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Ghost Pine: All Stories True

Body: There are many ways to describe Jeff Miller's Ghost Pine, a collection containing 13 years of short pieces produced for Miller's zine of the same name and a host of others. Before anything else, it should be described as a zine, informed by this aesthetic, engaging with the production process, profiling the lives of translucent grass roots artists defined only by their ability to create. It seems important that it be described as honest, never straying from its motto of "All Stories True." The beauty that exists on street corners, coffee shops, highways and subways is continuously brought to life in Ghost Pine, oft ignored pockets gracefully illuminated. But content, process and intention aside, the one way this work must be described is through its narration. Many writers exist on the same plane as Miller, approach his everyday topics with similar zeal and passion. Few, if any, have the gift of his voice.

Reality is always the backdrop for Miller's ideas. He dictates the occurrences of his life in the tone of a well traveled observer, always at the centre of his work, the only way to tell an entirely true story. But he is rarely the main actor and never the subject. What is personally important to him becomes reflectively valuable in the eyes of the reader. A decade and a half of work may be condensed into a single volume, but Miller's topics remain consistent throughout. His family, his relationship with his grandparents and the insight they provide into his own concepts of aging and time. His community, be it the punk culture he belongs to or the hordes of fellow letter writers and zine makers he shares his work with. His cities, painted with detailed strokes, like the difference between the smoking and non-smoking sections of an Ottawa Denny's, or the notion that Montreal can only be understood from a bicycle. And his creation, his nights spent bent over photocopiers, his clear devotion to the process and the exhilaration it provides.

Importantly, what Miller is writing about is not himself. His life, his memories, they compromise only the frame of his work. His style is the same as any good story teller, drifting away from his words, allowing the reader to live every moment of the text themselves. His dialogue is never forced or idealized, his perspective never overbearing or insistent. He presents snapshots of his existence, unaltered in their simplicity but magnificently arranged. Ultimately, the truth of Ghost Pine's stories isn't solely what makes them significant. They resonate not only because they happened, but because they continue to, on the streets we all walk, with the nights we throw away and the lives we struggle to lead. (Alex Gurnham)

by Jeff Miller, $16.95, 225 pgs, Invisible Publishing,

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