A remembrance of an American underground newspaper, as presented by former staffers.
This collection of articles, editorials, and artwork honors the Rag, Austin, Texas’ storied underground newspaper that lasted from 1966 to 1977. Dedicated to keeping Austin weird (before the bumper stickers that carried that motto), the paper was a paean to the counterculture and all it entailed—everything from anti-war articles and chronicles of social change (civil rights, women’s liberation) to Gilbert Shelton’s legendary comic strip “The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers,” which premiered in the Rag in May 1968. Staffers called the paper “A miracle of functioning anarchy,” which seems accurate, and this history is as comprehensive as it is authentic. Some pieces are a bit scattershot in style, but to borrow the vernacular of its time, the Rag was mostly right-on, covering such milestones as the 1968 Democratic Convention, the 1969 Woodstock music festival, and the 1970 Kent State shootings. However, the book is more than a reprise of the counterculture’s greatest hits. True, the usual suspects show up as subjects, including Allen Ginsberg (who’s interviewed here) and Bob Dylan, but the collection doesn’t just trade in nostalgia; it’s too honest for that. Some pieces get bogged down in local politics—such as a detailed account of an 1972 Austin bus strike—but for the most part, they reflect the splintered national psyche as it was. And on occasion, they’re eerily prescient; for example, in one 1968 essay that mentions the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King, the author wonders, “Will John Lennon be next?” Most of all, this book reminds readers that everything old is indeed new again—or perhaps never went away. Consider this excerpt from 1969: “good jobs are not always open to women, women are paid less than men for the same kind of work, women are promoted less frequently than men, and are less likely to be ‘at the top.’ ” Sadly, that could’ve been written yesterday.
A raucous, absorbing excursion back to the 1960s and ’70s.