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Dear Reader,

When people ask me what The New Criterion is all about, I sometimes recall the bracing observation with which John Alexander Smith, Waynflete Professor of Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy at Oxford, began a course of lectures in 1914. “Gentlemen,” he said,

you are now about to embark upon a course of studies which will occupy you for two years. Together, they form a noble adventure. But I would like to remind you of an important point. Some of you, when you go down from the University, will go into the Church, or to the Bar, or to the House of Commons, or to the Home Civil Service, or the Indian or Colonial Services, or into various professions. Some may go into the Army, some into industry and commerce; some may become country gentlemen. A few—I hope a very few—will become teachers or dons. Let me make this clear to you. Except for those in the last category, nothing that you will learn in the course of your studies will be of the slightest possible use to you in after life—save only this—that if you work hard and intelligently you should be able to detect when a man is talking rot, and that, in my view, is the main, if not the sole, purpose of education.

Anyone who reads far into The New Criterion knows that many of our writers habitually uncover and analyze a lot of rot in the course of their duties as cultural pathologists. Our aim is to immunize readers against its virulence by encouraging them to identify, laugh at, and reject the rot that has infected so much of culture today.

We encourage our readers to stand up and object to the objectionable.

That exercise in mental housecleaning is valuable in itself, providing as it does a measure of resistance to the de-civilizing tendency of politically motivated interpretive hyperbole.

There is also a subsidiary benefit, having to do with intellectual back-stiffening. In other words, it is our hope that The New Criterion will not only provide some inoculation against the intimidating forces of ideological groupthink and historical distortion that are such a prominent part of our cultural life today but also encourage readers to stand up and object to the objectionable.

That is a largely negative exercise. But The New Criterion also pursues an affirmative agenda, at the center of which is the battle against cultural amnesia. Even as we expose the rot that surrounds us, we aim to encourage firsthand encounters with the bottomless, sometimes eccentric, always illuminating deposit of cultural endeavor that has defined our civilization through the centuries. Among other things, this requires a continuous battle against the disease of presentism, a mind virus more prevalent, and in the end more insidious, than the many varieties of pathogens to which we have been subjected these past few years.

Our activities this last year have borne abundant witness to both sides of The New Criterion’s burden. I use the word “burden” advisedly. The term figured centrally in “The burden of the humanities,” this year’s Circle Lecture delivered by the historian Wilfred M. McClay at the end of September. In case you were not there to swell the crowd, rest assured that you can read what Bill had to say (most of it, anyway) in the version of his essay we print in our November issue. (A video of the lecture is also available to supporters on our website). I won’t spoil the drama by revealing the details of this burden, other than to say that, as were the lectures given by his predecessors—Gary Saul Morson, Conrad Black, Myron Magnet, and Joshua T. Katz—Bill’s Circle Lecture was a tour de force. Not only did he anatomize with masterly dispatch some of the rot that has accumulated around the teaching of the humanities today, but also he celebrated central features of the humanizing and ennobling potential of the discipline.

We inaugurated the Circle Lecture five years ago as a way to pay homage to a wider range of our donors. Anyone who contributes $100 or more to The New Criterion in a given year receives a free invitation to this live event. This year, nearly 150 of you came from across the country for a convivial and illuminating evening. You can get an additional taste of Bill’s wisdom by tuning in to his interview with our Executive Editor, James Panero, free to all on our media page.

Our companions form a Circle ’round this “dissenting critical voice,” as Hilton Kramer put it in our very first issue in September 1982.

Let me add something else about seeing so many of you in person. Our newly renovated offices make it possible for us to host more events in house than ever before. With holiday parties, book parties, and even a ballet demonstration last spring, we enjoy nothing more than welcoming friends and supporters to our home on Twentieth Street and Broadway, on the sixth floor of the neo-Romanesque Goelet Building of 1887, designed by no less than McKim, Mead & White. We kicked off the season this year with our September Party and, in early December, we will welcome our Friends, Young Friends, and authors to our year-end Holiday Party. These companions form a Circle ’round this “dissenting critical voice,” as Hilton Kramer put it in our very first issue in September 1982.

