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Harper's Magazine May 2021

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

Crossing the Streams The moment cinephilia is tied to personal nostalgia, as it is in Martin Scorsese’s essay [“Il Maestro,” March], intellectual distinctions become tenuous. Scorsese laments the devaluing of art as “content” by his philistine employers and by viewers accessing cinema in their homes, yet he has no qualms about admitting that he first saw La Strada on television. Moreover, he grew up with movies as an art form before having to wrestle with them as a business, whereas I grew up in a family of Alabama exhibitors and eventually underwent the opposite trajectory, discovering film art in New York around the same time he did. Scorsese is a cinephile who has clearly done extraordinary and generous work in making world cinema more widely available, but you’d never guess this from…

11 min
easy chair

In 1829, Agathon-Jean-Francois, Baron Fain, wrote a memoir of his time serving as secretary to the emperor Napoleon. A reader searching for details about great battles or power struggles will be disappointed by Fain’s strange little book. In the preface, he warns that he is not concerned with events. His subject is not the life of the great man; “it is his day.” Every inch the self-effacing secretary, Fain does not obtrude, or reveal his own opinions about the emperor’s decision-making, but provides an intimate picture of the work habits and routine of a man at the head of a vast multinational operation, administering the affairs of kingdoms and colonies while conducting large-scale wars and maintaining political control of a France that had just undergone a cataclysmic revolutionary upheaval. Napoleon was,…

28 min

[Essay] PETTY CASH By Leslie Jamison, from “The Assistant’s Loft,” an essay from a revised edition of the anthology Goodbye to All That, which was published last month by Seal Press. She had a name, but in this essay she will just be she. When I started working for her, she gave me a nondisclosure agreement to sign, but she didn’t handle any of her own paperwork, so she never knew I didn’t sign it. She had a brownstone on the Upper West Side and a geriatric dog who peed frequently on the beautiful parquet floor. This was better than when he peed on the expensive oriental rugs. She was a writer who’d built a menopause empire. Which is to say: She had written many books about the sexual and emotional lives of…

1 min
the sorrows of young wörter

From a list compiled by the Leibniz Institute for the German Language of more than a thousand German words that have been coined since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Translated from the German by John Sherman. BABYELEFANT, n. Unit of measurement for appropriatesocial distancingELLENBOGENGRUSS, n. A touching of elbowsin greetingFUSSGRUSS, n. A touching of feet in greetingFIEBERAMBULANZ, n. Facility for patients withCOVID-19GEISTERKÜCHE, n. Ghost kitchen; a restaurantwithout eat-in diningHAMSTERITIS, n. A compulsion to hoard suppliessuch as toilet paperIMPFDRÄNGLER, n. One who receives a vaccinebefore others of higher priorityIMPFNEID, n. Jealousy of people who have beenvaccinatedISOLATIONSEINERLEI, n. The monotony experiencedduring extended periods of isolationKUSCHELKONTAKT, n. Cuddle contact; a personwithin one’s quarantine bubbleLOCKDOWNSPECK, n. Weight gained during a periodof quarantineMASKOMAT, n. A machine that dispenses masksNACKTNASE, n. Naked nose; a person whosemask…

1 min
diplomatic jejunity

From the lyrics to a rap performed by Daniel Kritenbrink, the U.S. ambassador to Vietnam, in a music video he released in February for Tet, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year. Time for introductions are at hand:Hi, my name is Dan.I’m from Nebraska, I’m not a big-city boy,Then three years ago, I moved to Hanoi.Check the calendar, Tet is comin’ soon,Can Tho and Da Nang are in the mood.Clean the house now, friends are on the way.Grab the hoa mai and hoa dao,Get ready to party from Ha Giang to Ca Mau.Tet in Vietnam is the tops.I love the hot spots and hot pots.I drink ca phe sua da, not cappuccinos,And bring li xi with me everywhere that we go.Cash for the kids, blessings for the family,Love for my parents, and everyone…

1 min
the unanswering

By Aaron Fagan, from the poetry collection A Better Place Is Hard to Find, which was published in October 2020 by The Song Cave. I thought I saw a bee’sNest made of cigarette buttsHanging from the ceiling fan. Each turn of the winding airDivined my rest an inelegantProof no one cares to hear. I mottled the idea of whoI came to be with sootAs drapes caressed the snow Globe filled with venomOn the sill where moths,By their measure, lined up, One by one, unrolling theirTongues to sip and drizzleLines across a canvas laced With gunpowder burningBright around the paintedParts where you used to be.…