Harper’s Magazine/April 2011
I’m what the missus calls a disciplined person – you know, neat of person, tidy of environment, punctual. Which doesn’t mean that my mind always works that way. For instance, I don’t read magazines cover to cover; often I read them selectively, i.e., some articles I don’t read at all. I will say, though, that while I don’t find some Harper’s articles in my wheelhouse, I have been reading the mag in its entirety.
This issue’s socio-political essay, by Thomas Frank was a must-read, it’s subject on the Tea Party and how it’s tending toward some odd sort of political fundamentalism, based on the Founding Fathers, the Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence – which they constantly misconstrue. Besides the whimsical pieces drawn from media and other public documents, the keystone to this issue is Lewis Lapham’s article, ostensibly on Mark Twain and his autobiography, but in truth an essay, using Twain as its set-piece, regarding the absolutely vital need for dissent and public discourse in our national narrative.
And I have to comment on its fiction: Alice Munro’s short story, “Pride,” is a narrative piece, following the current trend of having short fiction read as if it were a memoir. I won’t belabor its plot or characters or style; suffice it to say that Munro’s writing here is lethargic, soft, and deliciously ambiguous, as if an overlong poetic piece.
Another piece of fiction appears here, too: an excerpt from Edouard Levé, from his soon to be published work Suicide. The piece is as somber as a depressed person’s mien: short, undemonstrative sentences. This piece appears here, no doubt because this French writer killed himself days after handing the manuscript off to his editor. One way to avoid editorial critiques, I suppose (No! I didn’t really write that!)
Harper’s, whatever its future, continues to excel at presenting good writing, good articles, readable fiction.