Durham dispatch

The uniformed representative of the United States Postal Service slipped the latest issue of Mineshaft magazine under my door a few weeks ago, and for that I am grateful. This issue, the 43rd, is as usual an excellent exhumation and examination of various features of the American landscape, and they’ve really outdone themselves this time. The late Aline Crumb and Sophie Crumb trade mother/daughter stories of their experiences with abortion; editor Everett Rand describes the challenges of zine publication in these fraught times; Christoph Mueller explores the environs of 1970s and 2020s New York in the company of Fran├žoise Mouly, founder and editor with Art Spiegelman of the groundbreaking Raw; R. Crumb provides a few meditative landscapes; and there’s so much more behind that fine cover image from Drew Friedman (with lettering by Mueller).

Mineshaft is a magazine that should be read from cover to cover, straight through; Rand and consulting editor Gioia Palmieri create a unique journey through American culture with each issue, beautifully paced and befitting a magazine which, perhaps more than any other, is a contemplation of a passing American scene. Its lucid perspective (like those of its contributors) transcends nostalgia without neglecting a sense of loss; its surreality is the result of the past as seen through the prism of an angst-ridden present. And not just in America: In this issue, the final cartoon by the Italian Ivan Manuppelli, one of Mineshaft‘s new finds, speaks to me, and if it speaks to me, it speaks to others as well; Mineshaft is the antidote to this despair. You can purchase the issue and subscribe to future Mineshafts here.

This issue is dedicated to Justin Green, Diane Noomin, and Simon Deitch, who recently shuffled off this mortal coil, as did Aline Kominsky-Crumb after the magazine went to press. I raise my glass to all of them. And I should mention that contributors Drew Friedman and Noah van Sciver, both favorites of mine, will be featured guests at this year’s MoCCA Arts Festival here in New York at the beginning of April. I’ll be bringing the kids.

A toast to Mineshaft

In many ways, I’m still an analog boy in a digital world, and when it comes to leisure material for reading, watching, and listening, I prefer the hand-made sort of entertainment, whether it’s mid-budget comedy movies from the 1930s or what’s generally become known as roots music. Books and magazines that suit my temperament are harder to come by these days, though.

Fortunately there’s still Mineshaft magazine, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Inspired by underground magazines and comics of the past, Mineshaft is a modest and resolutely hand-crafted periodical that’s issued about three times a year, published by Everett Rand and Gioia Palmieri in Durham, NC, far from the media meccas of New York and Los Angeles. Produced through the increasingly quaint offset printing method, the magazine’s prose, poems, and comics are resolutely free of cant and pretension. The Spring 2019 issue (No. 37) features recent work from veteran cartoonists and illustrators Drew Friedman (front cover), R. Crumb (back cover), Art Spiegelman, Bill Griffith, and Mary Fleener; poems and paintings by Billy Childish; and work by a number of artists who are unknown to me, such as Nicolas C. Grey, David Collier, and Noah Van Sciver. What they all share is a rootedness in the physical, not the digital, world; like the magazine, the work has a distinctively handmade quality, and the comics especially share a meditative and contemplative marriage of laconic prose and atmospheric inkwork pioneered by, among others, Harvey Pekar in the 1970s. There’s a melancholy that hangs over the whole, a feeling that the analog world it depicts is being lost, if it hasn’t been lost already. That the work has a particularly satiric quality, then, doesn’t come as much of a surprise, especially when it refers to the digital realm, and it’s not much of a shock to find, tipped in with this contemporary work, a reproduction of a detail from a painting by William Hogarth.

Both single issues of No. 37 and back issues are still available from the Mineshaft web site, and you can pony up for a subscription there as well. Obviously the magazine, itself a beautifully, lovingly produced object, will be an acquired taste for those who have drunk deep from the well of the internet culture; it’s not for everybody. But it is, in many ways, for me.