More reading material from my childhood. Does anyone else remember Horizon magazine? A compelling example of ambitious middlebrow sincerity, something this blog may end up being largely devoted to (investigation/instantiation of).
The Autumn 1967 issue is a nearly perfect exemplar of Horizon‘s virtues. The above picture is from an article about the then recently discovered Pajatén, a pre-Inca archeological site in Peru.
There’s also an article about Go. The main accompanying illustration looks like a political cartoon:
The article has some text that goes along with this current events tack: If chess is a battle, Go is an entire war, with pockets of action going on at several points of the board simultaneously. You think you are doing fine around Quang Ngai, and suddenly you observe your opponent developing a beastly plot against your territory near Danang. But there’s also a little primer on game play and Go’s cultural roles in ancient China and modern Japan.
The miscellaneous nature of this article goes along with the character of the Magazine in general, which is about 3/4 in line with World Civ 101 subject matter: the Autumn 1967 issue has articles on European painting, second-tier British royals, more archeology. The rest might fall under the general rubric modern sociology, examining the social and psychological effects of too little personal space for modern city dwellers, for example.
I found, as a result of a total and delightful coincidence, that Horizon plays an important role in Dwight Macdonald’s “Masscult & Midcult,” from his 1962 Against the American Grain.
Macdonald explains his concept Midcult by contrasting it to the utterly lowest common denominator pandering Masscult:
We are now in a more sophisticated period. The West has been won, the immigrants melted down… College enrollment is now well over four million, three times what it was in 1929. Money, leisure and knowledge, the prerequisites for culture, are more plentiful and more evenly distributed than ever before. In these more advanced times, the danger to High Culture is not so much from Masscult as from a peculiar hybrid bred from the latter’s unnatural intercourse with the former. A whole middle culture has come into existence and it threatens to absorb both its parents. This intermediate form— let us call it Midcult— has the essential qualities of Masscult— the formula, the built-in reaction, the lack of any standard except popularity— but it decently covers them with a cultural figleaf. In Masscult the trick is plain— to please the crowd by any means. But Midcult has it both ways; it pretends to respect the standards of High Culture while in fact it waters them down and vulgarizes them.
And Horizon? It is his very first, premier choice example of Midcult:
It is its ambiguity that makes Midcult alarming. For it presents itself as part of High Culture Not that coterie stuff, not those snobbish inbred so-called intellectuals who are only talking to themselves. Rather the great and vital mainstream, wide and clear though perhaps not so deep. You, too, can wade in it for a mere $16.70 pay nothing now just fill in the coupon and receive a full year six hard-cover lavishly illustrated issues of Horizon: A Magazine of the Arts, “probably the most beautiful magazine in the world…seeks to serve as guide to the long cultural advance of modern man, to explore the many mansions of the philosopher, the painter, the historian, the architect, the sculptor, the satirist, the poet… to build bridges between the world of scholars and the world of intelligent readers. It’s a good buy. Use the coupon now.” Horizon has some 160,000 subscribers, which is more than the combined circulations, after many years of effort, of Kenyon, Hudson, Sewanee, Partisan, Art News, Arts, American Scholar, Dissent, Commentary, and half a dozen of our other leading cultural-critical magazines.
From the above, it should be obvious that Horizon is a total delight to read. How much better if you’re 7. There’s a big stack of them dated from well before you were born to… there’s a new one in the mail. Thin but tall and wide and lots of pictures: maybe they’re kids books? Worth checking out. Contents with a benignly disorienting effect, something like the wardrobe/looking glass business many kids books go for, but far more intriguing since in addition it’s a compelling source of plausibly real data, going back millennia, on the adult world.
That’s a rather scattershot overview, a jumble of notes and associations. Parts 2 and 3 will look at some more specific noteworthy characteristics of this issue of this magazine. They are expected to show up after some posts on unrelated this-and-that.