ZINIO logo

Harper's Magazine December 2020

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
R 115,66
R 578,87
12 Issues

in this issue

4 min

First Class Laurent Dubreuil begins his essay on identity politics [“Nonconforming,” Essay, September] with a peevish rant against the notion of identifying first-generation college students as a cohort on campus who might need some extra accommodations. As a former first-generation student myself, I can attest to the fact that it does take some adjustment to walk into an environment in which the majority of one’s professors and peers benefit from a legacy of higher education in their families and the wealth and stability associated with the educated class. Like Dubreuil’s, my family was hardly destitute, but they couldn’t afford to pay for me to go to college, so I paid for it myself. All through college and graduate school I cooked meals and reshelved library books for my better-off classmates. I discovered,…

6 min
editor’s desk

In February 2017, one month after Donald Trump’s inauguration, the New York Times ran a story by Nate Cohn, with the headline PRESIDENT’S APPROVAL RATINGS ARE DOWN, BUT HOW MUCH DOES IT MATTER?, that attempted to quantify what Trump’s unpopularity presaged for the 2018 midterms. It was a short article, one of perhaps a dozen produced that week by the Times’ data-journalism vertical, The Upshot, but I have thought of it often during the lifetime that has elapsed since. Forget for a moment that Cohn—like most of his peers—had just gotten the 2016 election spectacularly wrong, and that he made no effort to explain why anyone should still care about his view on anything. Even if Cohn had called the vote perfectly, his eagerness to call the next should have been…

11 min
easy chair

A decade ago, when my fiancée and I were living in a semilegal converted nylon factory in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and I’d just published my first book—a coming-of-age memoir into which I’d put the near entirety of my twenty-nine years but which had failed to change the world—my landline rang. On the other end was a voice I simultaneously knew and did not know. I no longer remember when I first heard the name Stanley Crouch or saw his indomitable visage dropping jewels in a jazz documentary, howling with laughter in photographs with Wynton Marsalis, or glowering from the cover of a paperback. But I knew who he was, and I had already inhaled his essay collections—Notes of a Hanging Judge, The All-American Skin Game, The Artificial White Man. Whatever he…

27 min

[Essay] FATHERS, SONS, SCREAMING EAGLES By Joan Didion, from Let Me Tell You What I Mean, a collection of essays that will be published next month by Knopf. The essay originally appeared in The Saturday Evening Post in 1968. “I hope you don’t think I’m a hippie,” said the man to whom I was talking in the Crown Room of the Stardust Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. “I’m just kind of, you know, growing this beard.” His name tag said Skip Skivington. He was probably in his early forties and he had been at Bastogne with the 101st Airborne Division in 1944 and his voice was gentle and apologetic and I had not thought him a hippie. It was the first evening of the 101st Airborne Division Association’s twenty-third annual reunion, one…

23 min
false labor

The moment I lost my fertility I started searching for a baby. At age thirty-one, after almost two decades of chronic pain caused by endometriosis and its little-studied ravages, I had my uterus, my cervix, and one of my ovaries removed. Before then, motherhood had seemed likely but not urgent, as inevitable as growing out of jean shorts, but in the days after my surgery I became keenly obsessed with it. Bedbound and tending to the five small laparoscopic holes in my abdomen, I scrolled through adoption websites as if they were furniture outlets. If I could no longer grow a baby in my womb, I could at least get one elsewhere, and fast. But there were a few obstacles. Some of the sites seemed too Christian to want me;…

3 min
a perfect woman

It would be a bold writer who would attempt to have the last word on the much-debated maternal instinct. But since so many men have had their say on the subject, perhaps a woman may be permitted to contribute. Women’s maternity has always been a matter of great import to men. Anthropology tells us that early agricultural tribes made their women the star actresses in orgiastic fertility rites and that their descendants deified an Earth Mother who was the author of all life. The myth of the mother-god survived in one guise or another among the Greeks, the Babylonians, and the Egyptians; centuries later something akin to it sprang up in southern Europe in the form of the cult of the Virgin Mary. No longer considered a symbol of fertility, the…