Editor's Note — November 15, 2013, 3:42 am

Introducing the December 2013 Issue

Colson Whitehead on Las Vegas, Ben Lerner on vandalism as art, and Edwidge Danticat on photographs from Africa

December 2013Because half of my extended family lives on the East Coast and half on the West Coast, we have tried to organize large gatherings in Las Vegas, considered by some of the West Coasters to be reasonably priced and accessible to everyone. I have always resisted, having thought of the city as tacky. But Colson Whitehead’s essay in this month’s Harper’s Magazine changed my mind. “I pity people who’ve never been to Las Vegas,” Whitehead begins. “Who dismiss the city without setting foot on its carpeted sidewalks.” He goes on to describe Vegas, contrary to those who think of it only as a refuge for down-and-out gamblers, as a city that brings joy to millions.

In Andrew Cockburn’s second report as the magazine’s Washington Editor, he looks at the role of secretary of state, a position widely believed to be powerful. But the real might in shaping foreign policy, Cockburn demonstrates, lies very much behind the scenes, with such communities as the Cuban expatriates of Miami, and with people most of us have never heard of—men like Bernard H. Barnett, a rare Jewish Republican, who in the mid-twentieth century lobbied successfully on behalf of Israel, but who goes unmentioned in the standard histories of that era.

Ben Lerner, who last wrote for Harper’s on high school debating (“Contest of Words,” October 2012), examines several notorious instances of art vandalism—the defacing of Rothko’s Black on Maroon with a black paint pen; the spray-painting of a matador and bull on Picasso’s Woman in a Red Armchair—and notes that the destruction of established works of art has a “long and sanctioned history in the avant-garde.” Lerner reasons that this practice, which vandals claim adds rather than detracts from the worth of the original pieces, calls into question the value assigned to works of art—a value, he argues, that is more or less arbitrary.

In a rare and intimate look at the lives of undocumented immigrants in his home state of North Carolina, contributing editor Duncan Murrell spent several months with a family he calls the Almanzas. Esteban and Maria Almanza have six children, and they’ve been in the United States for ten years, working in a chicken-processing plant. A few months after Murrell meets them, Maria is arrested for working under a false name, leaving the whole family in danger of being deported. Murrell’s beautifully written essay depicts an unfortunately too-typical modern American immigrant story, showing us a family that, no matter their official status, is very much American.

In his Easy Chair column this month, Thomas Frank returns to Chicago, where he lived for a number of years, and laments the changes that have taken place: a city once populated by poor graduate students and hippies has become a mecca for upwardly mobile professionals and foodies, despite its now record-breaking murder rate.

Also in this issue: a new story by Ben Marcus; Christopher Beha on the work and legacy of Norman Mailer; Jenny Diski on the allure of the glamorous; James Marcus on whether Amazon can change its predatory ways; and a portfolio of images from Africa with accompanying text by Edwidge Danticat.

Share
Single Page

More from Ellen Rosenbush:

Editor's Note July 21, 2016, 3:35 pm

Inside the August Issue

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

Editor's Note June 16, 2016, 3:38 pm

Inside the July Issue

Tom Bissell on touring Israel with Christian Zionists, Joy Gordon on the Cuban embargo, Lawrence Jackson on Freddie Gray and the makings of an American uprising, a story by Paul Yoon, and more

Editor's Note May 13, 2016, 1:31 pm

Inside the June Issue

Helen Ouyang on the cost of crowd-sourcing drugs, Paul Wood on Trump’s supporters, Walter Kirn on political predictions, Sonia Faleiro on a man’s search for his kidnapped children, and Rivka Galchen on The People v. O. J. Simpson.

Get access to 167 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

November 2017

Preaching to The Choir

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Monumental Error

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Star Search

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Pushing the Limit

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Bumpy Ride

Bad Dog

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Pushing the Limit·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In the early Eighties, Andy King, the coach of the Seawolves, a swim club in Danville, California, instructed Debra Denithorne, aged twelve, to do doubles — to practice in the morning and the afternoon. King told Denithorne’s parents that he saw in her the potential to receive a college scholarship, and even to compete in the Olympics. Tall swimmers have an advantage in the water, and by the time Denithorne turned thirteen, she was five foot eight. She dropped soccer and a religious group to spend more time at the pool.

