Reviewing a review

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In honor of Utne Reader’s 100th issue, Metro Times hereby turns the tables on “the best of the alternative press.” Utne has been poring over mountains of words opposed to corporate media for more than 15 years, presenting choice tidbits every other month. Saves us a lot of work. And thankfully, this month’s Utne is thick enough that complaints about the review’s alternative media navel-gazing should fall short: There’s plenty of room for real thought and question throughout Utne’s hundred or so pages. Articles for August rail against orthodoxies of liberalism and environmentalism, even as others extend those same venerable traditions.

The feature section is a case in point. Even as Pico Iyer’s excellent article argues that we can best know ourselves by carefully and intensely experiencing the dislocation of global living, Bill Kauffman argues seriously for provincialist rebellion. At the end, it’s hard to tell whether it’s possible or desirable to “stay rooted in a rootless world.” Iyer is rooted, and so is Kauffman, while Bruce Springsteen reflects on building communities through art in an interview that was probably conducted on a cell phone. It’s worth the effort to listen in on this extended conversation, to broaden your own opinions and practices.

Maybe Utne knew what it was doing here: The modern diaspora this issue features is not unlike the seemingly empty space that exists between good magazines, such as In These Times, Mother Jones, The Whole Earth Review, or any of the other sources the Utne editors read. And who has time to read them all anyway? That and change the world, too. So whatever the month’s selection is, reading Utne is the surest way to reassure yourself that there’s lots of good stuff going on out there, even if it doesn’t appear to be where you are right now.

Marc Christensen writes about books and music for Metro Times. E-mail letters@metrotimes.com.

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