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Reading Frenzy: An interview with Chloe Eudaly

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"Survey says, most customers veer to the right when they enter a store. So, if you’re a normal human being the first thing you’ll see is the politics and current events section.”

My tour of Reading Frenzy, Portland’s independent press emporium, has just started when Chloe, proprietress and guide, stops herself. “I was trying to decide if I wanted to give you a tour as is or pretend it was different.” Chloe moves things around a lot, maybe because they change meaning depending on what they’re next to, or nothing ever seems to have it’s perfect place. But it’s not just neurotic, it’s marketing. You’re bound to come across a magazine you’ve never looked at before, maybe a whole section you’ve ignored as you look for a favorite that’s moved. Smart, we decide not to pretend.

“Right next door to politics is smut and it’s smuts for all persuasions. Maybe a little friendlier than most adult sections. More silly than hardcore.”

To the left there’s the first book rack: “Our favorite sell-out section-zine publishers who signed book deals with major presses. I still think their books are good even though they’re not independently produced. So I ghettoize them in this section.”

Next to the sellouts we’ve got conspiracy theories and books with gory covers that fall under the headings true crime and extreme culture. “My least favorite section” Chloe says.

“So why bother?”
“I probably shouldn’t say that, huh?”

Chloe’s got a responsibility to live up to. “The primary purpose of Ready Frenzy is to provide a venue for the independent/alternative press. I end up carrying things that I don’t necessarily personally appreciate, I do understand the importance of this realm and to a certain degree I cater to the demands of my clientele. If they came in here demanding Spin or the Oregonian I’d tell them to go down the street. I’m just a little down on serial killers and rapists right now. It’s not my bag.”
We move on. “There’s the anarchists and anti-authoritarian section. Our Noam Chomsky selection. Poetry and literary stuff, philosophy and theory. This and that.”

Though publishers, magazines and book titles appear and disappear, launch and fold, there are enough of them that have been around for enough time for an independent press emporium to have a regular lineup of authors, titles and genres, that’s another reason to keep moving things around. To avoid calcification. Avoid pigeonholing.

We’ve arrived at Japanese stationary land, the pint of purchase impulse buys. “It’s sadly the best selling thing in the store.” I offer consolation by pointing out that correspondence is small press too. Ok, next.

“Architecture, art, design, grafitti. The tattoo magazines. And film. Almost all psychotronic and B-movies. Then music: Mostly indie rock but also rap, jazz, blues, country, and punk rock.”
We get to the zine section. “Reading Frenzy has developed a reputation as a zine shop. I guess that’s because we’re one of the few stores that give them any play at all. They make up less than one quarter of the inventory. I have a policy of taking any local zine, periodical or book on consignment. If it sells I keep stocking it. If not the publisher takes it back. I like providing that service. I think of this section as an information trading post.” There are also zines Chloe hand picks from all over. There’s a girl section, queer section. Some slicker zines, and a locals section though locals are mixed throughout.

Having grazed the pamphlet section, we’ve navigated the store’s perimeter and we turn to face the island of comics. Comics for mature readers. “They’re probably about 250 underground, alternative and self-published comics in this section. It’s the best selling section and it’s almost all adults who buy them. One section that’s disappeared from the store is the kid’s section. Independent publishers haven’t come up with material that will appeal to kids.

The store opened three and a half years ago and has changed as Chloe’s gone through the process of making sense of something when there’s no reference point for what it’s supposed to be. “Originally I had about 400 independent magazines and zines and a guilty pleasures section with about 30 mainstream magazines that I liked. I thought I would need to have something familiar on the racks for people to connect with when they walked in the store, but nobody bought them. I dropped them within a month.”

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