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04 August, 2010

review of PARANOIA

The fifth wonderful review of PARANOIA: The Conspiracy Reader has arrived, and it's a great one!

If you miss Paranoia Magazine, do not fear

In 2009, Paranoia magazine announced that publication would cease. The
editors announced (to an obviously dubious readership) that Paranoia
would continue operations in a new format. The appearance of this
volume represents the fulfillment of this promise. However readable,
enjoyable or thought-provoking Paranoia, The Conspiracy Reader,
Volume I may be, the work must also be evaluated as a successor to its
former incarnation as a (maga)’zine. (One wishes the title of the
current incarnation was further removed from The Conspiracy Reader
(2000), The New Conspiracy Reader (2003), and The Complete Conspiracy
Reader (2004), all somewhat less successful works by the same

The legacy of the former publication is considerable: for nearly
twenty years Paranoia Magazine distilled conspiracy theory into a
readable format. The “Reader’s Digest” approach to editing has been
criticized for bowdlerizing great literature into pabulum accessible
by the low brow. However, the same technique has the opposite result
when applied to the obsessive, the schizophrenic, and the raving. The
journalistic sensibilities of the editors of Paranoia found the “magic
bullet” which could circumvent the chief criticisms of conspiracy
theory literature. Paranoia, The Conspiracy Reader, Volume I preserves
this editorial tradition.

Perhaps equally importantly the volume also continues the tradition of
the “Para-notes,” seemingly the literary successor to Wig-Wag
magazine’s “Indignities.” Rather than culling the minds and writings
of the fringes of society, the “Para-notes” turn a critical and
obsessive eye toward the inconsistencies, back-tracking, and slips of
tongue recorded by the popular press. These observations result from
an overly scrupulous eye applied to the spectacle of mass media.
Oddly, the “Para-notes” invite their own fascination. Although the
publication of the “Paranotes” has been timely, they excite the most
interest when read out of time. The same names keep cropping up, but
our collective memory-hole is deep. For those so inclined, could
someone please write biographies of Arlen Specter and Donald Rumsfeld?

However, if you’re the sort to collect and index the “Para-Notes,”
you’ll have noticed that 10 of the 25 articles appeared previously in
the pages of Paranoia Magazine, but this fact should not dissuade the
potential reader. The 15 articles would probably have filled two of
three issues published each year, but the $14 cover price beats the
$21 yearly subscription. It’s unlikely that many readers have access
to the original publications. If one does have access to more than two
or three of these articles, that reader may be safely considered
obsessive. Go ahead. Buy it. It’s got the new “Para-Notes.” You don’t
want a hole in your collection like that Iron Man #4 you didn’t buy
when you were 12, do you?

So what’s missing from Paranoia, The Conspiracy Reader, Volume I? Ads.
For some that might be good, but frankly, the advertisers in Paranoia
Magazine put more than one fascinating book in my hands. In fact, in
the earliest incarnations before the Internet, the advertisers in
Paranoia Magazine were prone to be adventures themselves. By
responding to cryptically worded snippets in the first 12 volumes of
Paranoia Magazine, I fell down more than interesting rabbit hole.

Sadly, in the internet age, more fringe types are content to put up a
website in hopes that chance traffic discovers their genius (despite
the fact that Google drives traffic to mainstream sites under the
guise of returning “good” results). So perhaps a sense of community is
lacking from the new format as well… but if everybody who bought a
copy wrote letters to the editors, they might print them. And really,
Joan and Al, some of us wouldn’t mind if you took ads.

The book is available at Amazon:



  1. P.S. I count only 6 articles from past issues. One was in ye olde Newspeak magazine (interview with Tiny Tim). I don't think there are ten reprints. I would say there are 18 new and 6 old, give or take. Total 24.

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