From the Stacks: July 6, 2007


| July 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.

There are many kooky distractions to be enjoyed in the third issue of Bony Landmarks, a zine published by the Tucson art collective Look for Signage. One of them is an educational comic that uses colorful characters such as Wally the Water Droplet, Shawn (a cigar-smoking, tube-dress-wearing fellow), and Potato Fez (a spud wearing, yes, a fez) to illustrate the geographic basics of the Continental Divide. Other terrific comics appear throughout, including a 'random art project' with panels about rabbits and alcohol drawn by four illustrators and assembled in random order. Also featured are short poems and 'true stories of nerdish adventure.' Nerdish, indeed: Editor Andrew Coltrin contributes a fun piece about Thomas Bird Mosher, a turn-of-the-20th-century artisan bookmaker dubbed the 'American Book Pirate,' that lists some enchanting terms of the trade: 'three-quarters bound in leather; marbled boards and endpapers; uncut pages; quarto, octavo, duodecimo.' -- Danielle Maestretti

HeavyMetalNever has 'fun time' been so charged with such raw, terror-fueled rock power. The Heavy Metal Fun Time Activity Book by Aye Jay Morano, to be published in September by the Canadian ECW Press, doesn't invite you to enjoy its m?lange of hard rock marginalia -- it dares you not to. The activity book opens with a thoughtful foreword by Andrew W.K. but quickly gets to the playful shenanigans. Readers can use the two crayons (black and red) taped to the cover to color in drawings of Black Sabbath and Pantera; connect the dots on guitarist Dimebag Darrell's goatee; and fill out a demonic Sudoku puzzle that's conspicuously peppered with sixes. Before you embark into this book of unadulterated hard rock mayhem, you might want to ask yourself: How many words can you make from the letters in White Zombie? -- Chris Gehrke

MatrixThe Montreal-based literary magazine Matrix tackles a different theme each issue, and in the Summer offering the subject of science poetry offers fertile ground for verse. Mari-Lou Rowley's 'CosmoSonnets' and Christian Bok's 'Fractal Geometry' prove that language and science complement each other with natural ease. Also in the issue, contributing editor Harley Smart brings together a varied collection of visual art under the heading 'Foreign Print & Busy Chatter: A Collection of Artist's Work,' and for pop-culture devotees, editor Taien Ng-Chan compiles a list of the ten best 'Mad Science Movies.' -- Eric Kelsey

MatrixPublished by the Great Books Foundation, the Common Review offers an accessible look into the world of education and literature. In the Summer issue,? critic Michael B?rub? explains that for all the bile that his high-minded colleagues have hurled at J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, they have missed one crucial point: Potent narratives can cultivate young minds, even if they are bereft of literary flourish. In defense of the Potter books, B?rub? recounts how they shaped the intellectual ability of his son, who has Down syndrome. Other notable articles include Kevin Mattson's reflective essay on how teaching history through movies highlighted the profit motives driving the 'post-modern academy,' and Firoozeh Papan-Matin's critique of Azar Nafisi's widely-read memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran. -- Eric Kelsey

MatrixFor its fourth issue, the editors at the humor journal Opium have decided that people need another self-help guide, albeit a satirical one. Under the title 'Live Well Now (No Matter What),' the issue doles out laughing pills from Jack Handey and Shellie Zacharia, among many others. In Zacharia's story, 'Luckily, Lucy Sims Has No Stamps,' a fictional social studies teacher, fueled by a bottle of wine, channels her many grievances into seven letters that will go unmailed: to her ex-husband Bill, the parents of her students, Bed, Bath & Beyond, and a few others who will never read about her gripes with them. To keep the reader on the path to self-improvement, the magazine prints an aphorism at the top of each even-numbered page ('#62: Self-virtualize into the beyond of your dreams'). Each piece also comes with an average reading time, presumably to lampoon our inability to leisurely enjoy the simple pleasure of reading. -- Eric Kelsey