Harper’s Finest

Harper's Finest — April 11, 2014, 5:13 pm

Dan Halpern’s “Citizen Walmart” (2012)

The retail giant’s unlikely romance with small farmers

Photograph by Thomas Allen

Harper's Finest — January 20, 2014, 8:00 am

Richard Hofstadter’s “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” (1964)

“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds.”

Harper's Magazine cover detail, November 1964

Harper's Finest — December 8, 2013, 11:48 am

Breyten Breytenbach’s “Mandela’s Smile” (2008)

Notes on South Africa’s failed revolution

African National Congress supporter with election placard © AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Harper's Finest — October 10, 2013, 12:15 pm

Alice Munro’s “Train” (2012)

Our warmest congratulations to Alice Munro, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature. 

Illustration by Raymond Verdaguer

Harper's Finest — October 2, 2013, 5:14 pm

Wendell Berry’s “Faustian Economics” (2008)

Hell hath no limits

Pumping Well Near Oil City (1865)

Harper's Finest — August 13, 2013, 2:35 pm

Rebecca Solnit’s “Detroit Arcadia” (2007)

On the possibility of a new Detroit

The old Ford headquarters in Highland Park. © Misty Keasler

Harper's Finest — June 14, 2013, 12:25 pm

Robert Littell’s “What the Young Man Should Know” (1933)

Advice for parents about raising their sons

Harper's Finest — May 29, 2013, 3:57 pm

Rafil Kroll-Zaidi’s “Byzantium” (2012)

Celebrate (or lament) the 460th anniversary of the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks by reading a brief history of the end of time according to the differing accounts of various parties.

Scenes from the Life of Alexander the Great (detail)

Harper's Finest — May 21, 2013, 3:09 pm

Wil S. Hylton’s “Broken Heartland” (2012)

The looming collapse of agriculture on the Great Plains

Harper's Finest — May 20, 2013, 9:00 am

Gary Greenberg’s “Manufacturing Depression” (2007)

“This is the heart of the magic factory, the place where medicine is infused with the miracles of science.”

“The Distraught Queen of Butterflies,” by Ernst Kreidolf (thumb)

Harper's Finest — March 21, 2013, 6:06 pm

Harper’s Magazine on the Iraq War (2002–2013)

Tracing our coverage of the war, from Lewis H. Lapham to Andrew J. Bacevich 

IED Attack, by Steve Mumford (thumb)

Harper's Finest — February 27, 2013, 9:01 am

T. C. Boyle’s “My Pain Is Worse Than Your Pain” (2010)

A classic short story about the desperate acts and philosophical consolations of a middle-aged man who has become romantically obsessed with one of his neighbors.

Illustration by Katherine Streeter

Harper's Finest — January 30, 2013, 2:50 pm

Elizabeth Hardwick’s “The Decline of Book Reviewing” (1959)

A core piece in the canon of criticism on criticism

A Neat and Shrivelled Gentleman Sat at a Desk, January 1906 (thumb)

Harper's Finest — December 23, 2012, 4:08 pm

Captain Wilfrid Ewart’s “Two Christmas Mornings of the Great War” (1920)

Accounts of the legendary frontline ceasefires on Christmas Day between British and German soldiers

Soldiers During World War I

Harper's Finest — November 20, 2012, 2:30 pm

Bob Shacochis’s “Written in the Big Wind” (1991)

Why development persists in coastal areas, despite the threat of hurricanes

Hurricane Hugo, 1989

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Editor's Note

Many comedians consider stand-up the purest form of comedy; Doug Stanhope considers it the freest. “Once you do stand-up, it spoils you for everything else,” he says. “You’re the director, performer, and producer.” Unlike most of his peers, however, Stanhope has designed his career around exploring that freedom, which means choosing a life on the road. Perhaps this is why, although he is extremely ambitious, prolific, and one of the best stand-ups performing, so many Americans haven’t heard of him. Many comedians approach the road as a means to an end: a way to develop their skills, start booking bigger venues, and, if they’re lucky, get themselves airlifted to Hollywood. But life isn’t happening on a sit-com set or a sketch show — at least not the life that has interested Stanhope. He isn’t waiting to be invited to the party; indeed, he’s been hosting his own party for years.

Because of the present comedy boom, civilians are starting to hear about Doug Stanhope from other comedians like Ricky Gervais, Sarah Silverman, and Louis CK. But Stanhope has been building a devoted fan base for the past two decades, largely by word of mouth. On tour, he prefers the unencumbered arrival and the quick exit: cheap motels where you can pull the van up to the door of the room and park. He’s especially pleased if there’s an on-site bar, which increases the odds of hearing a good story from the sort of person who tends to drink away the afternoon in the depressed cities where he performs. Stanhope’s America isn’t the one still yammering on about its potential or struggling with losing hope. For the most part, hope is gone. On Word of Mouth, his 2002 album, he says, “America may be the best country, but that’s like being the prettiest Denny’s waitress. Just because you’re the best doesn’t make you good.”

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“I was warned that there would likely be a lot of emotions coming out in the room.”
Illustration by Katherine Streeter
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Dan Halpern’s “Citizen Walmart” (2012)·

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“He’s taking on a heap of debt to scale up for Walmart, a heap of debt.”
Photograph by Thomas Allen
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The Quinoa Quarrel·

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“Bolivia’s gene banks contain far more quinoa varieties than any other country’s, yet the Bolivians are dead set against sharing them.”
Photograph by Lisa M. Hamilton
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“He explained how sober Doug structured the bits and worked out the material’s logic; drunk Doug found the funny.”
Illustration by Andrew Zbihlyj

Ratio of husbands who say they fell in love with their spouse at first sight to wives who say this:

2:1

Mathematicians announced the discovery of the perfect method of cutting a cake.

Indian prime-ministerial contender Narendra Modi, who advertises his bachelorhood as a mark of his incorruptibility, confessed to having a wife.

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