Dissident lefties, rejoice! After a long hiatus resulting from an office fire and a host of other problems, Thomas Frank’s fearless cultural journal, The Baffler, is due to return this summer online and in print in all of its caustic, critical glory. With fellow history Ph.D. John Summers at the helm, Frank will retain a position as editor and contributor, working alongside Harper’s Magazine alumnus Roger Hodge, scholar Anna Summers and long-time Baffler Editor Chris Lehmann. Summers will revive the magazine’s traditional mix of long essays, commentary, art, fiction and poetry while devoting new sections to exposing the intellectual con artists of our age and bringing the voices of polemicists past to bear on issues of the present. —ARK
In January 2010 The Baffler, the influential Chicago-based culture and politics journal cofounded by Thomas Frank in 1988, put out an impressive new issue, its first in three years. George Packer heralded the journal’s return in the New Yorker, writing that it was “a perfect moment for The Baffler’s kind of cultural criticism to be revived.” But the revival was lamentably brief. Despite the issue’s high quality and success—three Pushcart nominations, two book contracts born from pieces in the magazine—no follow-up emerged. By the fall of 2010, Frank was looking for a successor.
... Summers’s background and writing show that he is well suited for the job. Like Frank, he sees The Baffler as the continuation of a rich tradition of dissident American social comment. His essays (some found in the collection Every Fury on Earth) span multiple disciplines, are passionate and witty, and reveal a keen understanding of the way that wealth distorts intellectual discourse. He avoids pretension like the plague, and his criticism is direct and fearless. As Richard Byrne wrote in Bookforum: “His sentences resound with the clatter and clank of fresh thought coming hard up against the intellectual armor protecting powerful institutions.”
... Summers is busy building a solid foundation for the magazine’s long-term success and contacting subscribers to tell them the good news: The Baffler is back, with online content beginning in August, and a new print issue in the fall (tentatively titled Your Money and Your Life, a gloss on the Tea Party slogan). Summers plans to keep the journal’s signature mix of long-form essays, columns, fiction, art, and poetry, while also adding some new sections. Planned features include “Lives of the Pundits,” which will be a mock profile series of the faux-profound thinkers that pass as today’s social observers, and “Ancestors,” which will reprint an exemplary essay from authors such as Thoreau, Wilde, Paul Lafargue (author of the classic 1883 tract “The Right to be Lazy”), and others, accompanied by commentary.