RW370 is as South Side as Lem’s Barbecue, Ben’s Auto Sales, The Chicago White Sox and The Haggerty brothers. So when a long-lost institution returns to claim its rightful place in Chicago’s southern cultural counterweight, WordPress is fired up with a quickness and the hosannas fly. Welcome back, Baffler.
The Baffler magazine — which punctured egos and provoked, which irritated New York Times editors and Hyde Park intellectuals alike, which was rooted in Chicago and became a smart, abrasive must-read during the 1990s, which predicted our economic future, then burned down (quite literally) — has returned. It’s been four years since the last issue; the new issue, slowly working its way into bookstores nationwide (and recently mailed out to patient subscribers), is only its 18th issue.
Its 18th in 22 years.
The staff was so slow and often distracted by other non-Baffler-related jobs, said former managing editor Matt Weiland, they would refer to the magazine as “a quarterly publication that only came out once a year.”
“But see, thing is,” said Thomas Frank, the founder and editor, from his home in Maryland, “I never had any intention of going away. I would get e-mails that said, ‘Too bad you guys are gone.’ So I would write back: ‘Don’t give up on us.’ Because we need the Baffler more now than ever. That contrarian attitude toward culture, that scoffing attitude that people associated with us — the plan now is to revive it.”
Shouldn’t be hard.
In the 1990s, the literary journal made its name as a fearless, equal opportunity deflator of conglomerate-orchestrated alternative rebellions, a muckraker that found its targets in the co-opting of cool and breathless hyping of killer apps. It swung to the left, but the piety of any ideology was never outside its crosshairs. Or as Frank put it, the real target was “the bubble of the moment.”