From the Stacks: October 27, 2006

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Utne Reader's library is abuzz with a steady flow of 1,500 magazines, newsletters, journals, weeklies, zines, and other lively dispatches from the cultural front that are rarely found at big-box bookstores, newsstands, or even online. So we share the highlights (and occasional lowlights) of what's landing in our library each week in 'From the Stacks.' Check in every Friday for the latest edition.

This week's 'From the Stacks' is inspired by the third annual Madison Zine Fest on October 21, when more than 1,000 people buzzed around 50 treasure-laden tables, sharing stories, ideas, and zines. Here are some of our favorites from the excursion.

Midway through my initial get-the-lay-of-the-fest walk around the room at the Madison Zine Fest, I found myself standing in front of a table so loaded with zines -- nary an inch of bare surface showing -- that I almost took cover under a neighboring exhibit of anarchist publications. I had arrived at the table of Microcosm Publishing, the esteemed Portland, Oregon-based publisher and distributor of zines, books, pamphlets, DVDs, and other fun stuff. Among the staggering trove of booty I plundered (or rather, placed gently into my canvas tote bag) was Xtra Tuf #5. At first glance I wondered about the breadth of its appeal -- the 192-page zine is written by a commercial fisherwoman about her profession -- but soon found myself caught up in a fantastic net of gracefully told stories. Issue #5 is 'the strike issue,' featuring a range of voices from Alaskan fishermen recalling successes and failures from strikes past. There's also a surprisingly engaging history of salmon fishing on Kodiak Island and a helpful glossary with entries like 'fo'c'sle' (crew's resting place) and 'hoochies' (squid-like attachments for lures). I don't know if I've ever learned so much from one zine. -- Danielle Maestretti

Mutate Zine thoughtfully explores gender and sexuality with a tone that runs the gamut from serious to lighthearted, often nimbly mixing the two. Throughout, Mutate remains thought provoking without preaching. Topics in the #10 issue include 'genderfucking' (think gender-bending to the extreme), post-break-up celibacy, sexual fantasies with cartoons, conscientious objector registration, and a critique of the Suicide Girls, to scratch the surface. The first Mutate came out six years ago and the introduction to #10 claims that this may be the 'penultimate Mutate.' Not to worry, however: The zine's maker is moving on to new adventures in the realm of DIY publications, including SoyBoi!: Queer Adventures in My Vegetarian Kitchen. -- Suzanne Lindgren

Molly the Popsicle is a delightful comic-zine by father-son duo, Christoph and Herbie Meyer. The cover features an orange-colored (and -flavored) talking Popsicle, complete with a real wooden Popsicle stick! Some may know Christoph as the maker of the charmingly handcrafted zine 28 Pages Lovingly Bound With Twine. Molly is 5-year-old Herbie's story-time conception about a popsicle taken from her frozen habitat only to be forgotten, left at a table's edge to melt into sticky goo. Christoph found the tale 'so delightful, so childishly grim, that I had to adapt it into a minicomic.' Herbie also has another zine (edited by his pops) called Mean Zine Submarine. -- Suzanne Lindgren

Fashioned with an X-Acto knife, some ink washes, and a vintage cookbook, Crumbs on the Cutting Board waltzes through a rhyming ode to food. Created by Alexis 'Lex' McQuilkin, the zine features some intricate paper-cuttings of foodstuffs, such as dim sum and quiche, pasted atop dated cooking guides and recipes, along with a singsong poem ('W is for weiners/boiled and slick/X is for xanthan gum/making sauce thick'). Despite her description of Crumbs... as free of 'an overwhelming amount of thought and emotion,' McQuilkin succeeds in creating a visually impressive piece of zine-art. -- Rachel Anderson

Typed in Century Gothic font and entitled a tenderness so painful i thought my heart would burst, Karen Olson Edwards' homage to former ambitions is indeed wrought with emotions: toiling over insensitive high school remarks, missing favorite sweaters, revisiting teenage clich?s. Edwards confronts nostalgia's cruel way of making the past seem more pleasant and hopeful than the present ever seems capable of being. Anyone who spent their teenage years in awkwardness, nurturing high hopes, may appreciate Edwards' recollections of how 'totally ridiculous' plans got her through the rough spots. a tenderness... appears to be a single edition, though Edwards also writes the pine box, described below. -- Rachel Anderson

A photocopy of 17 dark-haired people looking somewhat skeptically at the camera and seated for what could be a pre-1950s college class photo graces the cover of the second issue of the pine box. It's the type of photo I wanted to take my time with, studying the subjects' faces and wondering about their lives. That's pretty much how the rest of my time with the 'correspondence and distance' issue of Karen Olson Edwards' zine went. The pine box is filled with enchanted musings and photos, but my favorite part was the inclusion of an excerpt from the National Postal Museum's membership magazine, which informed me that when mail can't be delivered it's sold at postal auctions. -- Jenna Fisher

Applicant, another Microcosm publication, may be pint-size, but it packs a punch. The zine was started by a cartoonist in Oregon who went looking for magazines in a recycling bin and instead found stacks of Ph.D. applications from the '60s and '70s replete with photos and recommendation forms. The zine contains the black-and-white mug shots of Ivy League hopefuls and short captions taken from their files. What could have been a hopelessly boring exercise turns out to be something you want to share with your neighbor. One picture of a long-haired brunette is accompanied by the snippet: 'Weakness: she is a female and an attractive, modest one so is bound to marry,' while a photo of a fair-haired man looking out from behind black-rimmed glasses reads, 'I can imagine that he could be wearing on constant close exposure.' -- Jenna Fisher

Longtime residents and visitors alike will love The Zinester's Guide to Portland. The once 16-page pamphlet is now a 128-page book on its fourth edition, loaded with gems on how to have a cheap and amusing time in the Rose City (a.k.a. Bridge City or Stumptown). After a brief history of the city's founding (it involves two men in canoe), you'll find helpful transportation advice and a breakdown of the city's offerings by location. Its exhaustive listings boast everything from arboretums to sex shops, vegan doughnuts to free museum passes, and dollar Pabst to the Mudeye Puppet Company. My favorite entry was for The Vern/Hanigan's, which directs visitors to 'look for the TAVERN sign with the 'T' and the 'A' burnt out.' The subtle charm and nuances will leave you wishing there were guides like this for every city. -- Elizabeth Ryan