What ever happened to Harper’s?

I have been subscribing to Harper’s for over ten years, i.e., over a third of my entire life. It was crucial in my intellectual formation, presenting me with a left-wing viewpoint that was not liberal and not eager to find “common ground” — and thus probably laying the groundwork for my appreciation of Zizek. Like Zizek, Harper’s has had a tendency toward unfortunate “crackpot” material, such as an infamous article questioning the link between HIV and AIDS, but I was willing to forgive it all, perhaps out of a misplaced nostalgia.

Now, however, I’m seriously losing faith. This issue’s cover story is an argument in favor of fasting. As The Girlfriend points out, if this story were written by a woman, it would be interpreted as advocating anorexia and thus censored from many internet forums. Accompanying this is hard-hitting coverage of a pro-breast feeding cabal.

Coming in the wake of Zadie Smith’s truly heart-breaking decision to step down as author of the monthly “New Books” column, this may be more than I can take! I may let my subscription lapse — though they will be unlikely to get the message, given that for a while I had a habit of absent-mindedly responding to every renewal notice and am therefore subscribed through 2014.

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Posted in media. 6 Comments »

6 Responses to “What ever happened to Harper’s?”

  1. Richard Says:

    Something shifted in Harper’s soon after Lapham stepped down as editor… for my purposes, it seemed to slowly drift into being more blandly liberal; I lost interest a while back.

  2. Brad Johnson Says:

    There was still good stuff post Lapham, I believe. There is a much more noticeable change in quality of late, though, that can only be directly attributed to the firing of Roger Hodge. The worst fears at the time of his dismissal in 2010 are now fully being realized.

  3. Ethan Says:

    I’m not familiar with their internal history and only read it sporadically, but I’d always liked it–but I was really shocked by the cover article in last month’s issue, which was an embarrassingly naive article about how monopolies destroy “open markets”.

  4. Brad Johnson Says:

    It’s not a print mag, and thus not the greatest toilet read, unless you have an IPad and don’t mind taking it to the toilet w/ you, but I think Guernica is all that Harper’s used to aspire to & more.

  5. DLewis Says:

    Their recent cover story on Mormons and economics was a complete flop. There is so much on that topic that was left unsaid, and so much shallow analysis, that I would’ve expected it from a Times or Newsweek. Too bad.

  6. Tom Kohut Says:

    I agree with Richard; there was a marked decline post-Lapham. I used to buy it every month (those years when I didn’t remember to renew); now I don’t even bother to read it at the library.


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