culture in the 1970s. Miscarriage is both bruised and bruising. At its breathless and confessional best, it’s fiercely carnal, emotionally raw and very funny.
But unlike Sniffin’ Glue’s brutish adolescence and stoned obscenity, Miscarriage bristles with desire for connection and communication (note the extraordinary Anne Prim rabbit panels above, “sometimes the emptiness is just heartbreaking.”) A regular feature on the front page of every issue revealed “The Sex Practices of the Stars,” while the comic strip “Justa Jane” followed its heroine’s quest for love and lust through the bowels of the Rat, Cantone’s and other Boston clubs.
Handwritten notes in felt tip marker, stickers, and other additions to the Xerox copies show just how close Carmen and Loretta were to their readers, who couldn’t have numbered more than a few hundred, if we were to guess.
With any luck some of them will find their way to this blog post, and tell us more about our fearless protagonists’ punk rock heyday. Any of you old Boston punks see your names on the roster below?
If you actually have copies of Miscarriage (particularly the early issues, nos. 1-12) you’d like to sell, or if you’d like to find out more about our collection, please get in touch. Or better yet, stop by our booth (no. 523) at the 36th Annual Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair, November 16-18, 2012 at the Hynes Convention Center, and have a look at Miscarriage and the other underground magazines and artists’ books we’ve decided to feature in this year’s show catalog.
And Loretta, Carmen – if you’re out there reading this, thanks for putting it all down on paper. Looks like 1977-78 was a banner year for the Miscarriage misses of Jamaica Plain.
Well done, ladies.