Harper's Magazine December 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 127,69
R 639,07
12 Issues

in this issue

4 min

That’s Baseball, Suzyn Will Bardenwerper’s portrait of baseball’s fading farm system [“Minor Threat,” Letter from Pulaski, October] brought me back to summer evenings in the Fifties, watching minor-league games in Wilkes-Barre, the Pennsylvania coal-mining city where I grew up. My father, uncle, older brother, a few cousins, and I would arrive early at Artillery Park. We’d get seats and look for friends; we’d fill up on stadium food and watch batting practice. That was just the prelude. Then our home team, the Wilkes-Barre Barons—named for the coal barons who scourged the land—would take to the field. Our father and our uncle dutifully kept the box scores. Which team won hardly mattered. After the game, we’d rush to the gates and wait for the players. Probably tired, definitely underpaid, likely heading for their favorite…

9 min
easy chair

One morning in September, a dapper Frenchman seated next to me in the garden of the Château de Tocqueville gestured solemnly at the front page of Le Monde, the house journal of the French elite. “We have to talk about the submarine,” he whispered, so gravely that I initially thought there had been an attack at sea. He was, of course, referring to the just scuttled deal that the Australian government had made with the French to purchase $66 billion worth of submarines. The revelation that the American and British governments had conspired to snatch the contract away, and thereby shut out America’s oldest ally, cut deep. It was sheer coincidence that I was not far from Cherbourg, the idyllic shipbuilding town in Normandy that is home to an outpost of…

9 min
the licentiate’s children

Reading fiction is a vice. As such, any attempt to explain it will run sooner or later into the wall of the irrational. In a much-quoted interview, Philip Roth says that reading novels is a “deep and singular pleasure, a gripping and mysterious human activity that does not require any more moral or political justification than sex.” The meaning of this statement has changed over time, mainly because it now seems we all need a moral and political justification to read Philip Roth. But let that be. I was eleven when Roth said those words; I had grown up in an environment where reading novels required no explanation, and reading was fortunately never presented to me as healthy or beneficial, like exercise or broccoli. These days, we now concede, without…

1 min
writing wrongs

You are a peasant in 1890s Russia. There is no food. Revolution is in the air. The tsarists offer meals for your allegiance. What do you do? You are the grim reaper. Write three different opening paragraphs for your autobiography, trying out different styles. You are the pilot of a jumbo jet, just realizing the plane may crash. What will you tell the crew and the passengers? Only ten people will fit in the life raft. Persuade the captain that you should be one of them. Pick a dictator and write about an imaginary morning or day in his life. Describe a moment when you were in physical pain. Write about what you’ll be worrying about five years from now. Ten years from now. Thirty years from now. You wake up with a nameless feeling of dread…

1 min
claus and effect

What made you decide to be a Santa? I had the lookI had the sizeThe kids needed meI saw Santa staring back at me in the mirrorI have always had an attraction to Santa Have you done something special as Santa? NoNot reallyHmmI am not sure how to answerI am not comfortable with this questionI am just an average manI live in a log cabinI have donated over ninety gallons of blood What impact has being Santa had on you? It has given me courageIt has kept me saneI became a better personI don’t shaveI carry plastic coinsI only drive red carsI am now part Santa…

2 min
built to spill

SALAR ABDOH: Do you think that America was engaged in nation building in Afghanistan? MOHAMMAD HOSSEIN JAFARIAN: Someone engages in building a nation who understands that nation. Instead you go and pluck some guy, Ashraf Ghani, whose Pashtun tribalism precludes any chance that a nation might be able to “build” itself. People talk of Afghanistan as if it is one homogeneous entity, but this isn’t so. Yet this never appears to enter the calculations of an occupying power. ABDOH: Why not? JAFARIAN: Afghans risked their lives for democracy. The Taliban said that whoever voted would have their finger cut off. Yet people went to vote. But how did democracy play out for Ashraf Ghani and his American backers? In a country where twenty million people are eligible to vote, Ghani received just nine…