Help The New Criterion continue to uphold rigorous critical standards.
I write you on the eve of an important anniversary for The New Criterion. Beginning with our September issue, we will be embarking upon our thirty-fifth season.
Thirty-five years is a respectable run for any serious culture magazine. For one as outspoken and against the grain as The New Criterion, three-and-a-half decades is a feat of longevity that would make Methuselah proud. T. S. Eliot’s Criterion, after which The New Criterion was named (and whose defense of high culture we aspire to emulate), ran from 1922 until 1939, a tenure of seventeen years.
Yet mere longevity is not enough to justify the continuation of a cultural enterprise. What really makes this numerical feat worth celebrating is The New Criterion’s vibrancy and increasingly influential place in the cultural conversation—the conversation, I mean, about the cultural values that are worth perpetuating. Now, as in 1982 when we published our first issue, The New Criterion is a small but potent force on the side of cultural excellence, on the side of those values that nurture and support civilization.
Simply put, there would be no magazine without readers, just as there would be no readers without supporters.
Of course, you already understand all this. Your support of this enterprise, as a reader and a donor, has been the ultimate value upon which The New Criterion’s efforts for cultural excellence have been based. Simply put, there would be no magazine without readers, just as there would be no readers without supporters. As an independent non-profit, The New Criterion would not exist without the steadfast support of readers who believe in the magazine’s unique mission—which is why we turn to you now at the close of our fiscal year.
From the beginning, The New Criterion has been described as “conservative” by friend and foe alike. We are conservative—proudly so—in exactly the sense that Evelyn Waugh, writing toward the end of his life, said that Rudyard Kipling was conservative: “He believed,” Waugh wrote, that civilization was something “laboriously achieved which was only precariously defended. He wanted to see the defenses fully manned and he hated the liberals because he thought them gullible and feeble, believing in the easy perfectibility of man and ready to abandon the work of centuries for sentimental qualms.”
It is worth noting that if this task of defending civilization is conservative, it is also eminently liberal in the sense that it is a battle to conserve the institutions, the habits of mind and character, that make civil liberty possible. The fact that a conservative disposition is a prerequisite for the thriving of liberty helps to explain the Janus-faced orientation of The New Criterion. On the one hand, we have always been committed to the celebration and perpetuation of what Matthew Arnold famously called “the best that has been thought and said in the world.” In this sense, The New Criterion has set itself against the forces of forgetfulness, the forces of cultural amnesia, which threaten to erase the past in a mindless orgy of present-tense ephemera. On the other hand, The New Criterion has also always had a strong polemical aspect. We early on discommoded the left-liberal cultural consensus by calling attention to the many naked emperors littering the cultural landscape on our college campuses, in the media, the art world, and anywhere else that the passion for conformity and political correctness stymies a robust engagement with important cultural issues.
The New Criterion is as vigorous and, yes, critically subversive as it was in 1982.
In the perpetual contest between barbarism and civilization, The New Criterion is firmly on the side of civilization. We, too, wish to see its defenses “fully manned.” We know that culture is a precious inheritance, immeasurably more difficult to achieve than to destroy, and, once destroyed, almost irretrievable. We also know that civilization’s fragile emoluments are all that stand between our dreams and chaos—what Edmund Burke famously called “our naked, shivering nature.”
We could never have achieved what we have without the dedicated support of our readers. When The New Criterion began, it had only a handful of supporters. Over the years, this has grown into an ever-extending family of collaborators; I hope that we can count on your support as we forge ahead into The New Criterion’s next chapter.
Just consider all that The New Criterion has accomplished over the past year through your support. We have just completed a major redesign of our website to bring our online presence up to the current standards of journalism and, more importantly, of our readers. In designing the new website, we focused on returning to our original and iconic 1982 print design in ways that were not possible in online programming a decade ago. Now with our signature Galliard font, old-style numerals, and a responsive design optimized for your tablets and smartphones, we like to say the new “newcriterion.com” is a step back in the right direction. Of course, the print version of the magazine remains the core of our editorial effort, but in today’s publishing environment, our website has become the primary means of attracting new readers. A new site, built to modern standards, with glorious illustrations, but still representative of our original bold aesthetic and ideas, ensures that our authors reach the wide audiences that they deserve.
