Tom Hodgkinson rounds up his top indie publications
It’s always a treat when my copy of The Land arrives. It calls itself “an occasional magazine about land rights” and is at the vanguard of a nascent (or rather ancient) “back to the land” movement. They help people get planning permission for yurts and similar low-impact dwellings, and have a sort of Chestertonian belief in the power and dignity of peasant proprietorship. The current issue deals with fire and includes a stirring defence of burning wood against the attacks of certain ecologists who disapprove of such activities and would have fires banned. There’s also a fascinating piece on sewage and what to do with it, calling for more composting toilets. They are fans of that renewable resource, muscle power: one of the editors, Simon Fairlie, runs a business selling scythes. He did a scythe demonstration for the Idler Academy at Port Eliot festival a few years ago, and a less airy-fairy Totnes spiritual type you could not meet. The editors of The Land practise what they preach: they live and work at a retreat centre and farm called Monkton Wyld in Dorset. I’m hoping to visit them when regulations allow. I thoroughly recommend getting a subscription and reading The Land in conjunction with its somewhat gentler cousins, the always inspiring Permaculture magazine and Satish Kumar’s Resurgence magazine.
My other top magazines include The Oldie, for which I write a column, Private Eye, The Chap, Slightly Foxed, Delayed Gratification and US anti-corporate mag The Baffler. The Oldie was recently called “an incredible magazine – perhaps the best magazine in the world right now” by Graydon Carter and its sales are booming. Other mags are doing well: Private Eye has a massive circulation and The Spectator claims to be heading towards 100,000 weekly sales. I’m also a fan of The Atlantic, which is also doing very well, but that’s mainly because my good friend James Parker writes for it. Click here for his recent piece in praise of the nap, a must read for idlers.
A new arrival is Mü magazine, the latest project from the irrepressible Youth, bassist in Killing Joke, inventor of Trance music, and one half of electronic duo The Fireman (the other half is Paul McCartney). Again I have a special interest here because I interviewed Jarvis Cocker (lovely chap) for the first issue. It’s a very positive and cheerful publication, brimming with ideas and fun. Take a look here. Also check out New Internationalist and Index on Censorship.
So magazine circulations are rising, while newspaper circulations are declining. Maybe that’s good in some ways. I find there is something intrinsically cheering and positive about magazines as a medium. It’s in their nature. Whereas I find newspapers are generally depressing, even though I do enjoy writing for them. Newspapers sell news, which is designed to make you feel anxious and scared, whereas magazines are far more subtle and reflective and discursive. A lovely friend to sit with by the fire, if indeed you’re allowed a fire.
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You’re not going to like this as it’s quite party-pooperish, but I have to say that the wood fire people are completely wrong [note from Ed: to make up your own mind – do check out Simon Fairlie’s stern rebuttal of these arguments: here]. Wood is a hydrocarbon just like coal and oil. Burning it puts CO2 (and other chemicals) into the atmosphere. People who like burning wood claim this doesn’t count because the trees formerly grew, extracting the carbon from the atmosphere. But that’s nonsense. If they left the wood to rot, it would take decades for the same carbon to go back into the atmosphere. If you burn it, it takes minutes. It’s obvious that burning wood contributes directly and strongly to global warming. It’s actually worse than burning fossil fuels because it’s less thermally efficient. Plus wood smoke is full of particulates that are terrible for human health, especially for people with respiratory problems. Scythes and muscle power, however, I’m all for.
“…if indeed you’re allowed a fire.” Well quite!