It started with a question: how did you discover The New Criterion? We’ve pondered that here in our office, and we hope you’ve done the same. Here are a few of our responses, as well as notes from some of our valued readers and writers. We’re continually updating this list, so be sure to share your own story of discovery with us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, and help others discover The New Criterion by donating.
From our readers
I discovered The New Criterion after growing weary of the obscurantism found in the pages of The Atlantic, The New Republic, New York magazine, and the like. That the focus of The New Criterion has remained fixedly on high culture and has not descended into trivial entertainment coverage has been a continuing source of renewal.
While reading First Things I discovered an ad for The New Criterion. I happened to be at an airport with a layover, lo and behold on the front stand at the magazine store was The New Criterion.
—M. D. C.
How can I forget! It was the October 2017 issue I, as a brand new subscriber, read from cover to cover. As an ardent fan of the U.S. Constitution, I particularly enjoyed the article titled ‘Constitution Day.’ (available here)
Saw it in a book shop in Pasadena, about 1994, an article caught my eye, and as a fan of T. S. Eliot, the name did, too.
“You guys are great! A beam of light that reflects the best of our past and shows us the way forward. ”
“Carol Selle made me subscribe — years ago!”
From the Editors
Dartmouth English professor Jeffrey Hart handed me my first issue. I started subscribing my freshman year. Raised on glossy magazines, I was struck by the journal’s sharpness, its color and edges, which reflected the sharp writing within. The next year—again through Professor Hart—I interviewed Roger Kimball for a feature about postmodern architecture for The Dartmouth Review, where I was the editor. It was a good conversation, but, of course, little did I know its lasting fortune.
Having been introduced to The New Criterion in the offices of The Dartmouth Review—another iconoclastic publication founded in the early 1980s—I was immediately taken with the clean cover design. What was inside was even more thrilling. Here was serious but never joyless criticism. I have been reading it ever since and am now proud to work on the staff of such an enduring cultural institution.
“I first heard about The New Criterion through an alumni connection while searching for an internship during my junior year of college. As an English and Studio Art major, I set myself the goal of finding work somewhere—anywhere—that would give me professional access to the intellectual, cultural, or artistic world. Happily, I came across The New Criterion, which gave me all three. As I began to peruse the online archives, I realized how singular this magazine is. No other publication, to my knowledge, gave such thoughtful and extended attention to the painters, sculptors, and authors that I so deeply admired. No other publication, it seemed, wrote about the complex intricacies of art, philosophy, political theory, and other subjects with such clear and witty prose.”
From our writers
“I can’t remember when The New Criterion came into my life. Perhaps it was grace. I must have read about it in another publication I was reading. TNC quickly became part of my “continuing ed,” as we used to call it—continuing education. From the light-blue cover in September to the salmon-ish cover in June (with December red in between), I ate up every issue. And I have been a happy financial contributor for years. Long live this singular mag.”
“It was 1983, and I had just received my Ph.D. in English, and, having already detected which way the academic winds were blowing, had decided to pursue a career outside of the university. But what to do? One day I stepped into the late lamented Gotham Book Mart on Forty-Seventh Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues in New York, and undertook my usual hour-or-so-long tour of the latest issues of literary mags, which were arrayed, spines up, mostly, atop a few dozen yards of waist-high bookcases. The first two issues of The NewCriterion jumped out at me immediately—nothing else on display surpassed them for elegance of design. I snapped them up at once, paged through them, and felt an instant affinity. I hardly dared hope for a friendly reception from such a splendid monthly, having already been rejected (or ignored) by any number of lesser publications to which I had sought to peddle my wares, but after I sent Hilton Kramer copies of a few of the minor scraps I had published thus far in newspapers and obscure academic journals, he replied at once. Next thing I knew I was a monthly contributor—and was on my way to a career, and a life.”
“I came upon The New Criterion as a graduate painting student some thirty years ago. The school library was deaccessioning several years’ worth of the magazine, and I gobbled them up for (if I recall correctly) a quarter a piece. The library’s loss was my gain—many times over and it continues to this day.”
“I first discovered The New Criterion in London in the mid-Nineties. I was browsing at a newsagent’s shop in Soho which specialized in imports of exotic foreign magazines, and took a broad view of its customers’ foibles. I was so excited by discovering this magazine that, when I paid at the counter, I forgot to ask for a brown paper bag. Soon, I was ordering The New Criterion by mail. Since then, the internet has connected me with other people who share my interests.”
“Hilton Kramer was speaking at a conference in the London School of Economics, which has more than its fair share of suckers. One of these had made some proposal that was—Hilton rolled his eyes, paused, looked around for the right word and how to pitch it—FRESH! My subscription to TNC was assured.”
“Actually, The New Criterion discovered me. I had been living and working in Toronto—a long story—and moved back to my native New York in 1986. I’d been organizing exhibitions, some of which came to New York, and writing about art for various exhibition catalogues, books, and other publications about fifteen years. I received a phone call from Hilton Kramer, of whom I knew because of his years at the Times, asking me to write one piece for a magazine I hadn’t gotten around to checking out for myself. I think my friend the art dealer William O’Reilly must have recommended me. I was very pleased to read the other reviews in the issue I first appeared in. One thing literally led to another and I was asked to contribute something to every issue, which I’ve been doing for years. I’m so grateful Hilton made that call.”
“I did not so much find The New Criterion as that it found me. Roger Kimball wrote to me more than twenty years ago, enclosing editions of the publication, and asking me whether I should like to write for it. Until then, I had not even heard of it: but I saw at once that I should, for here was a serious literary and cultural magazine that was neither wilfully obscure nor condescendingly demotic. It was unashamedly intelligent and unafraid to judge art, music and literature by high standards. Needless to say, such magazines were hardly two a penny: in fact, there is only one, The New Criterion.”
“Working unusually up-close to the art object as a paintings conservator has obliged me, first of all and continually, to determine that object’s material qualities; from these flow inexorably issues of dating, stylistic identification, and, finally, attribution; in short, the nuts-and-bolts of art history. In this sense, I have described myself as a card-carrying “Berensonian”—without, of course, claiming to share even minimally of that master’s learning and perception. This conceit, however, has bred in me a distinct suspicion of art criticism (as opposed to the aforementioned art history); art criticism being a discipline that speaks a broader language; bringing to bear aesthetical, metaphysical, even ethical principles, not to mention that Berensonian bête noire, psychology. In this sense, mine was, no doubt, a decidedly philistine attitude. Fortunately, but rather late in the game, destiny ordained an encounter with The New Criterion, the writings of Hilton Kramer and his brilliant successor, Roger Kimball. What it revealed was just how much richer a discourse on the visual arts could be when laced with all manner of literary, musical, even poetical associations. I have tried to be true to the prototype when accorded the distinct privilege of occasionally contributing my own texts to that periodical—but probably with only modest success. The best that can be said is that I am still learning.