A book cover with a man jumping through a window

The Best of Intentions: The Avow Anthology

by Keith Rosson Author

Now in its second edition, The Best of Intentions is a big ol' whopping collection of material from the long-running Avow zine. Issues 11-16 and selections from the first ten issues are presented here as a one-stop-shop of a book. Keith Rosson's stories and art show him neck-deep in a hard-living, knockaround life. This is existentialism done punk rock style with a good sense of humor to lighten up all the bloodletting. Keith has done artwork for Submission Hold, Against Me!, and HearttaCk (among many others) and the illustrations here do not disappoint. If you're into Burn Collector and Cometbus this is essential per-zine action!

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Comments & Reviews


"A collection of Avow zines--and it is too bad we can't put zines up here--that tread the personal punk rock area with the prose of a friend, the passion of a committed punk, and the emotions of a guy trying to live a decent life in a fucked up world. Fantastic art, engaging personal stories, and more. Check itout, especially if you've never read a zine."


"This 280 page tome collects the entirity of Avow zine issues #11 through 16 and selected entries from the first ten issues as well. Avow is a collection of artwork and stories. Keith owes a few nods graphically to Aaron Cometbus but does a lot of his own ink drawings to develop more on creating his own style. He has done unique artwork for Microcosm, Submission Hold, Against Me!, HeartattaCk zine, and plenty more. His stories cut into the darker side of life growing up in a small coastal fishing town and the mischief that ensues. He reminisces about the days when demo tapes were commonplace and CD-Rs were non-existent, puts a good spin on his tales of figuring out how to obtain his next meal, and learns a lot from society, the hardcore community, and college that he employs into the analysis in his writing. Keith is a great storyteller and does a good job of deeply probing his brain to share these stories."


"Even when the stories don’t necessarily have an ending or a point, Rosson tells them with such a self-deprecating yet poetic language that they become worth reading anyway."


"This compilation of the fifteen year-old Avow zine is impressive not only because of the writerly late issues, with Keith's vivid vignettes about the insecurities of being a tattooed punk rocker in a cold world, but also because of the zine-ishness of early issues (there's a great Bikini Kill interview). Tales of getting his ass -kicked, great xerography and comix art, and an interview with a dead artist's ghost make this hefty book worth a look."


“Keith Rosson has become an increasingly visible and influential part of punk rock culture over the last five years. He consistently writes solid columns for Maximum RocknRoll and Give Me Back and proves to have reliable judgments about music in the Razorcake reviews section.” Keith has done artwork for The Ergs!, Dan Padilla, Anchor Arms, and seemingly every other band who wants a good design for their ads, shirts, or record covers. You might wonder where this guy came from and how he got to have such a solid footing amongst both punk rockers and zinesters. For that answer, you will have to look at Avow, his long-running personal zine.
This anthology represents the first sixteen issues of Avow and is also one of the first things I show curious people who ask me about zines. What really stands out as a unique part of each zine in the anthology are the excellent illustrations and eye-catching graphic design. As far as different concepts that appear in these pages, highlights are Avow #13 ‘The Alphabet Issue’ and Avow #9 ‘Punk Heroes, Punk Villains.’ But the bulk of Keith’s writing is just stories about everyday life—strangers on the bus, teenage humiliation, drinking, heartbreak, and friendship—and it works because he is a damn good storyteller.
Avow has been around since 1995, but I wasn’t introduced to it until ten years after that. Since then, I have reread the anthology and later issues at various times during my life. At different times, I have loved and hated Avow, depending on what kind of phase I’m going through. Sometimes the stories shine too bright a light on the ugliness and harsh truth around you. Other times, it’s the most down-to-earth thing you can find to relate to. Maybe you’re seventeen and you already live on your own and all your friends have started doing heroin. You don’t want to read something where the zinester’s biggest problem is that they ran out of vegan brownies at the anarchist bake sale. Or maybe you’re twenty and you just moved to a small town in the middle of Texas for college and your boyfriend just broke up with you and your only friends live a couple hundred miles away. You want to read something by a zinester who thinks that hanging out with his friends at shows and drinking and dancing is just getting kind of old? Oh no, you want to read something by the guy who’s gritty and real; because when he writes about finding beauty in the small things you know he’s not just trying to sound poetic; he’s just really stoked that he found something that could get him through the day. You want to read Avow!”


