Fringe Tucked In

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The offbeat quarterly Speak may not wow us with its Ray Gun approach to page layout and wacky fonts, but it sure has its ink-smudged fingers on the pulse of what’s going on across the spectrum of culture, politics and the arts. It publishes a wild variety of writers that includes Greil Marcus (last issue), which fits its sound-but-pushing-it style. This brave, almost brazen, issue features a hand-drawn face gagged with a piece of duct tape. But this magazine isn’t about to keep its big mouth shut. On the contrary.

From presidential campaign 2000 to Jedediah Purdy’s "misreading of irony" to the band Fun Lovin’ Criminals, Speak says it all about the topics that mean a lot to some people and apparently should mean more to the others. John Lardas offers an article on Charles Olson that kicks off with the writer’s memory of being in the audience at a reading Olson gave at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Abandoning the drooling freshman essay prose one might expect, Lardas, indeed, speaks: "So much for the life of poetry when all you have are hanging judges, listening but not hearing, passing down sentences instead of breathing life into them?" He sounds so convinced and authoritative you want to believe him, but he also drives his point hard enough to make you wince. That happens a lot inside these pages. And, why is it that all the really compelling one-liner observations on art and culture always sound like something Jesus might have said? In any case, the folks at Speak have something to say, and they aren’t about to wait around for an OK – let alone a "safe" moment – to let it rip.

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