October 30, 2014

The Baffler breaks up with its publisher


Everything about this cover is perfect.

Independent once more!

When we last reported on the great American institution known as The Baffler, the journal had just digitized its archives and #innovated itself to a beautiful and functional new website. For the first time, the journal’s twenty-six years’ worth of polemic, criticism, fiction, and poetry could be found in one place. The future was now.

But earlier this week, in a somewhat riskier embrace of the future, the Baffler’s editor John Summers announced that the journal has parted ways with MIT Press, which has published the Baffler since 2011. The Chronicle of Higher Education has the story:

The cheeky political and cultural journal has asked for, and been granted, a divorce. The five-year publishing deal, signed in 2011, allowed either party to bail out after three years, and John Summers, the journal’s editor, said on Monday that he and members of the board of the nonprofit Baffler Foundation had decided they absolutely must do so, at the first opportunity.

Peter Monaghan’s Chronicle piece, which is unfortunately paywalled, goes on to describe the financial terms of the split in somewhat specific terms, and the existential terms in far vaguer ones. This vagueness is not his fault! Here’s what Summers told him: “It was like a marriage. This could have been great, despite the culture clash [of] a start-up versus an entrenched bureaucracy.” That’s . . . something.

The Baffler has weathered any number of upheavals over its nearly three decades of existence—including, notoriously, a 2001 fire in its offices—so we’re optimistic about its newly independent new life. Escape the bureaucracy, good Baffler! Embrace autonomy!

As they wait for news of just what happens next, Baffler readers can proclaim their solidarity with “the journal that blunts the cutting edge” by attending the magazine’s launch party, which will be held this evening in Cambridge, MA. Only the ever-grumpy, counterintuitive-before-counterintuitiveness-was-cool Baffler would dare to host a launch party celebrating . . . depression. Cambridge Day proclaimed it an “utterly conflicted release party.” And we would, of course, expect nothing less.


Mark Krotov was a senior editor at Melville House.