SALMAGUNDI is a quarterly of the Humanities and Social Sciences which is addressed to the “general” reader rather than to the academic specialist. Founded in 1965 and published since 1969 at Skidmore College, the magazine routinely publishes essays, reviews, interviews, fiction, poetry, regular columns, polemics, debates and symposia. It is widely regarded as one of the most influential intellectual quarterlies in the United States, and though it is often discussed as a “little magazine,” it is by no means predominantly belletristic or narrow in its purview or its audience.
Among the writers long associated with Salmagundi are Nadine Gordimer, J.M Coetzee, Tzvetan Todorov, George Steiner, Orlando Patterson, Norman Manea, Christopher Hitchens, Seamus Heaney, Mary Gordon, Susan Sontag, Benjamin Barber, Joyce Carol Oates, Richard Howard, Carolyn Forché, Martin Jay and David Rieff.
For many years Salmagundi featured the work of the late American historian Christopher Lasch, who wrote the introduction to the tenth anniversary issue of the magazine in the fall of 1975. Lasch noted that, in Salmagundi, “the criticism of art and literature is informed at every point by analysis of the social, psychological, and political conditions that shape them.” He also noted that the magazine’s politics were difficult to define, that it often “criticized leftist cliches…from a point of view sympathetic to the underlying objectives of the left,” and that, though obviously attracted to the work of “iconoclastic” thinkers, it was often critical of “the counterculture.”
Obviously, the magazine has changed over the course of the past quarter century, but in many respects Lasch’s enthusiastic description remains accurate. The “mix” of material in the magazine is much what it has always been, the political perspectives various, the regular political and cultural columnists unpredictable in their sense of what matters, the presence in the “mix” of European voices (and sometimes Latin American and African voices) notable.
As in the past, Salmagundi often devotes large parts of entire issues to “special subjects.” In the past ten years, two issues have been devoted to lengthy symposia on Afro-America, with contributors ranging all the way from Anthony Appiah and Darryl Pinckney to Jim Sleeper and Gerald Early. Other issues have been largely devoted to “The Culture of the Museum,” “Homosexuality,” “Art and Ethics,” “The Culture Industry,” “Kitsch” and “FemIcons.” From time to time, the magazine gives over its pages to debates, as between a leading thinker and his or her sometimes virulent critics.
In short, Salmagundi is not a tame or genteel quarterly. It invites argument, and it makes a place for literature that is demanding, including novella-length fiction—by Gordimer, Oates, Andrea Barrett, Steven Millhauser, Cynthia Ozick, and William Gass—and essays that—in terms of length and range of interest—go well beyond the fare served up by the better weeklies and monthlies.
Forthcoming in Salmagundi are interviews with writers like Mario Vargas Llosa, Seamus Heaney and Adam Zagajewski; fiction by Nadine Gordimer, Joyce Carol Oates and Nancy Huston; regular columns by Tzvetan Todorov, Benjamin Barber, Carolyn Forché, Martin Jay, Mario Vargas Llosa and Marilynne Robinson; and a full-issue symposium (Spring 2005) on “Jihad, McWorld, Modernity: Public Intellectuals Debate the ‘Clash of Civilizations’ ” featuring Martha Nussbaum, Benjamin Barber, Akeel Bilgrami, Guity Nashat, Orlando Patterson, Breyten Breytenbach, Carolyn Forché, Vladimir Tismaneanu and James Miller with responses from Christopher Hitchens, Jean Bethke Elshtain and others.