To epicures, salmagundi is a tasty dish of meat, anchovies, eggs, onions, and seasonings. To followers of scholarly trends, however, Salmagundi is the quarterly journal edited by Robert and Peggy Boyers at Skidmore College. It recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. The Boyerses have deliberately cultivated an eclectic approach, the result of which is a rich variety, not only of political viewpoints, but of styles and subject matter. ``The Salmagundi Reader'' (Indiana University Press, 1983) -- which excluded the fiction and poetry the journal has published, limiting itself to essays, interviews, and symposiums -- featured pieces by such contributors as novelist Saul Bellow, philosopher Norman O. Brown, historian-philosopher Isaiah Berlin, educators Leslie Fiedler and William Gass, and literary critics George Steiner and Roland Barthes, to name a few. They discuss subjects ranging from metaphor to psychoanalysis to the divorce between the sciences and humanities, from a symposium on Christopher Lasch's ``The Culture of Narcissism'' to one on Lionel Trilling's ``Sincerity and Authenticity.''
In a foreword to the book, Denis Donoghue remarks on the editors' use of symposiums: ``Variety of judgment, it is supposed, will do the clarifying work of theory and, in addition, will maintain the politics of diversity: many voices in one room.''
Despite a certain justice in the implied criticism, Salmagundi often has valuable issues organized around single figures or themes. Winter 1984, for example, was devoted to South African writer Nadine Gordimer. It featured her novella ``Something Out There,'' an interview, and four very valuable essays. The essays on Gordimer's fiction were head and shoulders above most other attempts to analyze her oeuvre.
Salmagundi's great strength -- and weakness -- is its currency. In almost any issue there is much that is lucid and lively, but a considerable percentage of the material dates rather quickly.
Perhaps one of the most appealing qualities about this journal is that it provides a sense of the latest trends in academe and in more popular culture in essays that are geared to the general educated reader.