Friday, June 4, 2010

and another reason to love your local bookstore

I love bookstores that commit to stocking interesting small journals and magazines, and this week I picked up the latest editions of three of the best in three different stores.

N+1, the brilliant, twice per year notebook/manifesto issued by a collective of young geniuses in Brooklyn, offers some of the most penetrating and original social criticism to be found anywhere. Issue 9, dedicated to the theme “Bad Money,” is no exception. The anonymous introductory essays, linked under the heading “The Intellectual Situation,” are alone worth the price of an issue, and cleverly limn the links between internet history, the future of printed books and newspapers, and the twisted market metaphors driving online gaming, i.e. “nerd crack.”

After a too-long hiatus, Tom Frank’s original Chicago-based journal The Baffler is back. One of the earliest, most rigorous, and funniest takedowns of the creeping marketization of every aspect of our lives, the current issue is loaded with tasty food for iconoclastic thought. The standout is Walter Benn Michaels’ The Un-Usable Past, wherein he dissects what the ideological triumph of the so-called free market has wrought for literature and culture. The whole issue is a keeper.

Last year I stumbled upon a beautiful and profound short essay by Amy Leach called “Sail On, My Little Honey Bee” in a wonderful small magazine called A Public Space. Like the previous two journals, A Public Space has a distinctive aesthetic, a quirky appealing design, and a solid mission, though the reader is never beaten unconscious with it. Less polemical than N+1 and The Baffler, A Public Space consistently features some of the most interesting fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction you can find anywhere. Every piece punches above its weight.

We focus so much on the other media on the endangered print species list- books, newspapers, commercial magazines. Let’s not forget to do some nail-biting for these wonderful hybrids. And to support them and the stores that stock them.

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