From the Stacks: December 29, 2006

| December 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 edition.

Fifth GradeReminiscing about life's awkward stages isn't much fun -- unless, that is, you're discussing someone else's unfortunate past. That's precisely why Ben Frazier's zine, Fifth Grade (pdf file), is so appealing; his recollections of elementary-school classmates resonate just enough to send a slight chill down your spine, but stop short of making you feel a rush of embarrassment. The zine includes Frazier's childlike renderings of fifth-grade yearbook photos, many of which are accompanied by notes on his memories of these 'feathered-bowl cut,' Trapper Keeper-clutching youngsters. He reveals lingering feelings of regret, guilt, and pseudo-geek insecurity in some of these brief accounts. In others, he writes simply what little he remembers of someone. My favorites: 'She was TALL!' and, in reference to a different classmate, 'Her family ran a mink farm!' -- Danielle Maestretti

Blackfly MagazineAdding to the recent slew of publications from our northern neighbor, Blackfly Magazine emerges as a quarterly voice for social justice in Ontario. Aiming to incite dialogue among residents while turning a critical eye toward social and political issues, the debut issue is rife with thought-provoking pieces on organizations such as the Ontario Disability Support Program, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, and the Ontario Human Rights Commission. You'll also find bits on accessing government documents, the rise of knitting, and book reviews. Some fun features round out the book, including a department called 'pit stop' that highlights large roadside displays (in this instance, a nearly 13-foot-tall chair) and cut-out trading cards of Ontario politicians (complete with a cut-out storage box). -- Elizabeth Ryan

CursesA ball of starlings fluttering above a drab US intersection seems an everyday sight. But Kevin Huizenga's depiction of them on the cover of his new graphic novel, Curses (Drawn and Quarterly, 2006), makes them mystifying. Silhouetted against a luminescent sky, the birds are at once sublime and ominous, a theme and mood that prevails throughout the book. Curses is a collection of comics about the ever-bewildered Glenn Ganges. Though Ganges' world is Michigan -- modern, mediocre, and hopelessly American -- the rich fantasy life of his intellect and imagination carry these eloquently written, simply drawn stories far beyond the borders of nations and deep into the realms of history, philosophy, mysticism, and superstition. -- Elizabeth Oliver

LimeThe miracle fish fortune teller on the cover of Lime's issue #11 was a clever prelude to a zine that entertained the (not so) inner child in a handful of us this week. Lime, a traditional cut-and-paste zine out of Minnesota, is a compilation of delightful quotes, dreams, poetry, and anecdotes on being a grown-up when you don't actually feel like one. Published at the whim of twenty-something zinester Ariana, Lime has a way of sharing humorously embarrassing moments with grace. One such occasion in this installment is labeled 'The Dubious Compliment,' from which we can all learn a very important lesson: 'Never tell a 40-year-old woman her hat looks like a 'pimp hat.' ' -- Jenna Fisher

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