Sunday, January 20, 2008

OTHER magazine

About a week ago I went to Makeout Room for a reading, but the place was sold out so I couldn't get in. I was just tagging along with my friends and didn't even know who was reading (the most I can tell you is that the majority of the people waiting in line were upper-middle class lesbians, predominantly around 35 years of age--it could have been an Indigo Girls concert for all I know), so I wasn't too bummed out about not getting in. And as a bonus, the club owner gave out free copies of this issue of OTHER magazine, and I managed to get the last one. Score!

I'd never heard of OTHER before, but it turned out to be a pretty good read. This issue (number 13) focused on the end of the Independent Press Association, and the magazines that perished along with it. I've always been excited by the independent press (which encompasses everything from no-budget zines to bigger mags running without corporate support), and it was really cool to get a taste of some of the titles I'd missed out on. Probably my favorite part of the magazine was a question-and-answer session with the editors of several deceased magazines, like CLAMOR and PROCESSED WORLD. Some of these magazines ran for years, and built up subscriber bases of more than a thousand people, and they managed it all while maintaining independent status, which is awesome.

Indie mags, especially zines, have captured my fascination and imagination since I was in my early-teens. The idea of communicating directly with people you wouldn't otherwise come into contact with, of having a chance to say what you want to say to people you've never even met, and to hear what they're thinking too, is at the root of my obsession with writing, and I've always seen zines as the purest way of pursuing that. Zines and Indie Mags are also a lot of fun to read, because you get the feel of the people behind them, without those people having to filter their identities through the influence of big corporations. There's a directness, a sense of intimacy and connection, to this type of writing that you can't get from the big glossies (which are primarily oriented toward selling you shit; it's amazing how nefarious and underhanded titles like Esquire and Vanity Fair can be, not only in the obvious ways--like dedicating more pages to advertisements than actual content--but also with sneaky tactics like focusing their stories on celebrities releasing films owned by the same corporations that own the magazine).

The issue of OTHER that I read has that same sense of intimacy that I got from my favorite zines, but it also showcased pieces that were much more eloquent and thoroughly researched than the typical zine article. The range of tones you get in this issue is remarkable--from a personal and unassuming account of working in bookstores to a scholarly, extensively footnoted narrative of the history of BITCH magazine (the old "Women in Rock" BITCH, not the new "feminist responses to culture" BITCH). You'll never see that much variety in a bigger, slicker magazine, which is part of why these independent magazines are so cool.

So OTHER manages to combine what I love about zines (that sense of intimacy and directness and connection) with the bonuses offered by magazines (namely having a larger pool of skilled people working together toward the same goal). And this issue was a particularly great find for me, because of its focus on defunct indies I wouldn't have heard about otherwise. I'll be keeping my eye out for OTHER, and for remaining copies of the dead and gone mags I read about here.

And to think that I might not have ever stumbled onto this if I'd managed to get into that club!

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