It's hazardous duty working as the Utne librarian. Dozens of magazines arrive in the mail daily, ablaze with words that call for attention, no subject too bizarre. Laden shelves threaten to capsize. Like a zombie's, my eyes glaze and my stomach churns. With a zillion things to read, how do I keep from going crazy?
'Hocus, focus' is the answer, I've come to realize. The good librarian is organized. Alphabetically, from A to zed, the sizable Utne magazine collection extends, if not to the horizon, then at least a quite a few feet. One way to manage the maze of magazines is to start at the end, with Z.
Now I'm jazzed to recommend some publications from the bottom rack, an assortment that represents the diverse range of independent periodicals.
Monthly Z Magazine, dedicated to 'resisting injustice, defending against repression, and creating liberty,' began publication as Zeta in 1988, cofounded by Lydia Sargent and Michael Albert, who with others started the collectively run South End Press in the '70s. Ad-free Z runs articles and zealous commentary about world politics, including well-known voices of dissent (such as Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky) along with writers from the Southern Hemisphere. Each issue features Sargent's Hotel Satire column, as well as reviews and resource listings. $33/yr. (11 issues) from 18 Millfield St., Woods Hole, MA 02543; www.zmag.org.
The Zephyr (also known as the Canyon Country Zephyr) is a sharply focused lens on the U.S. West. Although it specifically covers the Moab, Utah, area, Jim Stiles' bimonthly publication shows how Western land and communities have been taken hostage more widely by real estate developers and people who cater to motoring tourists, off-road vehicle users, and lycra-suited trail bikers. The paper's motto, 'Clinging hopelessly to the past since 1989,' is mirrored by Stiles' past/present photo essays, some of which show beautiful places and how they've been ruined. $15/yr. (6 issues) from Box 327, Moab, UT 84532; www.canyoncountryzephyr.com.
Zyzzyva, an above-average literary journal presenting West Coast writers and artists, features a 'first time in print' section each issue. More than 200 writers have debuted in Zyzzyva's pages, editor Howard Junker asserts, including actor Peter Coyote (Winter 1988). Besides poetry and short stories, recent editions have featured a gay man's reminiscences about his marriage to an immigrant woman; lino prints depicting Mother Jones, Emma Goldman, and Audre Lorde; some words about the leaf-hopping insect that lends its name to the publication; and outtakes from pitches to the editor, a snarky move that may be designed to cut down on submissions. $44/yr. (4 issues) from Box 590069, San Francisco, CA 94159; www.zyzzyva.org.
Zeek, 'a Jewish journal of thought and culture,' is a generally well written and cleanly designed publication of creative writing and graphics. The Spring/Summer 2006 edition focuses on marginality, with an essay titled 'How I Ended Up at the Jerusalem Same-Sex Attraction Group' and an article examining 'tensions between Buddhism and Judaism,' as well as photos by Serge J-F. Levy of people in the New York City subway system and a startling photo by Doron Hanoch of a topless woman with a bowl of powder overturned on her head. $25/2 yrs. (4 issues) from 104 W. 14th St., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10011; www.zeek.net.
Zion's Herald has been published since the early 19th century, amazingly. Self-described as 'an open forum for people of faith,' it's a bimonthly Methodist magazine with a progressive slant. Recent issues have included an interview with theologian Huston Smith, a selection of writings on homosexuality and Christianity, coverage of a church-affiliated medical school under fire for alleged union busting, and short essays on poverty, absolutism, grief, torture, and truth telling. The magazine won't come at the end of the alphabet for long: It's on hiatus through year's end, and is scheduled to restart as the Progressive Christian with the January/February edition. $28/yr. (6 issues) from Boston Wesleyan Association, Box 458, North Berwick, ME 03906; www.zionsherald.com.
Named after 18th-century publisher John Peter Zenger, Zenger's Newsmagazine is a slim, San Diego-based newsprint monthly covering 'alternative lifestyles, politics, culture, and health.' In this case, 'alternative lifestyles' seems to be code for gay, since most issues have gay-related covers as explicit as 'A Daddy's View of Submission.' $25/yr. (12 issues) from Box 50134, San Diego, CA 92165.
Zine World ('A Reader's Guide to the Underground Press'), though infrequently published these days, is one of only a few publications devoted to reviewing homemade micropress publications, the likes of Sock Monkey Social Life, Factory Wounds, and Elephant Mess. A new issue was due out while this issue of Utne was in the works. $10/4 issues from Box 330156, Murfreesboro, TN 37133.
This just in
Bidoun, a quarterly magazine covering the arts
and culture of the Middle East, is like a city street bustling with
diverse sights, sounds, and scents, both mind-expanding and a
little overwhelming. Its range is wide: architecture, film, graphic
arts, design, fashion, music, books, tourism, and more. Read in #7
about the airports of Tehran and Damascus, see color
photos of airline meals, and wonder about musician Hisham Bharoocha's top 10 listening list. Bidoun means 'without' in both Arabic and Farsi, ironic considering how much comes with each issue. $36/yr. (4 issues) from 138 W. 15th St., Suite 1, New York, NY 10011; www.bidoun.com.
Wapsipinicon Almanac comes out of rural Iowa and pleases both the eyes and the mind. Looking straight out of the '60s, unpretentious in tone, the almanac wends its way unhurriedly from folksy editorial notes through essays by Iowans visiting Chiapas and living in New England and Saudi Arabia, historical articles on such topics as Jews in 19th-century Iowa, Iowa-related book reviews, and articles about drinking water, chemtrails, wineries, and the Wapsipinicon River itself. You don't need to be an Iowan to enjoy the journal's simple design, so compelling that I felt inclined to linger over spot art and ads for the likes of corn-burning stoves, a regional puppet theater, and wooden caskets made by Trappist monks. $7 each from 19948 Shooting Star Rd., Anamosa, IA 52205.
Listen: The Story of the People at Taku Wakan Tipi and the Reroute of Highway 55, or The Minnehaha Free State (Feral Press) is an oral history of a grassroots effort to save old oak trees-and a neighborhood-from being destroyed to enlarge a road. The setting: south Minneapolis in the late 1990s, near the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers, a wooded area sacred to some, near the historic spring known as Camp Coldwater. The cast: a diverse coalition of tree-sitting punk kids, Native Americans, residents, and activists. $20 (free to schools and libraries while supplies last) from editor Elli King, Box 526, Finland, MN 55614.
Eating Fire, Tasting Blood: An Anthology of the American Indian Holocaust, new from the Thunder's Mouth Press imprint of Avalon Publishing Group, includes previously published writings by the likes of Linda Hogan and Eduardo Galeano, as well as such new material as an excerpt from David Seals' forthcoming Someday, My Son, None of This Will Be Yours. For more info: www.thundersmouth.com.
A Mile in Her Boots: Women Who Work in the Wild, new from the Solas House imprint of Travelers' Tales, collects stories by female wildlife biologists, camp cooks, dogsledders, Forest Service workers, commercial fishers, trailblazers, mapmakers, and others whose words have the flavor of campfire tales. For more info: www.travelerstales.com.