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Harper's Magazine

Harper's Magazine September 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.

Country:
United States
Language:
English
Publisher:
Harper's Magazine Foundation
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12 Issues

in this issue

4 min.
letters

Socialism and Barbarism According to Aaron Lake Smith, who discusses the works of Vasily Grossman alongside my biography of the writer [“The Trials of Vasily Grossman,” Reviews, July], my book “charts Grossman’s life as a journey from moral compromise to the truth of Life and Fate,” and demonstrates “the extent to which Grossman was a product of the Soviet literary system.” In fact, I argue against this dated interpretation. Grossman was not a pro-Soviet writer. He established his intellectual independence in this respect early on with his famous story “In the Town of Berdichev.” In his novel Stepan Kol’chugin, Grossman was even more explicit, writing that Russia needs a school of democracy, of “introducing glasnost,” and “all those freedoms inherent in a democratic society.” It was impossible to publish literature without compromise…

12 min.
easy chair

My first reaction upon seeing what was supposedly a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard removing what was alleged to be a mine from the broken hull of what we were told was a Japanese oil tanker was to think, My, how disinformation has progressed! Our leaders used to require not one but two dark and stormy nights, half a world away in a different gulf, in order to foist a disastrous, ill-conceived war on the American people. These days, a casus belli can be declared in broad daylight and in time for the evening news, complete with a live enemy caught red-handed trying to remove the evidence. Or so we’re told. Mind you, I don’t have much reason to doubt that the scene we were shown from the Persian Gulf was exactly…

12 min.
baggage claims

By Leslie Jamison, from “Layover Story,” an essay from the collection Make It Scream, Make It Burn, which will be published this month by Little, Brown and Company. This is the story of a layover. Who tells that story? I’m telling it to you now. One January evening, my flight got delayed out of Louisiana, where I’d been talking to people about their past lives, and I missed my connection in Houston. I had a night there. Trying to have a travel experience near the Houston airport is like trying to write a poem from the words on a yeast packet. Don’t try to make it beautiful. Just let it rise. Let the freeways run like unspooled thread into the night. Blink against the neon signs of chain stores. Take shelter…

1 min.
bed death & beyond

From The Undying, a memoir by Anne Boyer, which will be published this month by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. There is no more tragic piece of furniture than a bed, how it falls so quickly from the place we make love to the place we might die in. It is tragic, too, for how it falls so quickly from the place where we sleep to the place where we think ourselves mad. The bed where anyone makes love is also—too clearly for anyone stuck there because of illness—the grave, as John Donne described it, from which they might never rise. In 1621, an anonymous Flemish painter painted Young Woman on Her Death Bed. It is rare in the tradition of European sick paintings in that it is, like actually dying young, actually…

1 min.
sundowner

By L. S. Asekoff, from ECLIPSE, a manuscript in progress. It began with black maps. Distant points of light.Connecting the dots, she could see shapes forming in the firmament.Fragments of bodies. An arm. A knee. The head of a horse.Then like the writing of history, lines in the sand as the waves rolled in.A great bell tolled once, & no more.The medusa danced before her, flaunting its translucent skirts.A hand rose out of the deep holding le mot juste, a blue pearl.Thousands of songbirds flocked the darkening sky, an invisible river of wind, of wings. What was there was not there, disappearing in the fold, furrowing the field.A pink comb passed through thinning hair.Glimmer of ashes. Fall of a leaf.Inside its gigantic crystal, the world, turning, suffered its magnetic sleep.Shadows flowed like…

6 min.
regarding the pen of others

By Benjamin Moser, from Sontag: Her Life and Work, which will be published by Ecco this month. In the Freudian conception,” wrote one author, “as it gradually emerged through these early years of uncertainty, the body exists as a symptom of mental demands.” “ The identity of that author is one of the enduring mysteries in the life of Susan Sontag. The book that contains it, Freud: The Mind of the Moralist, was published in 1959 under the name of Philip Rieff. But ever after, the wife from whom he was by that point separated would claim to be its real author. The book is so excellent in so many ways, so complete a working-out of the themes that marked Susan’s life, that it is hard to imagine it could be the…