‘How Ken Layne Created a Publishing Oasis in a Desert Town of 8,000 People’ by Max Genecov​​

— Melissa Mesku

The fact that everyone else around Ken Layne hated the desert only made it more interesting, more personal, more romantic.


Ken Layne is a well-known kook… Unfortunately, although his views seemed aberrant or insane to many of us over the years, it turns out that he was completely correct all along.

This would be a straightforward profile piece, but it’s not. Its subject is ostensibly Ken Layne, based in Joshua Tree, CA, but it’s not; nor is it about the small-run print zine Layne started, called Desert Oracle. No, perhaps without intending to be, this is a profile piece about the desert. Layne and his homespun magazine are noteworthy precisely because they embody the unadorned yet thoroughly enchanting starkness the desert symbolizes. The plain looking 40-page Desert Oracle isn’t easy to find, but you might come across it in the oddest corners of the Southwest, like at a mom-and-pop gas station or a crumbling old motel. Odder still, people are mad for it. Edward Abbey once said, What draws us into the desert is the search for something intimate in the remote. It helps explain the appeal of a monochromatic booklet published by a kook from a small town. It also helps explain why an otherwise straightforward profile must stray from its subject and wander, searchingly, into the Mojave landscape.


Pacific Standard