Learn English With Mr. Wood
Learn English With Mr. Wood is an A6, colour, cut and paste zine made from a language textbook and transformed into a story about Mr Wood and the increasing distress he feels living a life that he feels is falling apart.
It’s been a while since I wasn’t quite sure how to start a blog review, but that is definitely happening right now. Where to begin…
Learn English With Mr. Wood opens on the first page with the one and only Mr Wood: a hard worker who needs a rest, a man who feels he doesn’t have much time, and friend to a Belgian man who man know more than he is saying… With cut and paste words and pictures, we get glimpses into Mr. Wood’s life, relationships, and decreasing mental health. While we don’t get to see the ultimate outcome, we can guess where he ends up from the downward spiral we have seen.
The aesthetic of this zine stays pretty true to the 50s language textbook while also using the cut and paste style in a way that works well with the absurdity elements as well as the slightly uneasy descent into what may be any number of things… Paranoia… Madness. This zine did come with a little flyer of sorts that explained the origins of this zine and the hidden story.
I always get a little nervous when zines come with little bits and pieces that can fall out of or get separated from the zine itself. Will people get the same impact, meaning, and so on without that piece. That’s even more relevant here because the page really tells you what this zine is all about. I was expecting to read something amusing and yet sinister, but would I have expected it or reacted in the same way if I didn’t know the background of the zine?
However, I’m not against using some washi tape myself to make sure things stay secure.
I think this zine is hilarious.** Nefarious undertones in a book that helps you to learn English? I absolutely adore this idea. I don’t know if it’s my background in English, the concept of the zine, both, more… I found myself laughing out loud as I imagined an undercover policeman saying the code words, “There are no turkeys left.” (Yes, that is a cut and pasted sentence from the book.)
I was expecting more of a linear narrative (which I shouldn’t have given Antek pieces this together from another book so was limited with materials), but I’m actually glad that’s not what happened. The ‘scenes’ really help lean into the absurdity feel and had me laughing all the harder as my imagination gleefully joined in with the words on the page.
Definitely pick it up and have a read.
**I shouldn’t have to say this, but just in case: No, I do not think mental illness is hilarious. I am writing only about the zine and zine idea itself.