John Fischer

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The easy chair — From the November 1978 issue

From “Letter from Leete’s Island

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Field notes on the manners, morals, and customs of the Connecticut Yankee,” January 1969

The easy chair — From the November 1978 issue

From “Survival U

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Prospectus for a really relevant university,” September 1969

American miscellany — From the July 1978 issue

Barbed wire

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. . . and the art of stringing it

Books — From the May 1978 issue

Spaces for the weary and glad

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Article — From the July 1976 issue

America’s unseen revolution

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Article — From the November 1975 issue

Failure in Britain

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Wraparound — From the October 1975 issue

A prediction

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The easy chair — From the December 1974 issue

The Christmas honors list

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The easy chair — From the October 1974 issue

Watergate chaser

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The all-American tonic

The easy chair — From the August 1974 issue

Vital signs

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Wraparound — From the March 1974 issue

Salvaging a city

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The easy chair — From the December 1973 issue

The Christmas honors list

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The Harper’s game — From the October 1973 issue

The advertising game

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The easy chair — From the September 1973 issue

How to save some of your tax money

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The easy chair — From the May 1973 issue

A threat of death by mail

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The easy chair — From the February 1973 issue

Letter from Leete’s Island

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A case of termination

The easy chair — From the December 1972 issue

Christmas list

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A few hints for Hark

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October 2019

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Secrets and Lies·

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In 1973, when Barry Singer was a fifteen-year-old student at New York’s Yeshiva University High School for Boys, the vice principal, Rabbi George Finkelstein, stopped him in a stairwell. Claiming he wanted to check his tzitzit—the strings attached to Singer’s prayer shawl—Finkelstein, Singer says, pushed the boy over the third-floor banister, in full view of his classmates, and reached down his pants. “If he’s not wearing tzitzit,” Finkelstein told the surrounding children, “he’s going over the stairs!”

“He played it as a joke, but I was completely at his mercy,” Singer recalled. For the rest of his time at Yeshiva, Singer would often wear his tzitzit on the outside of his shirt—though this was regarded as rebellious—for fear that Finkelstein might find an excuse to assault him again.

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Seeking Asylum·

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Out of sight on Leros, the island of the damned

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Poem for Harm·

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Reflections on harm in language and the trouble with Whitman

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Good Bad Bad Good·

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About fifteen years ago, my roommate and I developed a classification system for TV and movies. Each title was slotted into one of four categories: Good-Good; Bad-Good; Good-Bad; Bad-Bad. The first qualifier was qualitative, while the second represented a high-low binary, the title’s aspiration toward capital-A Art or lack thereof.

Some taxonomies were inarguable. The O.C., a Fox series about California rich kids and their beautiful swimming pools, was delightfully Good-Bad. Paul Haggis’s heavy-handed morality play, Crash, which won the Oscar for Best Picture, was gallingly Bad-Good. The films of Francois Truffaut, Good-Good; the CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men, Bad-Bad.

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Life after Life·

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For time ylost, this know ye,
By no way may recovered be.
—Chaucer

I spent thirty-eight years in prison and have been a free man for just under two. After killing a man named Thomas Allen Fellowes in a drunken, drugged-up fistfight in 1980, when I was nineteen years old, I was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Former California governor Jerry Brown commuted my sentence and I was released in 2017, five days before Christmas. The law in California, like in most states, grants the governor the right to alter sentences. After many years of advocating for the reformation of the prison system into one that encourages rehabilitation, I had my life restored to me.

Cost of renting a giant panda from the Chinese government, per day:

$1,500

A recent earthquake in Chile was found to have shifted the city of Concepción ten feet to the west, shortened Earth’s days by 1.26 microseconds, and shifted the planet’s axis by nearly three inches.

A solid-gold toilet named “America” was stolen from Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Winston Churchill, in Oxfordshire, England.

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“Nowadays, most states let just about anybody who wants a concealed-handgun permit have one; in seventeen states, you don’t even have to be a resident. Nobody knows exactly how many Americans carry guns, because not all states release their numbers, and even if they did, not all permit holders carry all the time. But it’s safe to assume that as many as 6 million Americans are walking around with firearms under their clothes.”

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