In October we published a special symposium on “The new conservative dilemma.” James Piereson, Victor Davis Hanson, Daniel McCarthy, and Margot Cleveland joined me in pondering the paradox that conservatives face when attempting to hold fast to their values in a society that is saturated with progressive imperatives. Conservatives “are not inclined by temperament either to disrupt the system or to question the legitimacy of government,” Piereson wrote, but “they may have little choice but to take those risks to save themselves and perhaps the constitutional order itself.” I am pleased to note that the symposium has garnered widespread attention, including from the commentator Peter Berkowitz, who wrote for RealClearPolitics that our special section “sharply formulates the problem and provides a fascinating and instructive set of replies.”

Joining our special issues in December and April, which focus on art and poetry respectively, these initiatives complement our regular offerings in print and, more than ever, in our “Dispatch” department, the appropriately named section of our website dedicated to short-form writing, featuring online-only articles, essays, and reviews, with daily contributions from our writers across the United States and Europe. While our print publication tends to be fixed at eighty pages a month, our online space is limited only by the quality of the writing and the funds to pay our writers. In recent years, your support has directly underwritten the growth of this essential online operation.

In addition to featuring established voices, Dispatch is also a place where we can cultivate emerging writers, much like our Hilton Kramer Fellowship, an initiative begun in 2013 to give a recent college graduate each year the chance to join our editorial staff and apprentice as a cultural critic. We have now welcomed eleven Hilton Kramer fellows as colleagues at The New Criterion. Our fellows have gone on to appointments at The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, City Journal, and Modern Age. Last but not least, several of them have joined our own masthead here as full-time editors. Indeed, a majority of our editorial staff is now drawn from the ranks of our Hilton Kramer Fellows.

This brings me back to the urgency of this epistle. We depend on our readers to underwrite the true costs of the publication and all of its related operations. Through this fall appeal, we must raise $400,000 from 1,000 donors by the end of the calendar year. I hope I can count on you to help us continue in publishing the “best which has been thought and said in the world, and, through this knowledge, turning a stream of fresh and free thought upon our stock notions and habits.” Matthew Arnold’s imperative from his book Culture and Anarchy describes, more than ever, the mission of what we do at The New Criterion—no less than your essential role in ensuring its continuation.

Yours faithfully,

Roger Kimball, Editor & Publisher

Show Your Support

P.S. Every tax-deductible donation to The New Criterion makes a difference. All donors will be acknowledged in our 2024 Annual Report.

For readers who are new to The New Criterion, we invite you to join our Supporters Circle with a donation of $100 or more. Every Circle member will receive an invitation to our annual Circle Lecture as well as access to our online media library.

With a donation of $2,000 or more, you become a Friend of The New Criterion, with invitations to our events throughout the year and your choice of gifts. Donors under forty years of age can enroll as a Young Friend for $200 or more a year.

For donors at every level, we are pleased to offer some special thank-you gifts for your generosity: our boat bag; a selection of books; and, back again, our popular silk bowtie in the magazine’s fall colors, made in Japan by Seigo exclusively for The New Criterion.

The New Criterion is published by The Foundation for Cultural Review, 900 Broadway, New York, NY 10003, a nonprofit public foundation as described in Section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code, EIN 13-3108424, which solicits and accepts contributions from a wide range of sources, including public and private foundations, corporations, and the general public. Contributions to The New Criterion are tax deductible according to the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code. All gifts in excess of $75 will be acknowledged with a written disclosure statement describing the “quid pro quo” deductibility under section 6115 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Donor Gift Selections

Choose one of these exclusive gifts from The New Criterion as a “thank you” for your generous support. See below for all options.

