9/7/2012 9:11:18 AM
Every day, new books arrive in the offices of Utne Reader.
It would be impossible to review all of them, but a shame to leave many
hidden on the shelves. In "Bookmarked," we link to excerpts from some of
our favorites, hoping they'll inspire a trip to your local library or bookstore. Enjoy!
Is the world coming to an end in 2012? According to the Aztec
calendar (different from the Mayan calendar), this is actually not the
case. The Dawn of the Sixth Sun (Blossoming
Books, 2012), by mystic and teacher of the Toltec/Aztec lineage Sergio
Magaña (Ocelocoyotl), discloses an in-depth understanding of the Aztec
calendar from a rich oral tradition. Magaña explains how the changing of
the Suns will end one era and begin another with great opportunity for
change in human consciousness. Read
Chapter 1, “How Did It All Start? The Sowing of the Name…”
The Polluters (Oxford
University Press, 2010) is an unflinching story of the onslaught of
chemical pollution and the chemical industry's unwillingness to face the
devastating effects. The research by Benjamin Ross and Steve Amter
reveals new documents that show industries knew of toxic hazards long
before they were public, and reveals the political conflicts in which
economic interests prevailed over environmental ones. Read Chapter 1, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentices.”
In a story that travels beyond borders and between families,
acclaimed Dominican novelist and poet Julia Alvarez reflects on the joys
and burdens of love—for her parents, for her husband and for a young
Haitian boy known as Piti. A Wedding In Haiti
(Algonquin Books, 2012) is an intimate, true account of a promise kept.
Alvarez takes us on a journey into experiences that challenge our way
of thinking about history and how it can be reimagined when people from
two countries—traditional enemies and strangers—become friends. Read Chapter 1, “Going to Piti’s Wedding in Haiti.”
5/13/2011 10:47:27 AM
Our library contains 1,300 publications—a feast of magazines, journals, alt-weeklies, newsletters, and zines—and every year, we honor the stars in our Utne Independent Press Awards. We’ll announce this year’s winners on Wednesday, May 18, at the
MPA’s Independent Magazine Group conference
in San Francisco. From now until then, we’ll post the nominees in all of the categories on our blogs. Below you’ll find the nominees for best writing, with a short introduction to each. These magazines are literally what Utne Reader is made of. Though we celebrate the alternative press every day and with each issue, once a year we praise those who have done an exceptional job.
Since 1932, The American Scholar has provided a forum for the spirited exploration of ideas. The “venerable but lively” quarterly, published by the Phi Beta Kappa Society, enlightens and provokes readers with thoughtful prose on public affairs, history, science, and culture.
An arts magazine with a decidedly literary bent, The Believer covers books, film, music, and pop culture with barely contained intellectual glee. Part of the McSweeney’s empire founded by author Dave Eggers, it constantly finds new ways to showcase the creative impulse.
is published biannually, and the wait time between issues is agonizing. In 2010, the Canadian literary magazine published pieces by emerging writers alongside prose by giants Robert Hass, Geoff Dyer, and Mark Doty. The editors’ mandate is “to create a beautiful product,” and they succeed twice a year, every year.
Oversized and stuffed, The Brooklyn Rail opens with an eclectic blend of cultural discourse and political debate, then segues into an engaging array of reviews and down-to-earth interviews with both up-and-coming and established artists.
The stories told between the covers of Creative Nonfiction are not the confessionals that dominate chain bookstore shelves; they are thoughtfully told narratives that present a universal sense of experience. Through its consistent publication of quality nonfiction prose, as well as essays examining the genre more closely, Creative Nonfiction has helped give the genre legitimacy, continuing in the footsteps of writers like Mailer, Wolfe, Capote, and Talese, who paved its way.
There are few university magazines that, like Portland, can be described as simply profound. At its core, the University of Portland’s beautiful publication is a Catholic endeavor, but faith isn’t so much the subject matter as the fuel for essays and reportage that challenge and inspire.
is the best of so many things—philosophy, spirituality, photography—but what always stands out is the writing. In essays, fiction, memoirs, and poetry, this ad-free, independent magazine lets all of its content shine brightly, whether it’s a story about a recovering alcoholic finding redemption in a new family or a poem about the sweet things we leave behind when we die.
Thirteen years ago, the founders of Tin Houseset out to create a journal “tantamount to being guest of honor at the greatest literary house party ever.” Mission accomplished. In its 10th year, Tin House is wildly delightful, showcasing a roster of writers both emerging and established.
See our complete list of 2011 nominees.
Image by karindalziel, licensed under Creative Commons.
9/15/2009 2:46:56 PM
Peanut butter and Marshmallow Fluff sandwiched between two pieces of white bread, known as the fluffernutter, may be one of the most cherished foods in New England. And when Massachusetts State Senator Jarrett Barrios tried to restrict Marshmallow Fluff intake among school children—limiting public schools to just one serving per week—Barrio’s constituents rebelled. As Katie Liesener eruditely reports for Gastronomica, “fluff runs deep in this country.”
In response to Barrio’s regulation attempt, residents organized a movement to declare the fluffernutter the official Massachusetts state sandwich. Barrio eventually withdrew his anti-fluff legislation, and a loyal aide assured the Associated Press that “He loves Fluff as much as the next legislator.” Liesener provides an engaging and wonderfully crafted profile of the controversy, dubbed a “kerfuffle,” and the enigmatic company behind the iconic Marshmallow Fluff. “Outsiders may know New England for its baked beans and chowder,” Liesener writes, but deep in the hearts and pantries of New England homes lies a jar of Marshmallow Fluff.