Illustration by Shonagh Rae
Article
Star Search·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On December 3, 2016, less than a month after Donald Trump was elected president, Amanda Litman sat alone on the porch of a bungalow in Costa Rica, thinking about the future of the Democratic Party. As Hillary Clinton’s director of email marketing, Litman raised $180 million and recruited 500,000 volunteers over the course of the campaign. She had arrived at the Javits Center on Election Night, arms full of cheap beer for the campaign staff, minutes before the pundits on TV announced that Clinton had lost Wisconsin. Later that night, on her cab ride home to Brooklyn, Litman asked the driver to pull over so she could throw up.

Illustration by Taylor Callery
Article
Monumental Error·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In 1899, the art critic Layton Crippen complained in the New York Times that private donors and committees had been permitted to run amok, erecting all across the city a large number of “painfully ugly monuments.” The very worst statues had been dumped in Central Park. “The sculptures go as far toward spoiling the Park as it is possible to spoil it,” he wrote. Even worse, he lamented, no organization had “power of removal” to correct the damage that was being done.

Illustration by Steve Brodner
Article
Bumpy Ride·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

One sunny winter afternoon in western Michigan, I took a ride with Leon Slater, a slight sixty-four-year-old man with a neatly trimmed white beard and intense eyes behind his spectacles. He wore a faded blue baseball cap, so formed to his head that it seemed he slept with it on. Brickyard Road, the street in front of Slater’s home, was a mess of soupy dirt and water-filled craters. The muffler of his mud-splattered maroon pickup was loose, and exhaust fumes choked the cab. He gripped the wheel with hands leathery not from age but from decades moving earth with big machines for a living. What followed was a tooth-jarring tour of Muskegon County’s rural roads, which looked as though they’d been carpet-bombed.

Photograph by David Emitt Adams
Article
Bad Dog·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Abby was a breech birth but in the thirty-one years since then most everything has been pretty smooth. Sweet kid, not a lot of trouble. None of them were. Jack and Stevie set a good example, and she followed. Top grades, all the way through. Got on well with others but took her share of meanness here and there, so she stayed thoughtful and kind. There were a few curfew or partying things and some boys before she was ready, and there was one time on a school trip to Chicago that she and some other kids got caught smoking crack cocaine, but that was so weird it almost proved the rule. No big hiccups, master’s in ecology, good state job that lets her do half time but keep benefits while Rose is little.

Illustration by Katherine Streeter

Number of cast members of the movie Predator who have run for governor:

3

A Georgia Tech engineer created software that endows unmanned aerial drones with a sense of guilt.

Roy Moore, a 70-year-old lawyer and Republican candidate for the US Senate who once accidentally stabbed himself with a murder weapon while prosecuting a case in an Alabama courtroom, was accused of having sexually assaulted two women, Leigh Corfman and Beverly Young Nelson, while he was an assistant district attorney in his thirties and they were 14 and 16 years old, respectively.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Report — From the June 2013 issue

How to Make Your Own AR-15

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

By

"Gun owners have long been the hypochondriacs of American politics. Over the past twenty years, the gun-rights movement has won just about every battle it has fought; states have passed at least a hundred laws loosening gun restrictions since President Obama took office. Yet the National Rifle Association has continued to insist that government confiscation of privately owned firearms is nigh. The NRA’s alarmism helped maintain an active membership, but the strategy was risky: sooner or later, gun guys might have realized that they’d been had. Then came the shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, followed swiftly by the nightmare the NRA had been promising for decades: a dedicated push at every level of government for new gun laws. The gun-rights movement was now that most insufferable of species: a hypochondriac taken suddenly, seriously ill."

Subscribe Today