Founded in 1965, Salmagundi magazine takes pride in its spectrum of essays, reviews, interviews, fiction, poetry, regular columns, polemics, debates and symposia. In the past, the magazine has featured the likes of acclaimed literary figures such as J.M. Coetzee, Christopher Hitchens, Susan Sontag, and Joyce Carol Oates. Additionally, the magazine boasts that it showcases neither a liberal nor conservative predilection, proclaiming that, “in short, Salmagundi is not a tame or genteel quarterly. It invites argument, and it makes a place for literature that is demanding.”
Salmagundi’s commitment to intellectual excellence is evident from the very first literary selection, an essay penned by guest columnist Steve Fraser, entitled “The Age of Acquiescence.” Fraser makes the well-rehearsed argument that the recent financial meltdown, the ever-expanding gaps between the grossly wealthy ruling class and the struggling middle and lower-income classes are the unfortunate symptoms of America’s “Second Gilded Age.” Some of the usual suspects are cited, namely the shifts in the division of wealth and the societal attitude concerning the use of such wealth. Ronald Regan’s presidency seemed to sanction ostentatious displays of wealth, once a social stigma coupled with disapproval and a modesty that bordered on embarrassment. Such a change in the social and financial climate paved the way for what Fraser calls “the Age of Acquiescence,” where “the stage seems bare indeed. No great fears, no great expectations, no looming social apocalypse, no utopias or dystopias—just a kind of flat-line sense of the end of history.”
And yet, for Fraser to say that the great social revolutions of the 60’s are yet just a passing memory, a sense of social consciousness only seen in the pages of glossy history books, rings somewhat false and frighteningly cynical. Although hordes of people are not rioting in the streets for their chosen social and political issue, the activism machine has transformed, yielded to the modernity of technology. Young people are turning to their computers, to the Internet. The movers and shakers are attempting to utilize technology for a faster and more wide-spread influence, as evident by the government WikiLeaks drama, even the creation of Facebook. This is not to say that Fraser’s point is completely moot—the downside of such hyper-speed technology increases the itch for instant gratification, the need to seek fame or attention or validation by the minions of cyberspace. As for the lack of a social apocalypse, perhaps Family Radio would like to argue that Judgment Day is lurking right around the corner.
True to the goal of Salmagundi, the magazine would not be complete without critical essays contemplating the arts, namely the act of memoir writing. In her column, “The Real Story,” Siri Hustvedt discusses the nature of memoir writing and the author’s dedication to preserving the truth. Yet this can be a slippery slope for some writers, as memories fade and alter due to the passage of time. She says, “The art of autobiography, as much as the art of fiction, calls on the writer to shape himself as a character in a story, and that shaping requires a form mediated by language.” In other words, memory is not a reel of perfectly in-tact film sitting in some dusty archives. Rather, it is a series of connections, thoughts, triggered by association. Yet the authenticity of a memory, at least for a memoir writer, should also be based upon the writer’s dedication to the emotional truth.
All in all, if you’re looking for a literary magazine or journal that offers a plethora of mediums, in addition to schools of thought, look no further than Salmagundi. From social criticisms to poetry, and reviews to even letters to the editor, the magazine mirrors the taste of a person eager to sample a colorful and sometimes non-linear array of foods, leery to develop favorites. Other notable contributors include Benjamin Barber, Adam Day, Ruth Franklin, Jed Perl, and Brenda Wineapple.