Sunday, June 13, 2010

Welcome to Utopia

Somehow I heard or read about Welcome to Utopia by Karen Valby, either in one of those journals librarians read to keep up with new books or on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, or another radio show.  Whatever it was, the phrase "find a town untouched by popular culture," stands out in my mind.  That phrase defines the assignment given to Entertainment Weekly reporter Valby. 

It's kind of funny that EW would assign this to one of their staff.  It would be hilarious if People or one of those magazines did it.  I can hear the assignment being given by a laughing editor at US Weekly, doubting there could be such a town--which yahoo reporter should we send on this goose chase?--followed by a pause, then, "and if you find it, ask 'em why they're not reading our magazine." 

Personally, the tiniest bit of celebrity news mixed into my actual news ticks me right off, and a town untouched by that's like El Dorado,but instead of streets of gold, they're just not covered with...useless information.  Maybe I'll start a commune...wait, I've seen that movie.

To get back to the book, Valby did find a town not as exposed to pop culture as others, actually named Utopia, in Texas.  What does that mean?  The Booklist review notes that "the town has no mayor, no stoplights, no fast-food restaurants, no chain stores, and no movie theater."

Valby wrote her article, which was published in 2006, but, according to an interview with, some of the townsfolk were unimpressed.  She spent more time in Utopia and gathered material for this book.  I recommend checking out the original article, or the excerpt from the first chapter at NPR, to see if the book would appeal to you.  It should be available here next week, but you can place your request now through the catalog.

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