As proud as we are to be closing in on our thirty-fifth anniversary, we are even more pleased to note that The New Criterion is as vigorous and, yes, critically subversive as it was in 1982. In our efforts to stand apart from the equivocating hive-mind of the critical establishment, we have brought you Bruce Cole’s brilliant take on the lamentable career of the architect Frank Gehry; Noel Malcolm’s perspective on the corrupting influence of international “human rights law” on the sovereignty of national governments; Eric Ormsby’s critique of Ezra Pound’s misguided Confucian philosophy; James Panero’s unnerving account of cultural destruction in the Middle East; and Michael J. Lewis’s scathing appraisal of Albert Speer as not merely a talentless sycophant, but a true war criminal cut from the same cloth as the rest of the Nazi leaders. We see it as our mission to pierce through the thick layers of rot that make up today’s cultural consensus and hold up the real masterpieces of art, literature, and music that make up the foundation of our civilization.
This season, we have increased our efforts to supplement our monthly print issue with an ever-growing number of online features. In addition to regular online pieces by New Criterion contributors and editors, we have devoted more resources to our podcasts and videos, which allow us to expand on our written work in new ways, such as James Panero’s interviews with New Criterion authors and Eric C. Simpson and Jay Nordlinger’s classical music previews. I invite you to log on to newcriterion.com and listen to these conversations.
We know that culture is a precious inheritance, immeasurably more difficult to achieve than destroy, and, once destroyed, almost irretrievable.
One of the privileges of being a small publication is that over the years we have been able to build our readership into a community of like-minded individuals. The Friends of The New Criterion are prime examples, giving generously to the magazine and joining other readers for evenings of cultural enrichment. Among our many conferences and gatherings this year, we celebrated book launches by Peter Pettus, David Pryce-Jones, and Anthony Daniels, we gathered the Young Friends Advisory Board for dinner and discussion at the Knickerbocker Club, and we toured the Gowanus art scene with James Panero. By the time you receive this letter, we will have held our fourth Edmund Burke Award gala to celebrate the work of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the courageous critic of Islamic fundamentalism. At these events and many others, it has been a pleasure to connect with the strong circle of our Friends—I hope you will consider joining them with a donation of $2,000 or more.
The Hilton Kramer Fellowship, introduced three years ago as a way to bring bright young writers and editors to The New Criterion, has been a boon to our staff. Its inaugural recipient, Eric C. Simpson, is now an Associate Editor, and I am delighted to share with you the news that our current Fellow, Benjamin Riley, will join us full-time soon after the expiration of his term. In June, Mene O. Ukueberuwa, a rising star in cultural criticism and the Editor-in-Chief of The Dartmouth Review, will join us as our fourth Fellow. The Hilton Kramer Fellowship has been an enormous success in replenishing the ranks of young conservative writers, and it has been funded entirely through your contributions.
As we look towards our thirty-fifth anniversary season, we have several new initiatives in the works, including a year-long series of essays on the perils of populism. I will be writing you in the near future to tell you more about this and other projects, but for now I write to thank you for your past support and to solicit earnestly your continued interest in our endeavors. The New Criterion could never have survived this long without the visionary support of its friends.
Thank you for helping to make the first thirty-five years of The New Criterion possible. I hope you will join with us in securing the next thirty-five.
Roger Kimball, Editor & Publisher
P.S. Contributions of any size help us to keep the presses running. We need to raise $393,000 by June 30; all contributions received before that date will be acknowledged in our annual Friends Report. I hope you will find your spot on the following table:
|4 people give $25,000||$100,000|
|10 people give $10,000||$100,000|
|10 people give $5,000||$50,000|
|15 people give $2,000||$30,000|
|33 people give $1,000||$33,000|
|50 people give $500||$25,000|
|100 people give $250||$25,000|
|200 people give $150||$30,000|