From the Stacks: December 29, 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.

Reminiscing 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

Adding 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

A 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

The
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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