Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Baffler's back again! (This time for real)

Posted By on 06.30.11 at 05:14 PM

Baffler_K.jpg
Over the weekend I got to swing it on the flippity-flop with The Baffler founder Tom Frank and John Summers, the brand-new editor and publisher of the beloved culture-crit journal. The two were in town to go through some old files and, in Summers's case, box up and ship them to Cambridge, Mass., where he lives. Yes, that's right: Chicago will no longer be able to claim The Baffler (est. 1988) as its own, though Summers says the publication isn't about to abandon its roots any time soon. "Chicago has been vital to The Baffler's sensibility, which won't change much," he says, adding that Eugenia Williamson—a native and U. of C. alum who "won't soon forget her Chicago ties"—is a contributing editor. Other fancy writers from around these parts are probable contributors as well.

You might remember that in January 2010 we told you that The Baffler was back in action after a three-year hiatus, with a new publisher at the helm. But after the release of a quality issue that resulted in book contracts and honors, things didn't go exactly as planned. Then Frank and Summers got to talking, and Summers and a few investors ended up buying the journal's assets. Frank will stay on as national editor; others on the masthead include senior editor Chris Lehmann, fiction editor Anna Summers, poetry editor Edwin Frank (from the New York Review of Books), and several contributing editors. Baffling will be Summers's full-time job; a historian, writer, editor, and former lecturer at Harvard, he's got major writing and critical-thinking chops, and gives subscribers and fans a reason to be optimistic.

The online strategy's still in the planning stages, but the next print edition will be released this fall. Summers says it will be heavy on contributions from women writers, including Barbara Ehrenreich and Moe Tkacik. Unlike many publications in today's volunteer-heavy media, The Baffler will actually pay writers for submissions.

Though business-wise the timing for a revitalized Baffler maybe couldn't be worse, relevance-wise it couldn't be better: all of the problems that existed at the time of the magazine's founding still exist, and have arguably gotten either worse or more annoying. Not to mention that, as Summers points out, "a lot of talented people are floating around without jobs."

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