4/23/2010 11:09:48 AM
Our library contains 1,300 publications—a feast of magazines, journals, alt-weeklies, newsletters, and zines—and every year, we honor the stars in our Utne Independent Press Awards. We’ll announce this year’s winners on Sunday, April 25 at the MPA’s Independent Magazine Group conference in Washington, D.C. and post them online the following Monday. We’re crazy about these publications, and we’d love it for all of our readers to get to know them better, too. So, every weekday until the conference, we’ll be posting mini-introductions to our complete list of 2010 nominees.
The following eight magazines are our 2010 nominees in the category of best writing.
Bookforum is the bibliophile’s banquet, a must-read for the culturally curious. In engaging with the world’s finest writers and their work, Bookforum transcends the predictable and delivers fascinating ideas and provocative conversations. If you call it literary, then call it political, philosophical, and artistic, too. http://www.bookforum.com/
Since 1975, Boston Review has been a harbor for the rigorous examination of culture and politics, as well as a haven for literature and poetry. Now in its 35th year, the publication has added another welcome element to its formidable repertoire: outstanding long-form investigative journalism. http://bostonreview.net/
Where would we be without Columbia Journalism Review? The bimonthly publication of the Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism is a dynamic chronicler of the ever-expanding media landscape. And in providing analysis, criticism, commentary, and reportage, CJR also manages to tell captivating, expertly crafted stories. http://www.cjr.org/
Geist is a literary delight: a smart mélange of the quirky and the serious, a richly varied feast of fiction and nonfiction, poetry and photography, comics and cartography. With a kick-ass redesign in 2009, the Vancouver-based bimonthly seems imbued with an even more vigorous curiosity. http://www.geist.com/
Hip Mama is alive with passion for progressive parenting, for radical kids, for the many meanings of family—and in doing so, it builds deep compassion. It is an intimate forum, showcasing the voices of diverse parents, talking about their challenges, struggles, successes, and joys. http://www.hipmamazine.com/
A dozen years ago, the founders of Tin House set out to create a journal “tantamount to being guest of honor at the greatest literary house party ever.” Such success! In its 10th year, Tin House has been wild and delightful, a true feast for its lucky readers. http://www.tinhouse.com/
Published once each year, Witness manages to capture us completely, presenting works that “promote the modern writer as witness to his or her times.” Published since 2007 by the Black Mountain Institute (dedicated to literary and cross-cultural dialogue), Witness illuminates the American experience with a global lens. http://witness.blackmountaininstitute.org/
4/21/2010 2:53:41 PM
NExt time you decide to thin out your bookshelves, be sure to hang on to at least a few hundred books. There’s a fascinating piece over at Miller-McCune on the effects of home libraries on child development:
After examining statistics from 27 nations, a group of researchers found the presence of book-lined shelves in the home — and the intellectual environment those volumes reflect — gives children an enormous advantage in school.
“Home library size has a very substantial effect on educational attainment, even adjusting for parents’ education, father’s occupational status and other family background characteristics,” reports the study, recently published in the journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility. “Growing up in a home with 500 books would propel a child 3.2 years further in education, on average, than would growing up in a similar home with few or no books."
is a 2010 Utne Independent Press Award nominee in the category of science and technology.
4/21/2010 2:19:42 PM
There’s a great post on Chicago’s Book Bike over at Shareable. Paul M. Davis profiles Gabriel Levinson, who , since 2008, has ridden “his custom-built Book Bike into public parks across Chicago every weekend, weather permitting. Heading from park to park, Levinson distributes books donated by publishers to anyone interested.”
Here’s some more:
Levinson only appears at public parks and free events, ensuring that there is no barrier to entry. As he explains, “the mission is to build and cherish a private library regardless of class or economic state, which is why the Book Bike is only at public parks. It’s a place where every single person, whether you have a roof over your head or don't, has the right and privilege to be.”
“I believe that one of the greatest gifts of being alive, of being human, is that of literacy. If you can read, your world suddenly becomes wide open, all knowledge is at your fingertips and there is no telling where that can lead someone in life. ‘Teach a man to fish’ is such a tired maxim. Why can’t the common phrase be ‘teach a person to read’?”
Levinson has two goals: to create more readers and more consumers for beleaguered publishers. “The idea is that I’ll put a book in your hand,” he says. “Maybe you’ll want to buy a book next time around. My hope has been, in addition to that, people will be inspired to go buy more books.”
