Editor's Note — September 18, 2017, 1:04 pm

Inside the October Issue

Marilynne Robinson, Andrew Cockburn, Ben Mauk, Elisabeth Zerofsky, Eileen Myles, and more…

Whatever his faults (and they are far too numerous to list here), Donald Trump certainly has a gift for monopolizing the national news—for putting it in an egregious, fact-free headlock. Add to that the disappearance of regional papers across the country, and we can easily forget that vital events are still unfolding in our backyards. In “All Over This Land,” we have tried to put local politics back at center stage. The forum features a distinguished roster of contributors, including Edwidge Danticat (on immigration protests in Miami), Paul Theroux (on the Hawaiian microcosm), Jesmyn Ward (on health care in Mississippi), Marilynne Robinson (on Iowa’s lurch to the right), Lydia Davis (on dipping her toe into small-town government), Lisa Elmaleh (on eminent domain in West Virginia), and Steve Mumford (on fishermen in Maine). The tone is alternately indignant, wry, hopeful, despairing. Yet all of the pieces remind us that much of what goes on inside the Beltway is political theater—a kind of Kabuki for cable-news junkies—while real life transpires elsewhere, anywhere.

In “States of Decay,” Ben Mauk and photographer Balazs Gardi venture into America’s nuclear heartland, where the crumbling remains of our once thriving uranium industry have yet to be bulldozed out of existence. The old mines and waste sites are what we might generously call picturesque ruins. Yet even these Ozymandian eyesores are still capable of emitting toxic levels of radiation, and some may even reopen for business, should the industry emerge from its decades-long swoon. Elisabeth Zerofsky ventures further afield in “Everyman’s War,” to Lithuania and Estonia—where paramilitaries are preparing to fight off the Russian hordes. And in “Crime and Punishment,” Andrew Cockburn explores the possibility that the Saudis, whose connivance in the 9/11 attacks has been suspected for years, will finally face their accusers in court.

By now it may appear that Harper’s Magazine is your one-stop-shop for long-form dystopia. Not true! We revel in the lighter side as well—just take a look at Tom Bissell’s essay on the resurgence of Saturday Night Live. Technically speaking, of course, this resurgence is owed to the election of Donald Trump, so there is a whiff of dystopia after all. But Bissell is typically astute about the show’s long evolution, and about its fated intersection with our pernicious POTUS. In the end, he argues that Trump’s “brand of comedy—cruel and joyless and denuded of laughter—has become his cultural revenge.” 

In Readings, we have a chronicle of canine coitus by Eileen Myles, a skinny poem by Dawn Lundy Martin, some dirty realism by Samanta Schweblin, and a frank confession by the Louisville Courier-Journal that the paper had incorrectly referred to a hot dog as a “sandwich” on multiple occasions between 1887 and 1966. (Take that, fake news!) Michelle Dean delves into the nightmare logic of the rebooted Twin Peaks, and David Means delivers some fictional fisticuffs in “Fistfight, Sacramento, August 1950.” Last but not least, there is another superb Easy Chair essay from Walter Kirn, in which he suggests that in this fight-or-flight moment for American civilization, “an affinity for or awe of certain creatures might be more motivating than fear for ourselves.”     

Single Page

More from James Marcus:

Editor's Note April 12, 2018, 5:58 pm

Inside the May Issue

Rebecca Solnit, Rick Moody, Rachel Cusk, Jonathan Dee, and more

Editor's Note March 19, 2018, 12:18 pm

Inside the April Issue

Thomas Frank, Elaine Blair, Andrew Cockburn, Lidija Haas, Corey Robin, and more…

Editor's Note February 12, 2018, 11:15 am

Inside the March Issue

Rebecca Solnit, Katie Roiphe, Sallie Tisdale, and more

Get access to 168 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada



November 2018

Rebirth of a Nation

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Tragedy of Ted Cruz

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content


Rebirth of a Nation·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Donald Trump’s presidency signals a profound but inchoate realignment of American politics. On the one hand, his administration may represent the consolidation of minority control by a Republican-dominated Senate under the leadership of a president who came to office after losing the popular vote by almost 3 million ballots. Such an imbalance of power could lead to a second civil war—indeed, the nation’s first and only great fraternal conflagration was sparked off in part for precisely this reason. On the other hand, Trump’s reign may be merely an interregnum, in which the old white power structure of the Republican Party is dying and a new oppositional coalition struggles to be born.

Illustration by Taylor Callery (detail)
Blood Money·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Over the past three years, the city of South Tucson, Arizona, a largely Latino enclave nestled inside metropolitan Tucson, came close to abolishing its fire and police departments. It did sell off the library and cut back fire-truck crews from four to three people—whereupon two thirds of the fire department quit—and slashed the police force to just sixteen employees. “We’re a small city, just one square mile, surrounded by a larger city,” the finance director, Lourdes Aguirre, explained to me. “We have small-town dollars and big-city problems.”

Illustration by John Ritter (detail)
The Tragedy of Ted Cruz·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

When I saw Ted Cruz speak, in early August, it was at Underwood’s Cafeteria in Brownwood. He was on a weeklong swing through rural central Texas, hitting small towns and military bases that ensured him friendly, if not always entirely enthusiastic, crowds. In Brownwood, some in the audience of two hundred were still nibbling on peach cobbler as Cruz began with an anecdote about his win in a charity basketball game against ABC’s late-night host Jimmy Kimmel. They rewarded him with smug chuckles when he pointed out that “Hollywood celebrities” would be hurting over the defeat “for the next fifty years.” His pitch for votes was still an off-the-rack Tea Party platform, complete with warnings about the menace of creeping progressivism, delivered at a slightly mechanical pace but with lots of punch. The woman next to me remarked, “This is the fire in the gut! Like he had the first time!” referring to Cruz’s successful long-shot run in the 2011 Texas Republican Senate primary. And it’s true—the speech was exactly like one Cruz would have delivered in 2011, right down to one specific detail: he never mentioned Donald Trump by name.

Cruz recited almost verbatim the same things Trump lists as the administration’s accomplishments: the new tax legislation, reduced African-American unemployment, repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, and Neil Gorsuch’s appointment to the Supreme Court. But, in a mirror image of those in the #Resistance who refuse to ennoble Trump with the title “president,” Cruz only called him that.

Photograph of Ted Cruz © Ben Helton (detail)
Wrong Object·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.


e is a nondescript man.

I’d never used that adjective about a client. Not until this one. My seventeenth. He’d requested an evening time and came Tuesdays at six-thirty. For months he didn’t tell me what he did.

The first session I said what I often said to begin: How can I help you?

I still think of what I do as a helping profession. And I liked the way the phrase echoed down my years; in my first job I’d been a salesgirl at a department store counter.

I want to work on my marriage, he said. I’m the problem.

His complaint was familiar. But I preferred a self-critical patient to a blamer.

It’s me, he said. My wife is a thoroughly good person.

Yawn, I thought, but said, Tell me more.

I don’t feel what I should for her.

What do you feel?

Photograph © Joseph S. Giacalone (detail)

Percentage of TV meteorologists in a University of Texas survey who said they thought global warming was a “scam”:


A study concluded that commercial fish stocks may be gone by 2050 as a result of overfishing, pollution, and global climate change.

Nikki Haley resigns; Jamal Khashoggi murdered; Kanye visits the White House

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


Happiness Is a Worn Gun


Illustration by Stan Fellows

Illustration by Stan Fellows

“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.”

Subscribe Today