As Baffler 18 went to press they were setting out the Christmas book display at the Kansas City Costco, a retail bazaar whose parking lot occupies the site of the city’s last jazz club. We never enter this particular Costco without thoughts about mortality, about what had to disappear in order to make its amazing bargains possible, and this time its Christmas book display—with its shiny piles of mass-market wisdom, vampires, and comely vice-presidential candidates served to heighten the somber mood. Outside, the world of letters was dying from the bottom up, as newspapers, magazines, bookstores, and perhaps, not too long from now, even book publishing itself discover that there is no conceivable business model that will support the production of quality prose.
But inside, the Glenn Beck books were selling briskly. Shoppers were giving the gift of wholesome paranoia this year. Here was Glenn dressed up like one of the commies who have supposedly infiltrated our government. Glenn bearing messages from the heartland. Even a Glenn Beck Christmas book, a new tradition for your family. Here it was, the second holiday season of the recession, and all across the decaying, dying Midwest, families would soon be gathering round the hearth and swapping theories about how those scheming liberals have done us in.
And maybe Glenn Beck is right about the impending end of the republic. Maybe it is just a matter of time until Beckiana and its allied genres are the only sort of material that our system finds it can publish profitably. Maybe all the work we have done to revive The Baffler—all the weeks of editing and copy-editing and proofreading—has been for naught. Maybe publishing is as practical a way of sharing ideas as dumping print-outs from the cargo door of a DC-3. We headed home for a glass of Old Charter to mull it over.
Copyright 2010, The Baffler Literary Magazine, Inc. [ISBN 0-56698-56859-9] No part of this magazine may be republished in print or electronically without the express written permission of the publisher.
This issue of The Baffler was assembled in December 2009 in Chicago, Washington and New York after having been painstakingly ghostwritten by Bill Ayers. The magazine was designed by The Map Office, New York City, and printed by Shapco Printing Inc, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Thomas Geoghegan, we are proud to report, is the first Baffler politburo member ever to run for U.S. Congress. Sadly, the Democrats of Illinois’ Fifth Congressional District chose to anoint someone else. The nation’s loss is our gain, however, as Tom will now have more time to toil in our very own editorial salt mine.
The list of people that we have to thank for helping us revive The Baffler is so long this time that we can’t possibly hope to remember everyone. But here goes: The Baffler wishes to thank Debi Bergerson and her cohort at Shapco; Phoebe Connelly; Ben Edwards; Charlotte Fairlie; Josh Glenn; “Uptown” Mark Greif and Ali Heifetz; Hunter Kennedy; Brad Kotler and the team at Latham & Watkins; Lewis Lapham; Shana Lutker; Rick MacArthur; Jeremy McCarter; Ben Metcalf; Robert Nedelkoff; James Njus; Jennifer Norback; Eddie Opara and Salvador Orara at The Map Office; Dan Peterman and Connie Spreen; Melanie Raucci at Disticor; Rich Schaefer; Joe Spieler; Rick Wojcik; Lastly, Brankica Kovrlija deserves a special mention. The doughnuts are on us.
The essay by Henry Fairlie was first published by The Washington Post on July 27, 1980, under the title, “Mencken’s Booboisie In Control of GOP.” It is reprinted here by kind permission of the estate of Henry Fairlie.
A different version of the essay by Walter Benn Michaels was published in Bookforum in 2009 under the title, “Going Boom.”
Thanks to Peter Gizzi and Kevin Killian for permitting us to print “Exercise” and “untitled,” by the late, great Jack Spicer.