4/20/2010 11:49:30 AM
Kevin Hartnett has a thoughtful burst of an essay over at The Millions. Blogging something posted to the internet one month ago is a crime in somebody's book I'm sure, but it ends with such a lovely quote that I couldn't resist. We'll get to that in a minute. Hartnett wrote the essay after finishing Tolstoy's War and Peace.
...just as it takes specialized knowledge to understand exactly why a magnet attracts metal, yet any five-year-old can identify a magnet when he sees one, it is one thing to apprehend the formal properties of a great work of art, but another, much more accessible question, to assess its effects. And so, having recently finished reading War and Peace, what I want to think about is just what it is that great art does.
If you want to see what he came up with, read the essay. What will hang with me for awhile is the last line in the piece. Here it is, do with it as you see fit:
An encounter with greatness, I would say, is like a bright light fixed in time, a marker that defines memory and makes it clearer than it otherwise might have been, that we were here.
Source: The Millions
4/14/2010 11:41:38 AM
Prepare to drop what you’re doing and spend the rest of the day (or even the rest of the week) digging through the awe-inspiring collection of correspondence at Letters of Note, a digital treasure trove curated by freelance writer Shaun Usher. I hardly know where to begin calling out favorite letters from the hundreds he’s posted, but I do love Iggy Pop’s heartwarming (yes, heartwarming) response, ca. 1995, to a young woman who wrote to him after falling upon hard times. An excerpt:
thankyou for your gorgeous and charming letter, you brighten up my dim life. i read the whole fucking thing, dear. of course, i'd love to see you in your black dress and your white socks too. but most of all i want to see you take a deep breath and do whatever you must to survive and find something to be that you can love. you're obviously a bright fucking chick, w/ a big heart too and i want to wish you a (belated) HAPPY HAPPY 21st b'day and happy spirit.
There’s plenty to warm your heart, of course, including a lovely note from Ronald Reagan to Nancy on the eve of their 20th anniversary and an incredible, instructive letter from the creator of The Ren & Stimpy Show to a 14-year-old cartoonist. There is also plenty of celebrity cursing: a, shall we say, emotional fax from Hunter S. Thompson; a letter from Marlon Brando to frequent collaborator Tennessee Williams (“Success is a real and subtle whore, who would like nothing better than to catch you sleeping and bite your cock off”); a memo from South Park’s Matt Stone describing, in great detail, which scenes they’ve altered in order to secure an ‘R’ rating (“We did cut the word ‘hole’ from ‘asshole’ as per our conversation”).
I’ll leave you to your productivity-destroying explorations of the site, but not before pointing to a 1981 letter from J.D. Salinger in which he weighs in on, among other things, Raiders of the Lost Ark. Let’s just say that the mind responsible for Holden Caulfield was not terribly amused by Harrison Ford’s heroic antics.
(Thanks, Virginia Quarterly Review.)
Source: Letters of Note
4/6/2010 1:36:30 PM
Robert Leleux stokes some book-club envy in a recent issue of The Texas Observer with a short piece about the Pulpwood Queens, whose motto is “where tiaras are mandatory and reading good books is the rule.” The Queens have chapters all over the country—more than 260, by Leleux’s count—and a few hundred of its members get together once a year to “converge upon the deep woods of East Texas, dressed in hot pink satin, leopard-print capes and enough rhinestone tiaras to choke the entire Royal Court of the Cotton Bowl parade,” Leleux writes. “Then we rat each other’s wigs, throw a couple of high-steppin’ theme parties, and award much-coveted statuettes to the person, for instance, who wore the best Barbie costume. Also to the person who wrote the year’s best American novel.”
Here’s how it works: Each month, individual chapters—who’ve named themselves things like “The Sirens” and “Queens in the Hood” and “Queens on the Rocks”—gather to discuss Kathy’s selected titles, wear outré get-ups, and eat pot-luck suppers. Then they blog about their talks with their fellow queens worldwide. At the end of the year, they vote for their favorite novels and children’s books. (This year’s winners were Pat Conroy’s South of Broad, Jamie Ford’s p, and Melissa Conroy’s delightful picture book Poppy’s Pants.) And finally, at their Girlfriend Weekend convention, held annually at Jefferson’s Convention and Tourism Building, the Queens dub their chosen writers (in a ceremony similar to a knighthood) “Jewels of the Pulpwood Crown,” in addition to attending readings and discussions led by prominent authors.