"Avow is what a personal zine is supposed to be. Keith shows honesty without pretension and can go from stories about being beaten up to personal politics to an interview with Kathleen Hannah seamlessly. He understands that you may not always agree with him and, if anything, he'd like to start a conversation about why. It's rare to read a zine that includes both lighthearted stories and personal examinations of privilege and sexism without being preachy or overbearing. Keith hits the nail on the head by approaching topics without presuming to have all the answers, sincerely asking questions about the community around
him, and presenting his feelings while admitting his human
imperfections. The occasional guest contributions and art heavy
editions keep things interesting and are an obvious effort to avoid
self-importance and keep a more balanced collection of thoughts in each issue. It's no wonder Avow has been running for so long, reading it is like maintaining a good friendship."


"First and foremost, Keith Rosson is one earnest motherfucker. He thinks long, hard, and tirelessly about DIY punk rock culture. He’s a gifted artist, a vehement smoker, a Northewestern night owl, and a guy who has gotten his ass kicked plenty of times. This book is a collection of the first sixteen issues of Avow zine, which is mostly Keith and a revolving cast of contributors. Although roughly ninety-eight percent of The Best of Intentions is told from the first person, Keith skirts the trap of over self-indulgence by mixing in constant self-effacement. I mean, shit, if someone goes into detail how he masturbated to the MTV dance show, “The Grind” and got caught naked, with boner, by his mom, whose response was to laugh at him, he’s not afraid of putting his life’s embarrassment under a hard light. What’s also satisfying is that The Best of Intentions takes the time to tell stories that involve other people, and not only as backdrops, but as larger, interlocking elements in this series of relationships called life. Stories like a one-armed man on the bus giving him a handful of change, of a good friend being irrevocably changed from a severe beating in a park, of when a little boy whose mom dresses cats up in costumes, in an act of open compassion, asks him for a big hug, to trying to save a bird from a cat, only to see its skull get crushed and have its eye pop out an incredible distance. Keith’s not afraid to stare at his zits and tell you all about them, but he’s also not afraid to take time out – in that one in ten of life’s experiences (according to his calculations) – to realize and cherish the small gifts. Keith also has some gems of great advice. My favorite is on the back of postcard he sent to a friend: “Take care of yourself, and for fuck’s sake, if you’re going to drive around with expired tags, take the gun out of the glovebox.” Having not read Avow prior to this and getting a lay of the land over cover-to-cover reading, Keith has definitely improved over the years and he’s learned his lessons well. With each issue, his storytelling became more acute and his drawings are developing more of a style of his own, which is good news, too. Recommended. "


"While some of the issues contain pieces drawn or written by friends and partners-in-crime, my all time favorite selections are from issue 13, “The Alphabet Issue,” in which Keith goes from A to Z talking about issues ranging from superheroes to pickup lines, history to tagging on the streets, to demo tapes and the lack thereof. I also greatly enjoy the excerpts from issue 15, “Here’s One For the Art Nerds,” a collection of his art dating back to 1996, in which Rosson gives insight through commentary for each and every piece presented.

For those of you unfamiliar with Avow, or Keith Rosson’s work for HeartAttack and Razorcake or the throngs of bands who have been honored to feature his artwork on their record albums, do yourself a favor and pick up this book."


