This has been a great month for magazines. As warmongers ranted and weathermen threatened, two guys named Mark (or Marc) came to the rescue of print media doldrums.
What's so new on the racks? Look beyond the new Martha Stewart home glossy, called Haven and the Cosmogirl clone aimed at mall rats.
Marc Smirnoff has found a new home for his Oxford American in Little Rock, Ark (www.oxfordamericanmag.com). His re-launched mag looks fantastic, kind of like Spy meets Vanity Fair with text from The New Yorker, all with a Southern accent (whatever that is these days). There's even a hint of early McSweeney's in some of the graphy sidebars.
The newest OA, number 43, has staying power for a reader, with a good mix of nonfiction (unpublished James Agee, autobiographical and riveting, and a totally unique four part motel tour by Charles Portis), humor, poetry (James Applewhite's poem about transplanted azaleas is timeless and perfect for this season) and photography. With good notices in both The New York Times and Publishers Weekly, Oxford American is poised for more national success. Special issues on Southern food and the always-blockbuster, award winning Southern music number (with bonus CD) are expected in the next few months.
One new OA column particularly caught our attention, it was all so close up and close by. "Uncle Art" dished the literary gossip of Hillsborough, Raleigh, and Chapel Hill. We heard the latest about Daniel Wallace, Charles Frazier and Doug Marlette. Turns out former Indy intern and freelancer Lauren Wilcox is Uncle Art.
"Little Rock reminds me of Durham," smiled Wilcox, remembering her hometown. "Both are lazy, edgy Southern towns. Tell people to send me their good gossip!"
Another former Independent staffer is making waves closer to home. Mark Hornburg, the Indy's former arts and entertainment editor, has launched a spunky, must-read magazine out of Raleigh. LatherWeekly is a dense, fun, sometime irreverent colorful look at arts, entertainment and politics in the cap city.
Hornburg is no stranger to editing, writing or publishing. His North Carolina Review of Books magazine spotlighted the local lit scene in the mid '90s. Lather has David Rees' anti-war comix, a new Top 10 music chart, lots of event listings (comedy, gay and lesbian, dance clubs, home stuff) and a local snapshot-party photo collage called Rogue's Gallery.
Mark and designer Jim Jackson's theory is that we live and travel in parallel cities. They go to their favorite stores and restaurants, you go to yours. We pass by each other all the time. If the city gets too big, fragmented, populous and isolated communities result. Hornburg's effort is to provide windows into each others' places, as a means for the parallel cities to intersect: The parallel cities are one city.
Some deep social theory here, a great way to check out some scenes. So take a walk outside, down a new street; Mark Hornburg wants you to check out your town, while Marc Smirnoff entices you to contemplate your "South." New issues always on the way.