This jolly atmosphere is, Leleux notes, rarely cultivated around literature—but it’s what’s made the Queens so successful.
[W]hat all this fake fur and hairspray really amounts to is having fun with serious literature, in the midst of a drab cultural landscape in which fun isn’t a word often associated with la vie littéraire. I mean, has anybody tried to watch Book TV lately? It’s like visually ingesting a lithium capsule. Why is that? There used to be an air of public revelry surrounding books. The bitchy remarks of Mary McCarthy or Gore Vidal on The Dick Cavett Show were actually the stuff of water-cooler chit-chat, even scandal. But today, public revelry is too often killed off by the very people attempting to “promote literature”—wellmeaning sorts like Laura Bush, who talk about “the importance of reading” in the same Somber Sally tones one might use to encourage flu vaccination.
Source: The Texas Observer
Congratulations to The Texas Observer, which is nominated for a 2010 Utne Independent Press Award for political coverage.
4/5/2010 2:00:47 PM
One of the many mouth-watering pieces in the Oxford American’s new Southern Food issue reveals Charleston chef Sean Brock’s secret ingredient: a very special, and very old, variety of sesame seeds:
According to the USDA Agricultural Research Service, they’re PI 601236 01 SD, a variety that hails from the turn of the century and is a very near cousin to the seeds brought over to America in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by enslaved Africans from modern-day Sierra Leone and Liberia. Lighter in color than contemporary sesame, PI 601236 01 SD have none of the overpowering bitterness of seeds such as Kansas 10, a hybrid developed in the 1940s whose high oil content lends itself to industrial applications such as cosmetics, paint, and soap.
Chef Brock claims the flavor of the old seeds is nothing short of a revelation. “It goes in layers,” he said. “The first thing you taste is this grassiness, and you think, This isn’t sesame seed. Then you get this cool, earthy nuttiness, followed by the most pleasant bitter you’ve ever tasted.”
Brock’s heirloom sesame seeds were tracked down by a motley crew of South Carolinians—an English professor, an entomologist, a mill owner—with a special interest in finding and restoring antebellum ingredients. “Nineteenth-century plant breeders tended to breed for taste—the vegetables they produced were vetted strongly for palatability,” University of South Carolina English professor David Shields tells the Oxford American. “In the twentieth century, they’re more concerned with transportability, shelf life, eye-appeal. What interests me is trying to recover the vegetables and grains from the nineteenth century that were known to be linchpins of the American table.”
Chef Brock’s take on Brown Oyster Stew, a classic antebellum recipe made with toasted sesame and oysters, may offer some indication of what’s to come. Brock purees Carolina Gold Rice and PI 601236 01 SD in a blender to a paste, which he then dehydrates and fries until it puffs “like pork rinds,” and scatters over the stew as a garnish.
In Brock’s kitchen, at least, the way forward seems to be neither antebellum nor postmodern, but futurist.
Source: Oxford American
4/5/2010 12:28:44 PM
Daniel Hudon has a charming piece in the current Cream City Review, in which he offers his suggestions on how to make a universe—a serious universe. “We’re not talking about building some quaint little microcosm,” Hudon writes. “We’re talking about building a top-of-the-line big-ass universe—with exploding stars, black holes, and things that go bump in the night.”
What’s the rush? Only the possibility that our universe could be reduced to little more than a bunch of black holes in billions of years. And, “while it’s possible that black holes could be portals into other hitherto unknown universes,” Hudon says, “Stephen Hawking isn’t betting on it, and you shouldn’t either.”
So herewith, he offers a few things to keep under consideration if you’re so inspired:
Before you go on to projects like, building galaxies, say, or managing a hotel with an infinite number of rooms, factor some advertising into your budget so that people can actually see the wonders of your universe. If you just broadcast the existence of your newly invented universe to all and sundry, people will likely see you as a crackpot, so we don’t recommend that. Instead, try the poetic approach, e e cummings-style. Whisper to your companion, “Listen, there’s a hell of a good universe next door; let’s go.” Worry about where exactly “next door” is when the time comes.
Make sure, too, that your universe has its own laws of physics. Keep them hidden so that any future scientists who evolve in your universe can have the joy of discovering them. Everybody loves a good mystery.
You should also decide if you actually want anyone to know about your universe. There’s a lot to be said for having your own secret universe. Those people you see on the bus smiling while listening to their headphones? They’re probably smiling about their own secret universes too.
Source: Cream City Review (article not available online)
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