Young Intellectuals In Pursuit of Ideas

I enjoyed the article in today’s NYT Magazine section on the founding team of n+1 magazine. It’s basically a bunch of smart, intellectual 30 or under guys starting an ideas-driven magazine when it’s the worst time in the world to start a magazine. I felt immediate generational solidarity! It is encouraging to see the next wave of leaders take on the world of culture and intellect with seriousness in pursuit of the most admirable goal: progress.

The magazines themselves feel decidedly youthful, not only in their characteristic generational concerns – the habit of nonchalantly blending pop culture, literary esoterica and academic theory, for instance, or the unnerving ability to appear at once mocking and sincere – but also in the sense of bravado and grievance that ripples through their pages…

The Believer is happy to write about pop songs or reality television, to make jokes and indulge in whimsy, but it tends to disdain the nonchalant, knowing sarcasm that has become, elsewhere, the dominant form of cleverness…

“The idea of progress is not uncomfortable to us,” they declare in the “preamble” to their inaugural issue. “Who will drive progress? To every tradition, and every art, and aspect of culture, and line of thought, a step is added. This dream of advance in every human endeavor, in line with what we need, not just what we’re capable of, is futurism humanized. It is wanted in a time of repetition. It is needed whenever authorities declare an end to history. It is desperate when the future we are offered is the outcome of technology.”…

In the end, this may be the common ground n+1 and The Believer occupy: a demand for seriousness that cuts against ingrained generational habits of flippancy and prankishness…. They will serve as incitements to future projects – whether as lost possibilities in need of revival or missed opportunities in need of correction. In the meantime, what they provide is space – room for the exploration of hunches, experiments, blind alleys and starry-eyed hopes, by readers and writers whose small numbers can be a source of pride. Surveying the political scene in the wake of the last election, Kunkel took some solace in the idea that “our lives remain their own great cause.”

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