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Harper's Magazine September 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

Past Imperfect Matthew Karp is right to worry that reducing America’s racial history to biblical or biological terms [“History As End,” Essay, July] leaves out critical social and historical context. Slavery was evil, but to call it our “original sin” or to argue that it is in our DNA is to ignore what we have learned about how and why human beings inflict unspeakable cruelty on one another. Yet, it’s critical to engage with the politics of the past, because they’re also the politics of the present. Slavery was a caste system whose vestiges are still apparent today. In its American variation, it was the central feature in a business model that put profit above shared humanity. It proved to be so “successful” a model that people were willing to destroy the…

13 min
easy chair

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was asleep in my room at the Beverly Laurel Motor Hotel near West Hollywood. I’d just come to the end of a six-week road trip down the West Coast, intended partly as research, but mainly as a gift to myself. After years of work, I’d sold a novel for a lot of money. I’d rented a ridiculous little Japanese convertible; it had seemed cool at first but its novelty had worn off. It was cramped and uncomfortable and attracted cops, and now it was sitting in the motel lot, coated with freeway dirt. I’d been in L.A. for a week or so, hanging out with some friends of friends, and I’d had a good time, but I was ready to go back…

6 min
the mothership

There is a case to be made for self-published Adult Baby Diaper Lover erotica as the quintessential Amazonian literature. It depends what aspect of Amazon one decides to put at the center of one’s inquiry. Is it the great quasiimperial sprawl of the company’s many technical and logistical achievements, its seemingly unbounded ambition to multinational if not multiplanetary commercial presence? Or is it instead the cozy scene of consumption, of fulfillment, the home? To the extent it is the latter, this erotic genre, featuring the infantilization of the hero and hypermaternalization of the heroine who lives to suckle him, provides a concentrated image of the company’s fabled “customer obsession”: the way it attempts, as the mother does with her child, to minimize the delay between demand and gratification. Doing so, it…

1 min
machine yearning

Digisexuality is a sexual experience that depends on the use of advanced technology. Sex-toy consumers and people who experience attachment to digital technology were the first-wave digisexuals. Back in twelfth-century Japan, mechanical dolls were used for entertainment in theaters and private homes, as well as for sexual practices. Everyone has the right to feel love and connection, and Japanese people have a history of connecting to technology in spiritual ways. The scholars Beatriz Yumi Aoki and Takeshi Kimura surveyed Japanese sex-doll owners in 2020 and found that 58 percent believe the dolls have a heart or soul. This is more than just sex. Maybe it’s even about love. A digisexual is a person who is attracted to technology and doesn’t require a human partner. Digisexuality is pretty awesome. If someone has interest…

3 min
math rock

My father wanted his own orchestra. He couldn’t read music and his tastes tended toward the beer hall, but he loved singing and had a clear bass-baritone: “Blue Skies” at morning that changed, by night, to “Many Brave Hearts Are Asleep in the Deep.” When he sang, our small house on the North Side of Chicago turned bigger on the inside than it was on the out. A junior high school principal, my father believed in giving his children the keys to every kingdom worth entering. We each played something: clarinet, French horn, guitar, viola. My instrument was the cello. The five of us would hold forth from different corners of the house, often at the same hour of the afternoon, in a riotous Midwestern nightmare out of Ives. I remember, at…

2 min
late edition

1. Brietz, a laborer, said to Captain von Bürger, of the former Tauentzien Regiment, that the tree under which they stood was entirely too small for the both of them, and that he should put himself beneath another. Captain von Bürger, who was a placid and humble man, really did put himself beneath another tree, whereupon Brietz was immediately struck by lightning and killed. 2. Bach, when his wife died, had to make arrangements for the funeral. But the poor man was so used to her taking care of everything that when an old servant came and asked him for money to buy mourning crepe, the composer, behind silent tears, head propped on his desk, replied, “Ask my wife.” 3. Two famous English boxers, one a native of Portsmouth, the other of Plymouth, who for…