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Notes from the Underground: The Most Outrageous Stories from the Alternative Press Paperback – August 30, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Nondaily, free-circulation newspapers are the antidote to much of the bland reporting that exists in mainstream newspapers, as this compilation of the best articles from the alternative press of 2004 makes clear. The selections, from LA Weekly, the Dallas Observer, the Boston Phoenix, the New York Press, the Village Voice, the Stranger and other publications, are powerful, often bitingly so, and reveal curious worlds that exist deep within our culture. Two of the best pieces are a fascinating-albeit dangerous to report-story by Ben Ehrenreich from LA Weekly about "a new generation of tramps" who ride freight trains along the West Coast, which plays to a larger story about America's history of movement and self-reliance; and a personal and very touching piece from the New York Press by David Ritchie, an American writer living in Seoul, about suffering from diabetes and the subsequent disappearance of his "capacity for sexual response." Armstrong, a freelance writer formerly of the Philadelphia City Paper, has succeeded in culling an eye-opening sample of the best (though not necessarily "outrageous," as the subtitle promises) of America's alternative press.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Top customer reviews
But it is journalism and as the years go on, some of the writing can seem dated. If you are an alt-weekly fan, or perhaps a journalist thinking of going that route, then you're much better served by logging on to AAN.COM and looking up the winners of their annual awards.
Bottom Line: Get this at the library or search for the articles online, but don't spend the money on the book.
There are some exceptions; Barbara Solow's "Academia Under Seige" and Dan Savage's "Dope" both were written with an openly partisan stance and Greg Tate's "Hip-Hop Turns 30" was too poorly written to have gone mainstream. But the other articles feature subjects like a profile of New York's last executioner, a fraud case in a Texan cemetary, or history of Ultimate Fighting.
So if you're looking for some good human interest pieces, I'd recommend this book. However, if you're looking for something "edgy" you might want to look elsewhere.
For me, the highlights of the collection were:
- Dead Wrong (from the Houston Press) is a quirky, sad piece about a Houston cemetery that doesn't know where it buried people.
- Bound By Fear (from Phoenix New Times) is a long piece about polygamy in the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints. However, since this piece appeared, the polygamy story has received so much attention that the story has lost some of its impact.
- Evil Eyes (from the Dallas Observer) examines the case of Coral Eugene Watts, a serial killer scheduled to be released from a Texas prison.
- The Last Executioner (from The Village Voice) investigates the 1990 suicide of the last man to work as executioner for the State of New York.
- Stalking the Bogeyman (from Westword) covers a rape victim's attempts to confront - and come to terms with - the man who assaulted him as a child. I read this piece last, and I was prepared to dislike it. However, it is well written and thought provoking.
The rest of the collection has some decent stories - and some duds. In short, Notes from the Underground - while not outstanding - is worth a look if you come across a copy.