Culture » November 26, 2001
A Little Help For Our Friends
When major newspapers are shrinking their book review sections, and fine magazines
like Feed and Lingua Franca have disappeared from the firmament
altogether, its heartening to welcome, amid the sad fortunes of what we
bloodlessly call economic downturn, two new vigorous outlets for
cultural writing and the arts.
Croonenberghs Fly, a journal scrappily published by In These
Times contributor Philip Connors, offers a choice mix of fiction, poetry,
photography and criticism. His first issue begins with a short story about romantic
ennui and prehistoric cave paintings, and ends with a lively tour through the
British gangster cinema. In between, we find, among other odds and ends, pictures
of burros necking in New Mexico, a poem describing chess pieces … carved
out of bone and a piece of sports writing taking well-deserved shots at
that star pitcher for Team Globalization, Thomas Friedman of the New York
A strange mix? The journal takes its name from Norman Macleans novella
A River Runs Through It, in which one George Croonenberghs prepares a
fly-fishing lure that had about everything on it, from deer hair to fool-hen
feathers. The novella posits a curiosity theory of fly fishing,
that fish, like men, will sometimes strike at things just to find out
what they are. (Stickler grammarians might ask: Shouldnt it then
be Croonenberghs Fly? Phil tells me that he changed the position
of the apostrophe for aesthetic reasons, which trumped fidelity to the reference.)
Connors and his diverse gang of contributors, some of whom you already know
from the bestseller lists or (more modestly) the In These Times culture
section, may well have you hooked.
The Common Review, a new magazine published by the Great Books Foundation,
is a very different enterprise, but an equally welcome addition to the conversation.
Peter Temes, Great Books president, writes in his inaugural letter that
it is the imagination that manufactures the tools of daily commerce, and
those tools are far more humane and valuable when the imaginations that craft
them grapple with the politics of faraway nations and the meanings of things
like art, love [and] justice.
That democratic and humanist impulse admirably informs the eclectic tastes
of editor Daniel Born, who procures literary, cultural and political views from
a hotel in Phnom Penh, a jail in San Francisco, a conference in Ljubljana. My
particular favorite from the first issue is a penetrating piece on hard-boiled
Harlem chronicler Chester Himes, but the biggest eyebrow-raiser, for some readers,
may come from cultural studies bigshot Michael Bérubé. In a surprisingly
conciliatory and positive review of Tom Franks One Market Under God,
Bérubé in effect tries to bury the hatchet on the lefts
longstanding internecine feud over the excesses of pomo cultural studiesand
its about time.
Contact Croonenberghs Fly at 3410 33rd St. #4B, Astoria, NY
11106. Single issues cost $7; three-issue subscriptions are $18. The Common
Review is published quarterly for $3 per issue or $9 per annual subscription;
drop them a line at 35 E. Wacker Drive, Suite 2300, Chicago, IL 60601 or at
email@example.com. (But please, nobody tell these publishers that a recessions
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Joe Knowles is a former culture editor for In These Times.