For some, it seems, the lockdown is a welcome opportunity to redefine what is normal. For us, it is the assault on normality that we resist wholeheartedly.
When I started writing for The New Criterion in 1983, the second year of the magazine’s life, I never imagined that I would be sitting down today, on the eve of our fortieth anniversary, to tell you about our progress. This is not because I had doubts about the mission of the magazine. Far from it. Rather, I doubted that any journal as serious, outspoken, and independent-minded as The New Criterion could last long in a cultural environment that, even then, demanded conformity in exchange for the approval that often seemed necessary for survival. Serious organs of cultural criticism, though often immensely influential, generally have relatively short careers. T. S. Eliot’s Criterion, our namesake, published for just seventeen seasons, from 1922 to 1939. That The New Criterion has persisted for more than twice that long is as surprising to us as it is galling to the politically correct commissars who stand as the self-appointed gatekeepers of what is, and what is not, acceptable in the realm of cultural criticism and commentary.
Some of you have been with us since 1982, when The New Criterion began publication. Many others have joined us in medias res. Now, as we look to the start of our fortieth-anniversary season, our ruby jubilee, I am happy to report that, thanks to the generous partnership we have forged with you, our readers, the circulation of the magazine is at an all-time high.
Culture is not a virtual enterprise.
Nevertheless, it would be paltering with the truth to say that this last year has been easy. The restrictions imposed by our masters in response to the coronavirus pandemic disrupted most of the events we had planned for last year. We had to cancel our annual gala—our single biggest fundraising venture—and reschedule or abandon most other events. Nevertheless, we managed to bring out every issue on time and reopened our New York office just as soon as the authorities allowed. As we looked out our windows at the empty storefronts and boarded up shops on Broadway, we felt a special urgency to resume our work in person. Culture is not a virtual enterprise. At the end of the day, it must be carried out live, first-hand, in person. For some, it seems, the lockdown is a welcome opportunity to redefine what is normal. For us, it is the assault on normality that we resist wholeheartedly.
Even as we prepare our spring issues, we are busy planning for our fortieth-anniversary year, which will commence in the fall. As with major anniversaries past, our September number will be a special expanded anniversary issue. Look for your favorite New Criterion writers along with several new voices. The issue will also inaugurate a year-long series of essays on a special theme, “Western civilization at the crossroads.” The series will occasion a panel discussion among participants and, after the series concludes in June 2022, the publication of these essays in a new hardcover book. Your ongoing support guarantees it all.
Anniversaries are not only opportune moments in which to look forward. They are also good occasions to look back. It has been fifteen years since our last New Criterion anthology. We are now proud to announce the publication of The Critical Temper: Interventions from The New Criterion at Forty, following Against the Grain in 1994 and Counterpoints in 2007. Including more than fifty essays from the last fifteen years, The Critical Temper offers a wide-ranging “best-of-the-best” collection of New Criteriana, appreciations, polemics, resuscitations, and critical discriminations. No fan of the magazine will want to be without it.
We have planned many new initiatives, from podcasts and symposia, to various cultural events for the Friends of The New Criterion.
Another announcement: this fall, our Visiting Critic initiative enters its third year with a special double appointment. As you know, the inestimable Myron Magnet joined us for our thirty-ninth season, contributed three brilliant feature essays to the magazine, and also delivered our second annual Circle Lecture. For our fortieth season, we are proud to announce that Conrad Black will join Victor Davis Hanson, who returns to the role, as Visiting Critic.
Regular readers will recall that Lord Black was our honoree for The New Criterion’s 2020 Edmund Burke Award for Service to Culture and Society. Alas, although he won the award, he lost out on the gala at which it was to be conferred, a casualty of the coronavirus crackdown. I am happy to announce that we will be able to make up in some measure for that loss by welcoming Lord Black to deliver our 2021 Circle Lecture. This special event, to take place in New York on September 28, 2021, is open to the complete Circle of The New Criterion, membership in which can be secured by an annual contribution of $100 or more. It is our way of honoring more supporters of the non-profit enterprise that is The New Criterion.
We very much look forward to welcoming our friends and supporters back to a fully reopened and reenergized New Criterion. In addition to a rich publishing season in print and online, we have planned many new initiatives, from podcasts and symposia, to various cultural events for the Friends of The New Criterion. It promises to be an especially exciting season.
Over the years, many readers have written to say “Thank goodness for The New Criterion.” We have lately seen an uptick in such heartwarming missives (along, of course, with the usual budget of “cancelmy-subscription!” demands), probably at least in part because the isolation of this past year has given people more time to peruse, and therefore to appreciate, The New Criterion. As we approach the end of our thirty-ninth season, I hope that you will help us redeem this annus horribilis by making a gift to support The New Criterion. June 30 is the end of our fiscal year. Making your gift before then will be especially helpful as we plan for our fortieth-anniversary festivities.
As in 2020, this year we are unable to hold our Edmund Burke Award Gala. Last year at this time, a record number of supporters answered the call of this letter and helped us bridge the difference that loss created. Over nine hundred supporters came together to contribute nearly $400,000 to our spring 2020 campaign. This year, as we look to a similar shortfall, we must aim for what would be a new record: one thousand donors, contributing $400,000 altogether. That means we need more readers than ever before to step forward and help underwrite the true costs of The New Criterion.
For our first-time donors, I look forward to welcoming you to our ranks. For the many returning supporters, please accept our profound thanks for seeing The New Criterion into its fortieth year with a renewed tax-deductible contribution to this campaign. We would not be where we are today without readers like you at our side.
Roger Kimball, Editor & Publisher
P.S. Every dollar and every donor makes a difference in our editorial operations. All donations received by the close of our fiscal year on June 30 will be acknowledged in our 2020–21 Annual Report.
The September 2021 issue will carry a special section for notices from our supporters. Reach out to [email protected] for more information and to reserve your place.
Thinking of giving a gift subscription? The September 2021 number presents the ideal time to start a reader on the journey of The New Criterion at our discounted rate. We have seen individual donors give hundreds of gift subscriptions. Simply gift a subscription at newcriterion.com/gift or call (800) 783-4903 by June 30. For large requests, please feel free to reach out to [email protected]. It’s a great way to help our circulation while spreading the word of the magazine.