From the Stacks: July 7, 2006

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

The July/August issue of
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

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

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