History

Among the writers long associated with Salmagundi are Nadine Gordimer, J.M Coetzee, Tzvetan Todorov, George Steiner, Orlando Patterson, Norman Manea, Christopher Hitchens, Seamus Heaney, Mary Gordon, Susan Sontag, Benjamin Barber, Joyce Carol Oates, Richard Howard, Carolyn Forché, Martin Jay and David Rieff.

For many years Salmagundi featured the work of the late American historian Christopher Lasch, who wrote the introduction to the tenth anniversary issue of the magazine in the fall of 1975. Lasch noted that, in Salmagundi, “the criticism of art and literature is informed at every point by analysis of the social, psychological, and political conditions that shape them.” He also noted that the magazine’s politics were difficult to define, that it often “criticized leftist cliches…from a point of view sympathetic to the underlying objectives of the left,” and that, though obviously attracted to the work of “iconoclastic” thinkers, it was often critical of “the counterculture.”

Obviously, the magazine has changed over the course of the past quarter century, but in many respects Lasch’s enthusiastic description remains accurate. The “mix” of material in the magazine is much what it has always been, the political perspectives various, the regular political and cultural columnists unpredictable in their sense of what matters, the presence in the “mix” of European voices (and sometimes Latin American and African voices) notable.

As in the past, Salmagundi often devotes large parts of entire issues to “special subjects.” In the past ten years, two issues have been devoted to lengthy symposia on Afro-America, with contributors ranging all the way from Anthony Appiah and Darryl Pinckney to Jim Sleeper and Gerald Early. Other issues have been largely devoted to “The Culture of the Museum,” “Homosexuality,” “Art and Ethics,” “The Culture Industry,” “Kitsch” and “FemIcons.” From time to time, the magazine gives over its pages to debates, as between a leading thinker and his or her sometimes virulent critics.

In short, Salmagundi is not a tame or genteel quarterly. It invites argument, and it makes a place for literature that is demanding, including novella-length fiction—by Gordimer, Oates, Andrea Barrett, Steven Millhauser, Cynthia Ozick, and William Gass—and essays that—in terms of length and range of interest—go well beyond the fare served up by the better weeklies and monthlies.

 

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