Collectible Mug

Start your morning with the stimulation you deserve: a copy of The New Criterion by your side and a mug full of coffee in your hand. We are happy to offer our supporters this fine New Criterion mug, emblazoned with our classic logo and, this year, our November-issue color. It’s our gift to you for a modest contribution to our efforts. Value: $8

Boat Bag

Active literati need an easy way to cart books around town. We are pleased to offer our supporters our classic New Criterion boat bag once again. Made of sturdy, natural canvas, this bag features our classic logo, making clear your high-cultural preferences. Value: $15

Anniversary Boat Bag

While scarce supplies last, we are pleased to offer our supporters this sturdy, natural canvas bag featuring our fortieth-anniversary logo, making clear your high-cultural preferences. Value: $15

Fall Bowtie

There is no better way to combine your excellent taste in cultural criticism with your sartorial panache than with our signature New Criterion bowtie. Manufactured in Japanese silk by Seigo exclusively for The New Criterion, this year’s design features the return of our “fall” theme, with our September, October, November and December colors right there in the repp pattern. Value: $65

Where Next?

Autographed Copy
edited by Roger Kimball
Encounter Books
(hardcover, 200 pages)

At least since Oedipus met King Laius on the road from Delphi to Thebes, the image of a crossroads has signaled a dramatic and morally fraught turning point. It was with this cargo of significance in mind that The New Criterion published a special series of essays on “Western Civilization at the Crossroads” during its fortieth-anniversary season. Featuring contributions by Conrad Black, Victor Davis Hanson, Roger Kimball, Andrew Roberts, and other luminaries, this book collects the ten special essays to assess where Western civilization is now, and where it’s going. Value: $25

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future

by Peter Thiel
Crown Currency
(hardcover, 224 pages)

In Zero to One, the legendary entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel shows how we can find singular ways to create new things. Zero to One presents at once an optimistic view of the future of progress in America and a new way of thinking about innovation: it starts by learning to ask the questions that lead you to find value in unexpected places. Value: $17

Some Problems with Autobiography

by Brian Brodeur
Criterion Books
(hardcover, 88 pages)

Some Problems with Autobiography, Brian Brodeur’s fourth collection, and the winner of the twenty-second New Criterion Poetry Prize, grapples with the porous and fragmentary nature of midwestern American identity in poems that range across prosodic forms and hybrid genres. In it, Brodeur explores the perils of digital technologies, ecological uncertainties, and the inadequacy of language to convey our collective distress, asking how much pleasure and hardship the human heart can bear. From dramatic-mono-logue sonnets and narrative sestinas to discursive lyrics cast in Rubáiyát stanzas and Alcaic strophes, Some Problems with Autobiography brings ancient modes into startlingly con-temporary contexts. Value: $25

The Twilight of the Intellectuals

Limited Supply
by Hilton Kramer
Ivan R. Dee
(paperback, 398 pages)

Hilton Kramer explores, in effect, the intellectual history of the cold war and its divisive impact on our politics and culture. We live now, he notes, in the aftermath of an immense intellectual upheaval. As relevant now as it was in 1999, The Twilight of the Intellectuals is certain to excite comment and argument as passionate as the debate it describes. Value: $17

The Bridges of Robert Adam: A Fanciful and Picturesque Tour

Autographed Copy
by Benjamin Riley
Triglyph Books
(hardcover, 156 pages)

The bridge has always stood as a transitional structure not purely a work of engineering, nor simply a work of architecture. Its functional requirements are more stringent than those of the average building; it not only must stand up; it must stand up, support those who cross it, and effectively span the space over which it stands. As Samuel Johnson said, “the first excellence of a bridge is strength . . . for a bridge that cannot stand, however beautiful, will boast its beauty but a little while.” The Scottish architect Robert Adam (1728–92) understood these precepts well, continually building bridges that were not just structurally sound, but also aesthetically pleasing. Unlike his contemporaries, Adam did not view bridges as mere skeletons upon which to apply ornament. Rather, he sought to achieve architectural totality, incorporating his bridge designs into greater architectural programs, thereby producing aesthetically pleasing and contextually specific designs. From the Pulteney Bridge in Bath to the ruined arch and viaduct at Culzean Castle in Ayrshire, in The Bridges of Robert Adam: A Fanciful and Picturesque Tour, Benjamin Riley, Managing Editor of The New Criterion, will take will take the reader across Britain, shedding new light on an understudied aspect of the great architect’s career. Value: $40