The full emotional tableau of autumn greets us on the newsstand, from the giddy creative dynamo of Bynum's Clyde Jones atop a colorful critter pile on the cover of The Rambler to Billy Solitario's ominous, people-less, billowy Gulf Coast clouds filling the cover of The Southern Review, just published from Louisiana State University.
The eight-page interview with Jones (featuring publisher/ interviewer Dave Korzon's continuing narrative) is a romp. Jones has been profiled often for his chain saw genius and, well, likability, but few have captured the whole of the moment.
Editor Bret Lott's makeover of the same-old, same-old Southern Review covers is exquisite. Issues went to press weeks before Katrina, but celebrate the land we've been thinking about and praying for in verse, text and watercolor. As the country watches the Gulf Coast struggle for its life, Lott provides the best literary backdrop around.
I couldn't put down the first issue of southernarts journal. A publishing dream of Greensboro's Robert Long, the magazine has one of the more eclectic selection of articles you'll find. Wendell Berry (!) leads the issue off with "Quality and Form," a new essay about family farms, the lived life and Southern values in an age of loss.
There's an engaging interview with musician and playwright Jim Wann. One of the most curious "book review" pieces I've ever seen is called "Great Novels About the Civil War and Great Civil War Novels: Personal Recommendations and Ratings." The writer composes a four-tier rating system to measure eight famous novels. Absalom, Absalom! and Beloved tie for first place.
Anyone starting a magazine in this age of search and flat screens is to be lauded. southernarts journal is coyly subtitled Art & Artists, Antiques, Preservation, Literature, Folklore, History & More... . So the reader is not too surprised to find an article about Civil War postcard collecting (with a chart about eBay sales), icebox pie recipes, Confederate half dollars and historic Wedgewood plates.
Blender magazine rocks. I never thought I'd say that. Better known for their photo layouts than their music reviews, the magazine pulls a great in-your-face-stunt with their "500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born!" issue. (You still have to get past Britney, Paris, Cameron, Michael and Pamela to get to the fun stuff.) Their list is the anti-Rolling Stone-rock-crit-hall-of-fame list. ("These people are called baby-boomers, and they're the same people who are bankrupting Social Security and invented the male ponytail.")
After their youthful rant, the Blenderistas pick some great tunes. Local folks Robbie Fulks, the DB's, Ryan Adams, Superchunk, Whiskeytown and Ben Folds Five all hit the chart.
I promptly made my download checklist and gave it to my daughter.
Contributing writer John Valentine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.