Pick-up artists, improv, Twitter and cave trout: There’s nearly no topic that The Point magazine won’t take on in its scholarly, sharp and incredibly accessible pages. Founders and PhD candidates at the University of Chicago, Jon Baskin, Etay Zwick and Jonny Thakkar released the first issue of the semi-annual publication in the spring of 2009, seeking to address ideas in a serious way for an audience beyond academics.
It worked: Today, The Point is distributed in cities around the globe. Of course, the academics are also admirers: The New Yorker and The New York Times Book Review have both extolled the magazine as a leader in the revival of the essay tradition. Just as their latest issue releases (in stores now), DuJour checks in with their founders.
So, what is the point?
Jon: It may sound immodest, but the mission of the magazine is to improve our readers’ lives. The name of the magazine is basically meant to allude to the idea that the point of serious thinking is not, ultimately, to convey information, or to tell a nice story, but to discover how to live.
Jonny: We want our authors to be like an interesting guest at a dinner party, provoking a stimulating conversation without ever being outrageous for its own sake.
Tell us about each of your strengths in putting the magazine together.
Jon: Etay has always been in charge of the magazine’s aesthetic; he’s also the most patient and stubborn. Jonny is the best at cutting to the heart of an argument, and also at articulating how an argument could be made more clearly and cogently.
Johnny: Jon has the best sense of the overall sweep of an article, the way it hangs together as a whole, and how it’s going to play with our readers.
What would you never print?
Jon: We will publish on any topic, as long as the author challenges us and our readers to think differently than they might otherwise. But our favorite articles are about the topics that concern almost everyone: parenting, love, eating, Facebook, etc.
Any well-regarded readers?
Etay: It was an honor to see Ethan Coen order the back issue that featured the symposium “What is film for?.” Todd Gitlin is a subscriber, as is the editor of the Paris Review, Lorin Stein.