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Roger’s Rules

’Tis the Season: New Criterion edition

December 21st, 2012 - 6:55 am

As many readers know, one of my hats comes emblazoned with the words “The New Criterion,” the monthly review of culture and the arts whose founding editor was  my late friend and colleague Hilton Kramer.  When Hilton and Sam Lipman started The New Criterion in 1982—it sounds even longer ago to say, “in the last century”—it was as a brash experiment: a magazine that was at once concerned with high culture and yet conservative in outlook.

Once upon a time, of course, such a conjunction would not have raised an eyebrow.  But at least since the 1960s, and probably earlier, many conservatives had more or less ceded culture to the Left. There were essentially two reasons for this. One was that, for many conservatives,  culture did not seem all that important.  It did not seem to bear directly on the serious business of life: politics and economics, on the on hand, religion and family life on the other.  The  second reason many conservatives wrote off the world of culture had to do with what had become of cultural life in America: in short, it had fallen prey to the same deformations that made academic life in this country largely an exercise in socio-pathology. Who wanted that?

Into that unpromising landscape The New Criterion sallied like a clarion-bearing cavalry. From the very start, the magazine made an impression far greater than one would expect given its circulation. A good deal of the attention the magazine attracted was hostile. Indeed, our reputation was probably first cemented by our enemies, people who regarded The New Criterion almost as an impossibility. But in time, the magazine also attracted a stalwart circle of admirers. John O’Sullivan  spoke for many when he described The New Criterion as “the best cultural review in the world.” The Wall Street Journal, in an op-ed published on the occasion of our 20th anniversary, said that The New Criterion “operates as a refuge for a civilizing element in short supply in contemporary America: honest criticism.” And Julian Symons, writing in the London Times Literary Supplement, said that “As a critical periodical, The New Criterion is probably more consistently worth reading than any other magazine in English.”

High praise, which we endeavor to live up to.  In order to do that, however, we have come to depend increasingly on our extended family of readers. The New Criterion is a small, rambunctious, not-for-profit enterprise that could not exist without the enthusiastic support of its friends.  I hope that as the year toddles to a close some of my readers will spare a beneficent thought for The New Criterion and will make a donation.  We’ve made it preposterously simple.  All you need to do is click here to donate to The New Criterion. Thank you in advance for your support.

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