From the Stacks: September 15, 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.

My heart was
aflutter this week when a package arrived in the Utne
library from Buenaventura Press, publisher of some of the
best comic art in the country. Alongside Comic Art Magazine
(a fun read in its own right and an excellent introduction
to the genre) was a wee red ‘supplement’ book brandishing the
gold-foil title, 40 Cartoon Books of Interest, by Seth.?A
renowned comic artist himself, Seth introduces the book as a list
of neither the best nor the most obscure, but rather as ‘an
eccentric grouping of favourite books.’?Two tiny pages are
dedicated to each book — one displays a photograph of the cover
and Seth’s brief description/personal rumination, the other
exhibits a selection from inside the book’s pages.?40 Cartoon
Books of Interest
is clearly a labor of love — an ode to
collecting, to books, to cartooning, and an informed and
entertaining peek at the evolution of an art form.?– Elizabeth

Brain, Child is a refreshing, witty
rumination on the joys, frustrations, and curiosities of
parenthood. Aimed primarily at mothers, the accessible and engaging
writing will likely capture the interest of fathers and non-parents
as well. Of the gems in the Fall issue are Sabra Ciancanelli’s
‘When Solly Lost Hairy,’ an account of her son’s braided-wig-hair
variation of The Velveteen Rabbit, and ‘Move the Phone Book
Closer,’ Hope Gatto’s experience with the old, ‘Oh, what a tangled
web we weave’ adage. With excellent writing throughout, and a
balanced, honest take on the rewards and tribulations of
parenthood, Brain, Child is a delight to read.
Suzanne Lindgren

ON Nature, a quarterly publication of the
Federation of Ontario Naturalists, explores the environmental costs
of greenhouse farming in its Autumn edition. In ‘The New Farm,’ Ray
Ford looks at high-tech, big-box greenhouses that let growers cheat
Old Man Weather. But, Ford points out, the bounty has its costs:
‘water, waste, and energy.’ Also in this issue: a look at the
popularity of city farming and what gardening groups are doing with
their harvests. Read on and you’ll find ‘Good Food Gone Bad.’ It’s
not the tantalizing spread of bikini-clad fruit and vegetables the
title hints at, but a fascinating piece that breaks down
information on the declining nutritional punch of the foods we eat.
— Jenna Fisher

Inside the Fall issue of
Threepenny Review
, a literary quarterly, lie two essays
that highlight the profound impact people (real and imagined) have
on one another. Janna Malamud Smith’s ‘Smarrita,’ a moving eulogy
for her mother-in-law, illustrates the multiple journeys that death
forces both the dying and the grieving to embark upon. In ‘On
Zadie,’ Clifford Thompson explores the importance of
multiculturalism and observations of character in Zadie Smith’s
works, and the hidden but loud idiosyncrasies she laces into her
characters. Of Smith’s rich and full novels, Thompson writes that
Smith achieves what is sometimes missing in literature: ‘?character
development and the beautiful illumination of the human condition,
however unbeautiful it might be.’ — Miriam Skurnick

Celebrating its
150th anniversary, The Atlantic still lives up to its
reputation for offering thoughtful political and international
commentary and coverage. As the Middle East dominates headlines,
The Atlantic‘s October issue focuses on North Korea, the
fragile and volatile country that Robert D. Kaplan says is destined
to collapse. He speculates about the end of the Kim Family Regime
and whether that downfall will involve their hearty stock of
weapons of mass destruction. Kaplan’s take on the situation is just
one of many to ponder in this issue. Other items to contemplate
include who has the most to lose in Lebanon’s war and the inverse
correlation between middle school science test scores and the
confidence of students around the world. — Rachel

Read through the seventh
volume of Make and you might just feel like
MacGyver. The publication speaks to do-it-yourselfers and hobbyists
as much as it does to novices who may have been cursed with all
thumbs. This issue offers instruction on multiple ways to silence
annoying toys, a plant grafting guide, and a how-to for making your
own DNA lab in your kitchen. For those weekend warriors who’ve
always dreamed of launching off into space, Make gives
them the next best thing: a blueprint for a camcorder rocket to
record an astronaut’s view of the neighborhood. — Rachel

Blueprint, a monthly out of London, fuses
the currents of architecture, design, and culture with a heady
touch. In September’s ‘More Bling for Your Bucket,’ Tim Abrahams
parses the pop-culture subtext of a bright lime-green ice bucket
designed for Dom P?rignon. Abrahams discusses Brooklyn rapper
Jay-Z’s pronouncement of Dom P?rignon’s rival, Cristal, as racist
and examines the role of conspicuous consumption in the
marketplace. Blueprint possesses an international focus
that helps keep readers abreast of notable trends and ideas in
design from around the globe. And, while it seems aimed at the
professional, the magazine’s slick design and compelling writing
guarantee accessibility to anyone with a passing interest.
Suzanne Lindgren

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