This week the $513 million Ford Foundation announced that it is going into the magazine business. Starting in October, the foundation will publish Perspectives U.S.A., a quarterly designed to show people outside the U.S. that "Americans can think as well as chew gum." The magazine, a pet project of the foundation's Associate Director Robert Hutchins, will be uncompromisingly highbrow, and will run original articles and reprints on literature, music, theater, history, philosophy, plus American poetry, fiction, and art. There will be no advertising, propaganda or politics. It will be printed abroad, at first in English, French, German and Italian, but other languages, e.g., Spanish. Russian and Arabic, may be added later. Perspectives will sell abroad for about 25¢, while the few copies that are sold in the U.S. will be $1.
The idea of Perspectives was presented to the foundation by James Laughlin, 37, great-grandson of the co-founder of Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., and founder and angel of the avant-garde book publishing house, New Directions. Laughlin will be publisher and straw boss of Perspectives, but "to avoid any taint of cultism," each issue will have a different editor. Such critics and writers as Lionel Trilling, R. P. Blackmur, Malcolm Cowley, Jacques Barzun, Harry Levin and Mortimer Adler have already agreed to sit in. The foundation is setting aside $500,000 for Perspectives for the first three years, will print 30,000 copies of its first issue.
Perspectives' "pilot" issue is a handsome, 236-page slick-paper job with a full-color abstract design on the cover. Inside are reprints of articles by Selden Rodman, Meyer Schapiro, Thornton Wilder and others, poetry by Archibald MacLeish and Robert Lowell, and fiction by William Faulkner. The pilot issue, foundation officials explained, is not an exact standard by which to judge Perspectives; only about half the pilot articles will be in the first issue. Nevertheless, the pilot issue gave the whole projectunless substantially changedthe flavor of a "little magazine's" fragile view of American culture, blown up to Ford-plant size.