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Furthermore, the idea that women have been sliding toward despair is contradicted by the one objective measure of unhappiness the authors offer: suicide rates. Happiness is, of course, a subjective state, but suicide is a cold, hard fact, and the suicide rate has been the gold standard of misery since sociologist Emile Durkheim wrote the book on it in 1897. As Stevenson and Wolfers report– somewhat sheepishly, we must imagine– “contrary to the subjective well-being trends we document, female suicide rates have been falling, even as male suicide rates have remained roughly constant through most of our sample [1972-2006].” Women may get the blues; men are more likely to get a bullet through the temple. –“Did Feminism Make Women Miserable? Why a recent study on declining female happiness really stinks,” Barbara Ehrenreich, Salon.com
Time on the state of the little American lady;
a conference on Arab feminism in Beirut (via);
at the “Davos for Women” on the beach in France;
and see also: “The Women Men Don’t See,” by James Tiptree, Jr. [pseud. Alice B. Sheldon], 1973
and the Onion: “Women Now Empowered By Everything A Woman Does,” 2003
Slater, who has a nice line in droll asides (“Dickens can never keep wooden legs out of his writing for long”), rarely offers a judgment, but insights abound: noting the triumphant arrival of Sam Weller in The Pickwick Papers, he writes that if Pickwick were “to metamorphose into a Dickens version of Don Quixote, he would need a Sancho Panzo to ground him in reality”. He takes us compellingly through all the great shocks of Dickens’s life– the blacking factory; first love; second love; the railway accident– but he doesn’t dwell on them, nor does he speculate on the psychological aspects of his relationship with his father and mother or with Nelly. Nor does he mention magic, Dickens’s life-long obsession. All this can be found elsewhere. –“Charles Dickens by Michael Slater: Simon Callow welcomes an incomparable portrait of an awesome writer,” Simon Callow, The Guardian
Where the Taliban gets its money;
science censors sabotage themselves;
Superfreakonomics wrong on climate change?
Authors say “smear”
while Krugman, while admittedly only an economist and not a superfreakonomist, says “wrong”;
total emissions of carbon dioxide fall 3 percent on lousy economy;
it’s death that makes the pygmies short (via)
Yet in reality Americans actually are becoming less nomadic. As recently as the 1970s as many as one in five people moved annually; by 2006, long before the current recession took hold, that number was 14 percent, the lowest rate since the census starting following movement in 1940. Since then tougher times have accelerated these trends, in large part because opportunities to sell houses and find new employment have dried up. In 2008, the total number of people changing residences was less than those who did so in 1962, when the country had 120 million fewer people. The stay-at-home trend appears particularly strong among aging boomers, who are largely eschewing Sunbelt retirement condos to stay tethered to their suburban homes—close to family, friends, clubs, churches, and familiar surroundings. The trend will not bring back the corner grocery stores and the declining organizations—bowling leagues, Boy Scouts, and such—cited by Putnam and others as the traditional glue of American communities. Nor will our car-oriented suburbs replicate the close neighborhood feel so celebrated by romantic urbanists like the late Jane Jacobs. Instead, we’re evolving in ways congruent with a postindustrial society. It will not spell the demise of Wal-Mart or Costco, but will express itself in scores of alternative institutions, such as thriving local weekly newspapers, a niche that has withstood the shift to the Internet far better than big-city dailies. –“There’s No Place Like Home: Fewer Americans are relocating than at any time since 1962. That’s good news for families, communities… and even the environment,” Joel Kotkin, Newsweek
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”