The Bookazine Solution
Some months ago I wrote a post mourning the demise of the alt-country magazine No Depression. Turns out there's a happy ending, assuming everything pans out. Like so many noble journalistic enterprises, No Depression has turned to the nonprofit/educational world for sustenance. The University of Texas, which published an anthology of No Depression pieces in 2005, will put out a book-format journal called No Depression #76.
For sure this is good news, amped up by the notice sent out by publicist Traci Thomas, which reports that the bookazine is only half the strategy. In late September, No Depression will relaunch online, publishing blogs, features, news, and reviews. Thomas concludes: "While the bookazine breaks ground in the publishing world, it is ultimately its combination with the website that moves No Depression forward into the exciting, new media future." As with all publishing ventures, whether the website will prove self-sustaining, and what economic use it will be to its contributors, remains to be seen. But it's great that Peter Blackstock and Grant Alden have taken their baby this far.
Still, I have a couple of stray reservations--not reservations, really, more like wistful what-does-it-all-mean thoughts. The first is that a long time ago I decided for journalism and against academia in my own career because I believed journalism with its profit motives was more conducive to adventurous thinking and good writing. I've done a fair amount of college teaching, in music history as well as writing, and am still willing to generalize that I get more intellectual stimulation from my journalistic friends than from the people I meet in academia--though if I spend all my time in academia I'd presumably get to be more selective. Now journalism as I engaged it turns to the public tit. Something's off there.
The second is that one reason Texas is ready to hook up with No Depression is that No Depression specializes in Americana--so-called roots stuff. The past, especially the regional past, always has an academic market. Were a punk magazine to go down (is Maximum Rock 'n' Roll still around?), hooking up would probably be a lot tougher. In this connection I am pleased to report that No Depression #76, in addition to its big cover piece on new string bands and other predictably worthy fare, will have a feature on Canadian singer-songwriter Basia Bulat, who pigeonholes less readily although I don't think she's all that, and--bingo--the now veteran Oklahoma teenpop group Hanson. MMMBop. But also, Hanson fans, Weird.
By Bluenoser on September 5, 2008 11:45 AM
The URL in the article is malformed. It should just be: http://www.utexas.edu/utpress/books/ald76p.html [fixed above]
UT Press should be commended for continuing No Depression in print, even at a bi-annual schedule. Though Maximum R&R may not show up at University of California Press if it were to end up in tough straits, it's not out of the realm of possibility that it could find a home at a university press somewhere. (it may have to move to a non-rub ink though . . . it is still around and there's a special issue out on Raymond Pettibon I think.)
Univ. Presses do take chances on rock and roll now and then. I think Frank Kogan's last book came out from Univ of Georgia Press.
By Peter Blackstock on September 5, 2008 2:09 PM
A leading punk magazine, Punk Planet, did go down last year, and perhaps you are correct in your hunch, as I'm pretty certain Punk Planet has not found any university-press types of takers to revive them in print. They have continued as a website, though to what extent it has been financially viable for them, I don't know. Nor do I know yet exactly how financially viable it will be for us! But we'll give it a try.
And meantime, for what it's worth, I must say that I've found the UT Press folks to be actually quite UNlike the stereotypical stuffiness of academia. This is the second project we've done with them (they did our "Best Of" anthology in 2005), and both times they've been quite encouraging of our creative impulses.
But we will miss the bimonthly days, for sure. As one of my heroes, Mickey Newbury, once sang, "The future's not what it used to be . . . "
By Vinnie La Russa on September 7, 2008 4:08 PM
MaximumRockNRoll is still around.