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News & Politics
Harper's Magazine

Harper's Magazine March 2019

HARPER’S MAGAZINE, the oldest general interest monthly in America, explores the issues that drive our national conversation through such celebrated features as Readings, Annotation, and Findings, as well as the iconic Harper’s Index.

United States
Harper's Magazine Foundation
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12 Issues

In this issue

4 min.

A View from Afar Michel Houellebecq’s praise of Trump is a timely send-up of decades of American triumphalism, which seems to be imploding under its own weight [“Donald Trump Is a Good President,” Revision, January]. But the joke ultimately falls flat, because the replacement approach that Houellebecq envisions is even more disturbing than the status quo. The philosophical roots of liberalism in the eighteenth century, and the real-world liberal order that arose in the latter half of the twentieth, at least tried to grapple with how different religious, ethnic, and political groups could live together in peace with equal rights. It was far from perfect, but the alternative is endless war, and a return to policies based on ancient honors, grievances, and blood feuds that governed human affairs for most of recorded…

11 min.
easy chair

The fight over which of our public monuments should remain where they are is as complicated as the American past they commemorate. For all the fighting over who and what we should not honor from our past, there is one vital element that has been missing from the argument: that is, what we should honor and aspire to now. America approached this same question in the midst of trying to win the most terrible war in world history. You can see an intriguing cross section of what we came up with—and what our artists think of that now—in a traveling exhibition from the Norman Rockwell Museum, Enduring Ideals: Rockwell, Roosevelt, & the Four Freedoms. It is currently in Washington, D.C., but will continue touring the country until it returns to its…

7 min.
exit ghost

In The Ghost Writer, narrator Nathan Zuckerman says of the novelist Felix Abravanel that the master’s charm was “a moat so oceanic that you could not even see the great turreted and buttressed thing it had been dug to protect.” Philip, too, could seem a beguiling but remote citadel: august, many-towered, lavishly defended. Those who reached the inner keep met there someone quite different from the persona devised for public purposes. Still vitally present was the young man he’d remained all along, full of satirical high jinks and cooked-up ventriloquisms and antic fun building to crescendos. Imaginary relatives were a specialty. I recall, for example, “Paprika Roth,” a retired stripper living in the Florida panhandle. A glint in the eye told you hilarity was in the offing. “Ben, do you…

6 min.
must flee tv

January 4 is my last day at NBC News. The parting is bittersweet, the world and the state of journalism in tandem crisis. My expertise, though seeming to be all the more central to the challenges and dangers we face, also seems to be less valued at the moment. And I find myself completely out of sync with the network, being neither a day-to-day reporter nor interested in the Trump circus. I started my association with NBC thirty years ago, feeding Cold War stories to Bob Windrem and Fred Francis at the Pentagon. I became an on-air analyst during the Kosovo War, continuing to work thereafter with Nightly News, delighting and oftentimes annoying in my peculiar position of being a mere civilian amongst The Generals and former government officials. A scholar…

1 min.
snow effect

In the day, blood, yet we live by night In the black between splashes, Jesus, I just gave away your beautiful book Air to a poet on his 25th birthday Only now to hear you have died on that brick racetrack of a street Of course, I think of Frank and Françoise Dorléac (you may have already met) North Berkeley feels not unlike Beacon Hill in its way, having absorbed the available Institutional darkness, you once told me of how John Wieners loved the Chelsea, whole nights starring Rene Ricard or Harry Fainlight leading you to secret machines buried In the courtyard, A London life of crumbling my weed Right into your bag, right under my eyes Elastic, flexible, Yes, I like breathing better than work Poor Angelica, she is lovely as has been noted Often throughout our history made of poetry or…

6 min.
larry the cable gal

OTTO’S MOM I had a woman with a bullmastiff named Otto. I told her I needed to get to her basement. She said, “Do you really? It’s just it’s a mess.” (That’s never why.) I told her what I told everyone who balked at their privacy being invaded: “Unless you have a kid in a cage, I don’t fucking care.” Kids in cages were an unimaginable horror then. Anyway, Otto’s mom laughed and said, “Not a kid,” and I was allowed down into a dungeon where she had a man in a cage. I don’t remember whether she had a bad splitter, so that was probably early on. After a few years, not even a dungeon was interesting. Sex workers tip, though. FOX VIEWER “Irate” is not something you want to see on…