From the Stacks: December 15, 2006

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

The literary journal River Styx takes its name from the
mythical waterway between Earth and Hades, life and death. The
latest issue, titled ‘The Last Laugh,’ straddles another chasm,
that between poignancy and humor. In it, accessible works of poetry
and prose express sentiments that would be difficult to accept
without the aid of laughter. But it may be Mark Twain’s quote on
the first page that best captures the issue’s draw: ‘The secret
source of Humor itself is not joy but sorrow.’ Reading
RiverStyx, you may giggle at dark humor, clever
writing, or backhanded compliments, but the words may also abandon
you halfway between worlds as you stare down into the emotional
abyss below. The Missouri-based journal steps out three times a
year, often with a theme. — Suzanne Lindgren

The little barefoot, singing
hippies that march across the pages of Elissa Jane Karg’s recently
republished book, How to be a Nonconformist, illustrate 23
playful steps to becoming a bona fide rebel. Karg’s advice,
originally published as a comic-strip for her high school newspaper
in the ’60s, mischievously elbows the counterculture of that time
with tips like, ‘[a]void socks. They are the fatal give-away of a
phony nonconformist.’ Warning: Cracking open this book may pull you
back in time. It also may leave you dwelling on things
nonconformist today.  At the very least, it’ll induce a smile.
Jenna Fisher

‘Wonderment’ is the first word inside of
Sacred Fire‘s fourth issue, heading up
editor Jonathan Merritt’s musings on ‘the paradox of utter
randomness and intricate connection.’ Indeed, Sacred Fire
displays wonderment throughout, exploring themes relevant to
modern, spiritual, and earth-connected people. The connection
between Native and Anglo Americans — both historic and
contemporary — creates an underlying theme throughout the issue.
In ‘The Lost People,’ Thom Hartmann attempts to understand the
origin of the settlers’ need to conquer the Americas. And Sharon
Brown’s ‘Born to the Medicine’ — a nonfiction story of a white
woman who shares a kindred bond with Native Americans — would make
anyone hesitate to generalize about race. Strung next to writings
on interconnectedness and gratitude, such pieces form the
beginnings of a discussion about how we can move forward, hopefully
together. — Suzanne Lindgren

All it took was one glance at the cover of
LensWork and I was entranced. Issue 67
showcases four photographers’ portfolios that, collectively, are
nothing short of stunning. The black-and-white images depict scenes
of Norwegian fjords and the Georgia wilderness, as well as Mehmet
Ozgur’s ‘Smoke Abstractions,’ in which he captures the ‘ballet’ of
smoke streams produced by incense. The highlight is
Eugene H.
‘s portfolio, which includes the cover image of a woman
from a rare subgroup of the Rabari tribe (‘Lady with Split Ears’).
It is part of Johnson’s provocative collection of portraits from
India, Brazil, Egypt, and Nepal. In an included interview, Johnson
describes his verve in capturing what he calls the humanity of his
subjects. — Elizabeth Ryan

The accounts of Toronto’s urban landscape in
Winter issue could double as a fascinating tourists’ guide to both
the city and life in general. There’s plenty in this issue (themed
‘The New Beautiful City’) to rave about. Take ‘Left Behind,’
Nathalie Atkinson’s short essay on the mysteries of left-behind
belongings — shoes, scarves, handkerchiefs — strewn about the
city. Atkinson calls the phenomenon of the abandoned item
‘ubiquitous to the urban experience,’ as are all the facets of
Toronto — and urban life — that Spacing captures so
well. (Spacing was nominated this year for two
Independent Press Awards
, in best design and best
local/regional coverage.) — Evelyn Hampton

Another nominee for an
Independent Press Award
is Kiss Machine, a contender in  the
General Excellence: Zines category. According to Kiss
‘s website, ‘each issue features two seemingly
discordant themes.’ I picked up the ‘Nature or Nurture Issue’
(Fall/Winter 2006) and was entertained by a fresh take on a
familiar debate. There’s an interview with Allyson Mitchell, an
artist whose depictions of female sasquatches critique
representations of women as ‘sexualized animals.’ And there’s
‘Raised by Wolves,’ a short, funny first-person account that
begins, ‘I was raised by wolves: a lawyer and a sociologist.’ If
you’d like to join Kiss Machine‘s Nature or Nurture
debate, visit the issue’s site, where you can post and read
comments on the topic. — Evelyn Hampton

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