Utne receives some 1,200 magazines, newsletters, journals, weeklies, and zines. Add in hundreds of books, CDs, and DVDs, and it's a flood of media that lines the walls of our library and piles high on our desks. All the ideas, people, and stories inspire lively daily chatter, but they can't all fit into our bimonthly magazine. So we share the gems here in our weekly editions of 'From the Stacks.' Check in every Friday for the freshest highlights of the independent and alternative media.
A strange, wonderful, funny, thick, hand-sized book of captioned drawings by Anders Nilsen, Monologues for the Coming Plague, just out from Fantagraphics, compiles two of Nilsen's sketchbooks. Reading it is like watching an absurdist stand-up comic testing punch lines. Get inside the heads of birds being fed by a woman, a man talking with a dog about getting a job, a man in prison for killing the Buddha, and a semiotician whose head appears as a dark scribble and who asserts, 'There are enormous boulders of lint that rumble through the wilderness now and then, crushing everything in their path.' Each page compels one to the next, even while it says, 'Stop! Think about this!' or evokes laughter. Brilliant, sweet, and possibly demented. -- Chris Dodge
The July/August issue of New Moon has arrived, taking on challenging topics in what it calls 'The 'Issue' Issue.' With a demographic of young ladies roughly eight to fourteen, New Moon is more zine than glossy, boasting an editorial board of girls in the target age range and publishing many reader submissions. In one such piece, entitled 'Dance Fever,' a girl's experiences at school dances become a metaphor for life. 'All the fun times you could be having,' writes Sula Sidnell-Greene, 'might pass you by if you don't step away from the wall and dance.' Longtime readers may remember that the magazine once came with an attached newsletter for parents. This has evolved into its own publication, Daughters, which must be subscribed to separately. -- Suzanne Lindgren
The tone of ReNew may seem self-righteously hardcore at times, but the Australian magazine does its best to make technical information on sustainable living (think solar panels and insulated windows) accessible for both expert and novice conservationists. In the latest issue (July/September), Linda Cockburn's article 'Lose weight, get healthy, save money and help save the planet' describes her family's venture from a two-income, time- and money-stressed household to one of self-sufficiency and decreased emissions. Notably, the Cockburns were able to save money during the experiment despite Linda's quitting work in order to raise a garden and her son. Apparently you can have your organic veggies and eat them too, although ReNew lets us know it's no small undertaking. -- Suzanne Lindgren
Rows of tombstones diagonally cascade across Portland magazine's glossy cover. A single word, 'WARS,' delineates the nonprofit publication's summer theme -- though the small black print is hardly distinguishable against a bright strip of grass, where it's wedged between two grave markers. Inside, oppressed voices cry from page to page, in articles addressing torture, Nazi concentration camps, and trench warfare. But hope is not far. Brian Doyle's opening essay beams joy through the scowling face of 'brooding misshapen evil' with a 'quavery chant against the dark' that will make you grin in spite of life's torment. -- Kristen Mueller
Neighborhoods are as distinct as the people who inhabit them. The Vancouver-based subTerrain explores their diverse personalities in its 43rd issue, from the 'unkempt rear' -- whose cracked and forlorn alleyways are exhibited in Mike Grill's photo essay -- to luxury homes ensconced in thorny shrubs meant to keep unwanted neighbors out and private residents in. -- Kristen Mueller
The image of Leonard Cohen, mid-song, on the cover of Brick's Summer issue compelled me to pick up the literary journal, and the content drove me to devour three back issues. Inside this latest issue (#77) I found an interview with the reclusive Cohen andhis gorgeous introduction to the Chinese edition of his book, Beautiful Losers; speeches made at the 40th anniversary celebration for Toronto's Coach House Press (Brick is based in Toronto as well); and post-World War II letters of composer Dmitri Shostakovich. The real bonuses are the quote-adorned spines, all of the art within, and the asides from authors and editors that pepper each issue. If only this journal were published more than twice yearly. -- Miriam Skurnick