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Missing water

Jay Meehan, Park Record columnist

"You don’t miss your water, ’til your well runs dry."

Taj Mahal

There is life after death! I’ve got irrefutable proof! The Bloomsbury Review, my longtime book-review security blanket, has recently risen from the dead!

Ever since its first issue in over a year-and-a-half arrived in my mailbox last week, I pretty much haven’t let it out of my sight. My obsession is both tactile and visceral. My desire to hold it in my filthy mitts comes straight from the gut. I’m smitten! I can’t help myself! What if it were to give me the slip once again?

I’m a print media kind of guy and newsprint gets me off much quicker than "glossy." It goes back to the paperboy days of my misspent youth, I suppose. Reading sports pages probably got me started. The Spokesman Review comes quickly to mind. First one was free. Then they made me pay through the nose. Figuratively!

But it’s not just the feel of The Bloomsbury Review in my hands that sends me swooning. Being largely a Western Lit buff, I find its content to be indispensable. And not just the Stegner, Abbey, Momaday, Ehrlich, Bowden, Bass, Kittredge, Terry Tempest Williams reviews that have long filled its pages, but the myriad of more obscure, yet equally profound, voices that wouldn’t have reached me otherwise.

If the truth be known, however, it wasn’t like that year-and-a-half was completely devoid of intellectual nourishment when it came to intriguing literature. There were always the older copies of TBR to peruse once again, to re-savor, as it were. Having already endured the low-maintenance caretaking terrain of my humble abode, these clean one-owner newsprint mags had more than proven their ability to survive in a harsh environment.

With a mission "to seek out those quality books that are underserved and undeservedly overlooked by other media bringing you reviews of books from large publishers that don’t receive the promotional budget of their bestsellers, and new books from small, regional, nonprofit, independent, and university presses you won’t discover elsewhere," TBR fills a huge void and quickly gets under your skin.

And it’s not just the authors but also the contributing reviewers, artists, and staff that make Bloomsbury such a comfortable and appealing read. It’s obvious that putting out each and every issue has always been a labor of love by all concerned hence, the Aristotelian whole that is so much larger than the sum of its parts.

What they’re most into is facilitating our introduction to "lively writing about good reading and great writers." You won’t find in-depth analysis concerning the mega-bestsellers or celebrity bios or get-rich, get-thin, get-smart, or be-happy books in their pages. What you will find is instant captivation and passion!

Although a longtime subscriber, I also would pick up an extra copy or two for those within my tribe with similar afflictions whenever I passed through Ken Sanders Rare Books down in Salt Lake City. TBR had so insinuated itself into both my left and right brains that I felt it was important to share the pleasure of its collective insight with my reading friends.

In their attempt to hang on while other book-review magazines were either being downsized, as in many newspaper supplements, or shuttered altogether as a budgetary move, TBR did not publish an issue during all of 2012 and currently is creating a new business model that will see it into the future.

What this experience of doing without my bimonthly fix of The Bloomsbury Review for such an extended period of time taught me is that there is much to be said about that old maxim: you don’t miss your water until your well runs dry.

I had taken TBR for granted and was ill prepared for its prolonged absence and what that would mean to me personally. I found myself parched! I was missing my water! The message was clear: there would be atonement!

Ten years ago, the passing of TBR founder and publisher Tom Auer dealt a crushing blow to his family, his friends, and the magazine. His sister Marilyn carries on as publisher and editor-in-chief and just the miracle of the magazine surviving that timeframe and of me holding this new, brilliantly-conceived issue in my hands is testament to her ongoing commitment to the faithful.

Well, I best be getting back to this gorgeous new issue of TBR and its many intriguing reviews of under-the-radar books and authors. There are a few in the poetry section I wanted to make note of and also there’s one about a precocious young girl who grew up in a mining town in northern Idaho that got my attention.

Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.


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