The Heroic Return of the Baffler


After a hiatus of a few years, the intellectually-engaging, always interesting, often confrontational and downright maverick literary/cultural magazine The Baffler has returned!

I just picked up my copy at the bookstore where I work. Most bookstores with a decent magazine rack should carry at least a couple copies. At least the ones in San Francisco do. But even then it can be hard to find.The essays I have read so far have excited and unnerved me by the eloquence of their outrage towards the intellectual and ethical crises facing our country. One of their biggest targets is the Internet, or at least the Internet’s maddening ubiquity in all aspects of social life, and techno-hedonism in general.

The revival of the magazine was due in large part to what the editors and publishers viewed as some unfortunate trends in contemporary cultural discourse:

“Print is dead they say; we double down in our commitment to the printed word.  Brevity is the fashion; we bring you long-form cultural criticism with an emphasis on stylistic quality. . .”

A few stand-outs in the current issue include Naomi Klein discussing the ten year anniversary of her seminal book No Logo, several articles on the way we talk about the Internet and its mystifying technology, a couple poems by Jack Spicer, an article about Nelson Algren’s Chicago and some disarming articles  on the recent financial meltdown.

There are also a couple of short stories and a few full-color photo essays, one of which documents, for all you ruin-enthusiasts, “feral houses.”

I think magazines like The Baffler deserve all the support they can get, whether from devoted readers or writers or charitable foundations or just stores like ours that are willing to carry it. Foisting quality printed matter that is engaging, intelligent and timely onto the public shouldn’t be as hard as it seems to be.  But these are interesting times, clearly, full of interesting challenges.

In size and scope, The Baffler has has all the structural integrity of a well-bound book that you can leaf through time and again; content-wise, it amounts to an eclectic anthology of cultural criticism and art by people often working under the radar who are devoted to sorting out the myths, lies and debacles of our society.  And in doing so they provide something much more enlightening.

Michael Berger is a barely-published writer and book-seller living in San Francisco. He is one of the founding Corsairs of the Iron Garters Bike Club and is currently pursuing a degree in applied pataphysics. He sometimes eats oatmeal for dinner. More from this author →