Image by jessamyn, licensed under Creative Commons.
7/28/2009 11:24:36 AM
Ever feel like you’re trapped in the city, exiled from your natural home in the wilds, longing for some deeper connection with nature? Yeah, me too. That’s why I’ve been enjoying Lyanda Lynn Haupt’s new book, Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness (Little, Brown), which encourages us to attune ourselves to the wildlife that exists even in our paved and mowed urban landscapes. Haupt uses crows as a spirit-guide into the natural world, which goes against her instincts because a) she has a clear aversion to too much “woo-woo” talk and a hesitance to anthropomorphize, b) she sees the abundance of crows as an indicator of ecological imbalance, and c) as she states flat-out in the opening line, “Crows are not my favorite bird.”
Nonetheless, Haupt is irresistibly drawn to crows as she shakes off something that sounds like not just urban ennui but clinical depression. Getting herself out of her funk, she begins to explore her nearby Seattle environs with the expertise of an experienced birder, the sharp eye of an all-around naturalist, and the literary mind of a probing essayist:
When we allow ourselves to think of nature as something out there, we become prey to complacency. If nature is somewhere else, then what we do here doesn’t really matter. Jennifer Price writes in Flight Maps, her eloquent critique of romanticized nature, that modern Americans use an idea of Nature Out There to ignore our ravenous uses of natural resources. “If I don’t think of a Volvo as nature, then can’t I buy and drive it to Nature without thinking very hard about how I use, alter, destroy, and consume nature?” In my urban ecosystem, I drive around a corner and a crow leaps into flight from the grassy parking strip. We startle each other. If nature is Out There, she asks, then what am I?
Source: Little, Brown
7/10/2009 12:24:53 PM
Pop songs romanticizing murder and corruption among drug cartels and federales (Mexican national police) have been a staple in Mexican culture since the '60s, writes William T. Vollmann in the July/August issue of Mother Jones.
Through a series of intimate encounters, Vollmann explores the complicated role the baladas prohibidas, or narcocorridos, play in the lives of people in Mexico, many of whom understandably vilify corrupt authorities and uphold drug lords as idyllic figures of honor and bravery, seemingly without a sense of fear for their own lives. But recently balladas prohibidas have come under fire, and even been banned from certain Mexican radio stations and outlawed altogether in Baja California. He writes:
The policeman Carlos Pérez said that some of the most famous ballads were about Jesús Malverde, whom he called the patron saint of the narcotraffickers. He lived in Sinaloa. He was Robin Hood. He sold drugs and used the money to help the people. He was killed in a gun battle because he didn't want to give himself up. Some say he was never caught. Some say he died of old age, and others say that he is still alive. Everybody has his own story
Below are some popular narcocorridos we dug up from YouTube.
Source: Mother Jones, YouTube
Image biy DavidDennis, licensed under Creative Commons.
6/29/2009 1:24:31 PM
All over Iraq, American forces are striking camp and withdrawing from cities. Blogging for the Atlantic, Graeme Wood offers a snapshot of the withdrawal, with an eye for the details most news reports leave out:
The only thing uglier than a military base is a military base that is being torn down. Camp Tash is nearly gone, and it is already half landfill and all eyesore. While walking around I tallied the objects buried in the sand: a leather sandal, frayed coaxial cables, many plastic bags, scattered live 5.56mm rounds, plastic bottles galore.
And stacks of old wood are everywhere. The Marines' weapon of choice is the crowbar, with a claw-hammer for a sidearm. They crawl over SWA huts, ripping out plywood and wearing rifle vests if they rise above the berm and into the sights of potential snipers. In the middle of the afternoon, three Iraqis show up, one in a police uniform, with a truck. They scavenge as much wood as they can carry. One of them, Adnan Yusuf, is plump and huffs smoke through the gaps in his teeth. He is smiling, because there's money in that wreckage. “Business is good," he says. "I just spent three months tearing apart bases in Hit and Ramadi.”
Source: The Atlantic
6/18/2009 5:29:04 PM
Trees of all sizes loom large in the world of Linda Underhill, the author of the new book The Way of the Woods: Journeys Through American Forests (Oregon State University). Underhill’s writing is clear, crisp literary journalism, moving with an understated grace as she covers specific types of forests, from rainforests to urban woodlands to the threatened hemlocks of Appalachia. Her writing on old-growth forests displays her deft touch:
Compared to tree plantations or woodlands managed for growing a certain kind of timber, the old-growth forest is an incoherent prayer, devout but disorganized, oblivious to any demands but its own growth and decay. This sacred chaos holds the key to natural processes scientists are eager to study, but there are few places left where people have not already altered their rhythms or otherwise destroyed the evidence of creation at work. The valuable timber in old-growth forests, where trees grow hundreds of feet tall and many feet around, has proved irresistible to those who know the price such wood can bring. But an old-growth forest also offers something less easy to price in the marketplace. It invites us to witness the miracle of creation and change the way we look at our own short lives. The tall trees inspire a reverence equal to any of our own great cathedrals, and they belong only to themselves. Chopping down old-growth trees and hauling them away seems akin to scattering the stones of the Cathedral of Notre Dame and selling them off as souvenirs.
I read the book last week while camping for a few days in the Midwest: first under a giant oak in the Mississippi bottomlands, then beneath the canopy of a maple forest, and finally under a small grove of black walnuts. My copy is a bit dog-eared, having been dripped on by rain-soaked maples and showered with pollen-filled oak catkins. But somehow I suspect the author wouldn't mind.
Source: The Way of the Woods
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