Lewis H. Lapham

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Lewis H. Lapham was the editor of Harper’s Magazine from 1976 to 1981, and again from 1983 to 2006. In the early Seventies, he began writing the Easy Chair, which he renamed “The Notebook” in 1984. His columns received the National Magazine Award in 1995 for exhibiting “an exhilarating point of view in an age of conformity,” and, in 2002, the Thomas Paine Journalism Award. Lapham founded Lapham’s Quarterly, of which he is also editor, in 2007. He is currently editor emeritus of Harper’s and was inducted into the American Society of Magazine Editors’ Hall of Fame in February of 2007.

In 1984 Lapham led the redesign of Harper’s, which included the creation of the Index, Annotations, and Readings—inventions intended to “incite acts of the imagination rather than facilitate the transfers of data, not to provide ready-made answers but to say, in effect, look at this, see how much more beautiful and strange and full of possibility is the world than can be dreamed of by the mythographers at NBC and Time.

Lapham is the author of numerous books, including Waiting for the Barbarians (1997), Theater of War (2003), Gag Rule (2004), and, most recently, Pretensions to Empire (2006). He hosts the weekly Bloomberg Radio program The World in Time. The New York Times has likened him to H.L. Mencken; Vanity Fair has suggested a strong resemblance to Mark Twain; and Tom Wolfe compared him to Montaigne.

Essay — From the November 2015 issue

Bombast Bursting in Air

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The story, so far, of the 2016 election

Context — October 30, 2015, 11:33 am

Bombast Bursting in Air

Republican presidential candidate John Kasich surveys his competition; Lewis H. Lapham analyzes the 2016 election so far.

HarpersWeb-Context-Marquee-Bombast

Article — From the May 2012 issue

Ignorance of things past

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Who wins and who loses when we forget American history

Article — From the April 2011 issue

Democracy 101

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Mark Twain’s farewell address

Notebook — From the November 2010 issue

Figures of speech

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Notebook — From the May 2010 issue

Doing the laundry

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Martin Amis on the rise of Trump, Tom Wolfe on the origins of speech, Art Spiegelman on Si Lewen, a story by Diane Williams, and more

In Havana, the past year has been marked by a parade of bold-faced names from the north — John Kerry reopening the United States Embassy; Andrew Cuomo bringing a delegation of American business leaders; celebrities ranging from Joe Torre, traveling on behalf of Major League Baseball to oversee an exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team, to Jimmy Buffett, said to be considering opening one of his Margaritaville restaurants there. All this culminated with a three-day trip in March by Barack Obama, the first American president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. But to those who know the city well, perhaps nothing said as much about the transformation of political relations between the United States and Cuba that began in December 2014 as a concert in the Tribuna Antiimperialista.

Illustration by Darrel Rees
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Don the Realtor·

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"If you have ever wondered what it’s like, being a young and avaricious teetotal German-American philistine on the make in Manhattan, then your curiosity will be quenched by The Art of the Deal."
Photograph (detail) © Polly Borland/Exclusive by Getty Images
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The Origins of Speech·

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"To Chomsky...every child’s language organ could use the 'deep structure,' 'universal grammar,' and 'language acquisition device' he was born with to express what he had to say, no matter whether it came out of his mouth in English or Urdu or Nagamese."
Illustration (detail) by Darrel Rees. Source photograph © Miroslav Dakov/Alamy Live News
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A Sigh and a Salute·

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"Si told me that various paintings had spoken to him, but he wished they had been hung closer together 'so they could talk to each other.' This observation planted a seed that would come to fruition years later in his mature work."
Artwork (detail) by Si Lewen
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"Amid the festivities and the flood of celebrities, it would be easy for Americans to miss that the central plank of the long-standing cold war against Cuba — the economic embargo — remains very much alive and well."
Photograph (detail) by Rose Marie Cromwell

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