From the Stacks: July 13, 2007

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.

A
tenacious library marshal shows off some serious action-film moves
to track down a rare book thief in Jason Shiga’s new graphic novel
Bookhunter, published by Sparkplug Comic
Books. The unswerving Special Agent Bay does not work alone; he
relies on forensic experts, a heavily armed SWAT team, and a very
agile Bookmobile to retrieve the book in question — a valuable
19th-century English bible. After analyzing the masterful forgery
left in the stolen book’s place, he enlists the help of the
American Library Association’s ‘top profiler,’ who pegs the thief
as a ‘a caucasian bookbinder, age 32-40… She is shy, intelligent
and may have a lisp or word repetition stutter. She was a childhood
bedwetter.’ I won’t ruin the ending, but as a librarian I must note
that Bookhunter‘s many hilarious action sequences include
card catalogues, reshelving carts, exit gates, and some
on-top-of-the-stacks running. Shiga also illustrates my deepest,
darkest library fear: that of being squeezed between two rows of
compact shelving. — Danielle Maestretti

In DESIGNER/builder social justice issues are
at the forefront of discussions on urban environments. For the
July/August issue, Sam Smith of the web magazine
Progressive
Review
critiques the burgeoning smart growth movement in
‘Not Too Smart Growth.’ Smith argues that smart growth too often
tries to impose a new model on an area, unrealistically expecting
people to move or adapt instead of improving their current
surroundings. While lamenting the past sins of urban planning,
including the ways in which communities are undervalued, he
emphatically asserts that ‘next to economists, no group has been so
consistently wrong and harmful to the human spirit as urban
planners.’ — Julie Dolan

Started in
2002 as an undergraduate arts and culture project at the University
of Tennessee at Chattanooga,
Mule draws contributions from Chicago, New
York, and China, covering the creative arts largely though
interviews and photo spreads. ‘We’re a regional publication,’ the
magazine’s website reads, ‘in the sense that we focus on what’s
around us as we roam about.’ In the biannual’s fourth issue,
readers can wander among interviews with the likes of jazz
musician/composer Philip Cohran (once a sideman for the ethereal
jazz musician Sun Ra) and Tim Kinsella, formerly of the 1990s indie
band Cap’n Jazz. Along with regular filings from the art and
fashion worlds, the issue features profiles of three young American
instrument makers. — Eric Kelsey

The music monthly Seattle Sound enlisted the help of
online environmental magazine Grist for an issue devoted to
earth-friendly ideas in the land of rock and roll. The package
looks beyond the many ways that mainstream acts like Pearl Jam and
Soundgarden have cleaned up their acts and touts some of the little
guys in the business who have sacrificed financial gain in order to
cut their carbon emissions. Minnesota’s
Cloud Cult,
for example, hopes to lead the way to a green revolution in music
by using only recycled materials for their albums. The magazine
also takes a look at several of the top ecoconscious music
festivals, as well as the part some record labels play in the
movement. — Eric Kelsey

The perceptions and realities of Islam are as varied as they are
misunderstood, which makes
Islamica a valuable new resource in our
library. The quarterly international magazine encompasses
extraordinarily diverse voices that provide insight and promote
discussion on a wide range of issues. The latest edition (#19)
profiles 10 such voices in the feature ‘Shaping Islam in America.’
The visionaries profiled hail from many backgrounds and professions
— one is a novelist, another a humanitarian, another an editor of
an online magazine, etc. — and represent the myriad ways in which
faith and work can influence local communities. Their stories
reveal tremendous promise in promoting understanding among the
country’s various cultures. — Natalie Hudson

In its sixtieth year of publication,
Jewish Currents continues to integrate
historical and cultural analysis into relevant coverage of Jewish
communities. The self-identified ‘progressive, secular’ bimonthly
often extends its lens beyond the United States and Israel, as it
does in the July/August issue examining Jewish activism from
Australia to South America to Berlin. Philip Mendes calls on Jews
to answer their religious duty, or tzedakah, to help the
poor and vulnerable by addressing poverty in their communities and
at the policy level. — Natalie Hudson

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