Green Isle In The Sea

I had high hopes for this one.  I expected to be transported to secluded wonderlands far away from the tourist heavy Secret Location.  A world of mimeo travelers:  "He did not think of himself as a tourist; he was a traveler. The difference is partly one of time, he would explain. Whereas the tourist generally hurries back home at the end of a few weeks or months, the traveler, belonging no more to one place than to the next, moves slowly, over periods of years, from one part of the earth to another."  I was hoping for travelogues from those who lived the Mimeo Revolution, for whom the little mag was a way of life.

Instead of Burroughsian junkies of the word, there are too many talking assholes.  The best part of Green Isle in the Sea is its account of the worst aspects of the little magazine scene.  The bureaucracy of COSMEP and CCLM.  The committees, the grant applications, the conferences.  The backstabbing and the hand wringing.  The biting of the hand that offers the handout.  Many of the publishers in Green Isle lived for the little mag but by the late 1960s onward the mimeographer threatened to become the bureaucrat.  The little mag has nothing to do with earning a living.  The magazine ends when the publisher is left creatively and financially bankrupt.  It is ultimately a form of potlatch.  

Many people, including Phillips and Clay, argue that the Mimeo Revolution died with the election of Ronald Reagan and the massive cuts to government funding of the arts.  I would argue that the Mimeo Revolution sold out the minute it took what little money was available in the first place.  I would place the highwater mark at 1965, when a quarter of the little mags were actually mimeographed, before the little mag bureaucracy existed, when little mag directories were actually a part of the magazines themselves like in My Own Mag and OLE not separately published phonebooks, before the NEA encouraged poets to stop typing stencils and start filling in applications, when a magazine publisher had to put his/her own money where the breath originated in the first place, before Ed Sanders got on the cover of LIFE and broke the story of mimeo as lifestyle.

Green Isle in the Sea is subtitled "An Informal History of the Alternative Press, 1960-1985," but it seems to me that for many of that period's magazines there was far too much obsession with forms.



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