The Bookforum office in Chelsea is almost stripped bare. Only odds and ends are left on this Monday in late December, the staff’s last in the space. A yoga mat sits rolled on a cardboard box of stray titles. “Most of the good stuff is gone,” observes managing editor David O’Neill, studying the bookshelves mounted above the desks. “I’m going to take my big boy,” says associate editor Lizzy Harding, running her finger along a Berenice Abbott boxed set.
Launched in 1994 as a companion to Artforum, Bookforum abruptly announced its closure on December 12. The magazine published essays, interviews, and reviews, known for being one of the best venues for rigorous yet accessible criticism, the cool-kid sibling of older publications like The New York Review of Books. If New York can still lay claim to a literary community in the age of the internet, then Bookforum was one of its central nodes, a place where upstarts and established names alike could meet on the page.
The critic Parul Sehgal recalls Bookforum as a “rare publication — serious but never earnest, amused but never tediously knowing. No dull pieties or provocations. Just interesting prose about interesting prose (and poetry).” Articles took shape from phone conversations, no agenda attached. “People were figuring things out on the page rather than coming in knowing what they thought,” the magazine’s editor, Michael Miller, says.
The publication was shuttered shortly after Penske Media Corporation acquired Artforum and Bookforum suddenly found itself without an owner. Editors were notified just a few days before the public announcement was made. On its last day, staffers and contributors gathered to commemorate this gem of a magazine. “It felt a little like a wake,” says writer Ed Park.
“There’s been a lot of anger on our behalf, and outrage, and discontent about the closure,” says O’Neill. “But I just feel grateful to have been part of it.”
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