From the Stacks: May 19, 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.

Revelatory
autobiography, graphic novel, family history told using literary
tropes, investigation of personal memory, small-town tale of
skeletons in the closet, Alison Bechdel’s
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, new from Houghton
Mifflin, is all this and more. In an interview in the Summer issue
of
Bitch,
Bechdel says she’s wanted to tell this story since she was 20, but
that she had neither the emotional nor creative skills to take it
on until her late 30s. Even then, it took her seven years to
complete. Such diligence rewards Bechdel’s readers, who may plow
through Fun Home quickly, then find they want to reread it
to catch everything they missed the first time around. The
handsomely produced book likely will compel readers whether or not
they’re familiar with Bechdel’s long-running lesbian comic strip
Dykes to Watch Out
For
. — Chris Dodge

Published
twice a year, the theme-based journal
Matter
comes on strong with literature, art, interviews, and whatever else
its editors deem germane to the topic at hand. Issue No. 8, ‘Land,’
ranges from a poem about lilacs to a defense of being naked in
nature. (Call me converted!) The 312-page issue provides rewarding
quick-hits with an abundance of art while slowing the pace from
time to time with quirky pieces of experimental fiction and
essay-like arguments. Of special note, interestingly enough, is the
table of contents: Obtuse, frustrating, and charming all at the
same time, the text is formatted to look like a map of the earth.
The page, then, is both metaphorically and literally a map, and yet
it defies navigation. Perfect for a stint in the WC or a weekend on
the beach, Matter is sure to please, rewarding an open
mind with revelations both big and small. — Nick Rose

In the fifth issue of

I Hate This Part of Texas
— a New Orleans-based zine that
takes its name from some inspiring graffiti at a rest stop in
Oklahoma — John Gerken examines what it takes to put things back
together in communities whose foundations have been shaken. Part of
a New Orleans DIY collective, Gerken finds beauty in new
beginnings, in teaching middle school students bike repair and
safety, and in creating spaces for personal transformations. His
friend Shelley Jackson also contributes an essay about her yearly
sojourns to India, where she practices Buddhism and quiet
meditation, and her subsequent returns to New Orleans, finding joy
in maintaining balance in her boisterous neighborhood and bike
shop. The essays in this issue call for open ears, community
activism, and hope. ‘Do what you do and bring it into the world,’
Gerken writes. ‘Interact. Check out what other people are doing. To
share culture is to create community. Talk to you neighbors.’ —
Miriam Skurnick

Life gets complicated, so it’s nice to know that simple
pleasures still exist, like John Coltrane playing ‘My Ideal’ or
John Toren’s excellent zine
Macaroni.
The 71st issue may not be his best, my favorites are when he’s out
in the wilderness as opposed to the ‘minor metropolis’ of
Minneapolis, but it still contains literary sustenance akin to the
publication’s namesake. ‘Spring Cleaning’ opens the issue and
follows the author as he sifts through mix tapes, photographs, and
other treasures that have lain dormant inside an old desk. Each
object evokes beautiful, simple memories that Toren intersperses
with quotes from Robert Bly and John of Salisbury. Toren, whose
name and contact information aren’t included in the publication, is
also a writer, editor, and designer at
Nodin Press in Minnesota.
Bennett Gordon

Most people would prefer a lush green public park
over a dilapidated post-industrial wasteland, and the Spring 2006
issue of
Land & People, the official magazine of
The Trust for Public Land, is a
reminder that such a conversion is possible. In St. Paul,
Minnesota, community members worked together to transform an old
urban rail yard into the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary. Similar
projects are going forward in Seattle and Los Angeles. The issue
also profiles efforts to shield animal migration paths from
development to protect the bears, deer, bison, moose, and elk in
the American West. — Bennett Gordon

Judging from the proliferation of sculpture parks
across the United States, public art is catching on. Yet
universities and schools are just now introducing public art into
their curriculum, writes Jack Becker in his foreword to the
Spring/Summer issue of
Public Art
Review
. In this issue, titled ‘Art on Campus,’ the glossy
magazine takes a look at public art both in the classroom and on
the quad. The issue profiles institutions that are leading the way
in public art education while pointing out some of the pitfalls of
campus-community relations when public art projects are involved.
And while the magazine provides thoughtful editorials on this
particular theme, they also provide, for the more visually oriented
readers among us, an image-laden back section that is sure to
inspire. — Nick Rose

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