Here's what the judges had to say about the winners:
It is, once again, the year of the Walrus. Since launching in 2003, the Canadian general-interest magazine “with an international outlook” has nabbed three Utne Independent Press Award nominations, taking the prize in 2004 for best new publication. Five years later and counting, it’s been consistently delightful to read—and last year the magazine outdid itself, its sparkling articles and fluid essays orbiting high above the rest of us earthbound publications.
As a digest charged with reprinting “the best of the alternative press,” we were exceptionally grateful to have it at our disposal. We culled Moira Farr’s exquisite “Minor Keys” about the emotional power of music and Charles Montgomery’s droll and heartwarming “Me Want More Square Footage.” All year long, the magazine’s Field Notes bulged with unpredictable global vignettes, from a visit to Somaliland’s only mental hospital to the history of Paraguay’s 100-year-old colony of Germans.
Walrus writers have a knack for telling personal stories and infusing them with contemporary meaning, giving its global news a beating, human heart. In “The First Little Mosque on the Prairie,” for example, a family saga gives way to the history of Islam in Canada. “Fat of the Land” whisks readers along on a trip to Borneo, unraveling the human and environmental consequences of the trans fat ban. Pick up the Walrus and you will read about things you never knew existed; you will be delighted, challenged, and, above all, sated. (www.walrusmagazine.com)
Canada’s Geez fancies itself a forum for “the over-churched, out-churched, un-churched, and maybe even the un-churchable.” And, as diverse and downright pesky as that demographic is, the quarterly finds ways to deliver the word in a truly inclusive way.
Consider the Summer 2008 theme issue, “30 Sermons You’d Never Hear in Church.” In a call for submissions, the editors wrote: “The pews are filled, the preacher is out of town, and the pulpit is all yours.”
The collection—with its atheist sermon, anarchist sermon, and, our favorite, a sermon on the true meaning of religion called “I Believe in Devilled Eggs”—was the highlight of an inspiring year, when every issue was as playful as it was profound.
That’s a balance Geez strikes consistently, no small victory at a time when global religious discourse has been hijacked by extreme believers and extremely angry atheists. By walling out those two forces, the editors have created a place where writing and reading about lives inspired but not overcome by religious doctrine can be accomplished in peace.
The recurring feature Experiments with Truth is an irresistible collection of action plans for responsible living. In 2008 we read about a five-day technology fast, a year-long consumerism fast, and a group of friends in Harrisonburg, Virginia, who instituted a voluntary gas tax as a fund-raiser for their favorite charities.
Unlike many magazines about spirituality and religion, this ad-free, nonprofit, volunteer-supported publication bypasses sentimentality for earnest exploration, and seems to have a hell of a time doing it. (www.geezmagazine.org)