Rosson's memoirs are clearly the strongest element. Here, a wide sampling of subjects -- art, music, childhood, love, friendship -- are filtered through Rosson's thoughtful and self-deprecating sensibility and rendered in his precise, evocative prose. Rosson is particularly adept at taking the reader inside an experience even when he feels like an outsider. One such piece is "Would You Like Some Cheese and Beer with That Wine?" Here, Rosson ruminates on art openings (he is also a painter) as an event where his expectations are perpetually unmet, though he likens himself to Charlie Brown, saying, "It's a football I just keep kicking at." According to Rosson, (1) no one buys your work when you really need the money, (2) "you will never get laid," and (3) "you will get drunk." In the end, he decides to drink beer rather than schmooze awkwardly with the gallery patrons, because "the art speaks for itself, which is a good thing because I usually end up slurring my words with pieces of free cookies falling out of my mouth." Leave it to Rosson to take an experience that should by all rights be a feather in his cap and knock all the pretension out of it. Some of the best pieces, though, are Rosson's re-visitations of the mortifying moments of his childhood and teenage years.


Avow is one of the best zines I have ever read. Keith Rosson writes with humility, passion and personality. His stories of rainy nights going out for smokes at 3am in Portland, city of trendy obscure artists and homeless alcoholics, are down-to-earth and mesmirising. AVOW has an intense investment in it's words and images, so much so that it's almost a living entity. You could do worse than getting the anthology :)

Zines becoming books is a trend that has really caught fire over the past couple of years. Sometimes it works, and other times it doesn't; it all depends on the consistency of writing over the years, and how selective the author is when putting the book together. As Keith points out in the introduction to this collection of his Avow zines, paging through old issues of your zine often leads to more than a few cringes. This anthology focuses on Keith's later, after he'd abandoned poetry and started telling stories of artist struggle and punk rock angst, weaving his awesome artwork in and around them. There are a few pieces from early issues, when Keith's friend Alex was co-editor, and even though they don't comprise the strongest part of the zine, it's interesting to see the progression of this zine to what it is now. Some material in here is from other writers, but Keith's storytelling and drawings are what really stand out on these pages. One gets the impression from reading this that Keith is somewhat of a tortured guy, but he also seems to mellow out a bit as time passes. And that's one of the coolest things about reading a zine book: you not only follow the timeline of a zine, but also of a person, because for many zinesters, it's hard to separate the zine from the person and vice versa. Highly recommended.

As the name suggests, this is a thorough overview of the best years of Avow fanzine. I’ve never come into contact with any originals of this fanzine, nor have I heard about it. It came to life in Seattle back in 1995 and the first issue, like most fanzines, was a photocopied and self-stapled affair. Setting out with the intentions of blending poetry with music and merging personal ramblings with band interviews, Avow, we’re told by its editor, didn’t start to hit its stride until issue seven, by which time they were beginning to get a hand on things and began to focus more on the personal elements. A ballsy move, as most personal fanzines aren’t worth shit, but Rosson was determined not to let this happen to Avow. He’d primed himself well in the first six issues and felt confident to make the plunge, having gotten his schooling through interviewing bands and reviewing records, before gradually working his way on to becoming a high caliber punk writer himself. The selections from these early issues contained here are pretty thin on the ground, but what I did read I enjoyed.
By the time we reach issue seven, Rosson has gone off the idea of being a punk poet, as the poets didn’t like punk and the punks didn’t like poetry, so the fanzine became increasingly filled with stories and his observations on the world. What’s special about Rosson is that he’s a modest guy and truly doesn’t believe there’s anything exceptional about what he does, but a highlighted version of the past ten years of his life (i.e. this book) may make things sound more interesting – “It’s probably not high art, but it’s all that I’ve got!”
Issues eleven through sixteen are included in their entirety, as this is where the author feels the quality of his work is at its best. Rosson is successful in transforming his fanzine into a 100% stories and artwork zine, which is pretty heaving going when you think about it. He becomes a keen observer in the various bars he frequents and writes about his lifestyle that inevitably seems to end up in a brawl most times. He’s an honest writer and doesn’t make any apologies for his feelings or thoughts. He questions himself, as much as others and the world around him, but as most people eventually figure out, none of it makes sense. The book is well written, descriptive and intelligent and puts some badly needed life back into the so-called “personal” fanzine scene.

This book is fucking incredible. One of the best zines out there. Necessary in every way.