Memento Mori

Memento Mori — July 30, 2019, 2:02 pm

Edwin Dobb (1950–2019)

Remembering Edwin Dobb

Memento Mori — May 23, 2018, 10:15 am

Philip Roth (1933–2018)

Remembering Philip Roth

Memento Mori — May 15, 2018, 11:35 am

Tom Wolfe (1930–2018)

Remembering Tom Wolfe

Memento Mori — September 5, 2017, 3:03 pm

John Ashbery (1927–2017)

Remembering John Ashbery

Memento Mori — August 24, 2017, 12:19 pm

Kim Wall (1987–2017)

Remembering Kim Wall

Memento Mori — March 22, 2017, 2:01 pm

Remembering Charis Conn

A story by former Harper’s Magazine editor Charis Conn, who died on Monday.

Memento Mori — January 3, 2017, 2:09 pm

John Berger (1926–2017)

We mourn the recent passing of John Berger, a long-time and much valued contributor to Harper’s Magazine.

Memento Mori — September 2, 2014, 5:33 pm

Charles Bowden (1945–2014)

We at Harper’s Magazine are grieved to learn of the sudden passing of long-time contributor Charles Bowden. His articles for the magazine appeared from the 1980s through the early years of the present century, and they could hardly be rivaled for their brutal honesty and intensity. His memoir, “Torch Song,” from the August 1998 issue, is available to read for free, and subscribers can read all the rest of his superb work from the magazine here.

Memento Mori — March 11, 2014, 1:51 pm

Matthew Power (1974–2014)

Remembering a contributor and friend

Memento Mori — December 6, 2013, 12:02 pm

The Leaving of Madiba

Saying goodbye to Nelson Mandela, beloved fighter, visionary, and king

Memento Mori — October 15, 2013, 6:03 pm

Remembering David Sullivan

On the remarkable life of the subject of “The Man Who Saves You from Yourself”

Memento Mori — January 14, 2013, 4:30 pm

Remembering Evan S. Connell (1924–2013)

On the life-drawings of an American literary master

Memento Mori — December 28, 2012, 10:00 am

Larry L. King (1929–2012)

R.I.P. Larry L. King, Harper's Magazine contributor from 1965 to 1971

Memento Mori — September 15, 2008, 11:46 am

David Foster Wallace

In memoriam. September 1989 Everything is Green December 1991 Tennis, Trigonometry, Tornadoes: A Midwestern boyhood August 1992 Rabbit Resurrected September 1993 The Awakening of My Interest in Annular Systems July 1994 Ticket to the Fair (Video—Reading in 2000) January 1996 Shipping Out January 1998 The Depressed Person July 1998 Laughing with Kafka October 1998 Brief Interviews with Hideous Men April 2001 Tense Present: Democracy, English, and the wars over usage February 2008 The Compliance Branch

Memento Mori — February 29, 2008, 2:20 pm

William F. Buckley Jr.

Douglas Martin, “William F. Buckley Jr., 82, Dies; Sesquipedalian Spark of Right,” the New York Times, February 28, 2008: William F. Buckley Jr., who marshaled polysyllabic exuberance, famously arched eyebrows and a refined, perspicacious mind to elevate conservatism to the center of American political discourse, died Wednesday at his home in Stamford, Conn. He was 82. In 1955, Mr. Buckley started National Review as a voice for “the disciples of truth, who defend the organic moral order,” with a $100,000 gift from his father and $290,000 from outside donors. The first issue, which came out in November, claimed the publication …

Memento Mori — December 5, 2007, 10:20 am

Elizabeth Hardwick, 1916–2007

Elizabeth Hardwick died Sunday in Manhattan at the age of ninety-one. Between 1959 and 1969, she contributed essays and criticism to Harper’s Magazine, for a time taking over the New Books column. Her name is often mentioned lately in connection with her polemic “The Decline of Book Reviewing,” part of a 1959 special section on “Writing in America” that also featured Alfred Kazin, Kingsley Amis, and Stanley Kunitz. Hardwick tilted at “the unaccountable sluggishness of the New York Times and Herald Tribune Sunday book sections”: In America, now, oblivion, literary failure, obscurity, neglect—all the great moments of artistic tragedy and …

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Gimme Shelter·

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I.

That year, the year of the Ghost Ship fire, I lived in a shack. I’d found the place just as September’s Indian summer was giving way to a wet October. There was no plumbing or running water to wash my hands or brush my teeth before sleep. Electricity came from an extension cord that snaked through a yard of coyote mint and monkey flower and up into a hole I’d drilled in my floorboards. The structure was smaller than a cell at San Quentin—a tiny house or a huge coffin, depending on how you looked at it—four by eight and ten feet tall, so cramped it fit little but a mattress, my suit jackets and ties, a space heater, some novels, and the mason jar I peed in.

The exterior of my hermitage was washed the color of runny egg yolk. Two redwood French doors with plexiglass windows hung cockeyed from creaky hinges at the entrance, and a combination lock provided meager security against intruders. White beadboard capped the roof, its brim shading a front porch set on cinder blocks.

After living on the East Coast for eight years, I’d recently left New York City to take a job at an investigative reporting magazine in San Francisco. If it seems odd that I was a fully employed editor who lived in a thirty-two-square-foot shack, that’s precisely the point: my situation was evidence of how distorted the Bay Area housing market had become, the brutality inflicted upon the poor now trickling up to everyone but the super-rich. The problem was nationwide, although, as Californians tend to do, they’d taken this trend to an extreme. Across the state, a quarter of all apartment dwellers spent half of their incomes on rent. Nearly half of the country’s unsheltered homeless population lived in California, even while the state had the highest concentration of billionaires in the nation. In the Bay Area, including West Oakland, where my shack was located, the crisis was most acute. Tent cities had sprung up along the sidewalks, swarming with capitalism’s refugees. Telegraph, Mission, Market, Grant: every bridge and overpass had become someone’s roof.

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Climate disaster at Wounded Knee

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Body Language·

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I am eight years old, sitting in my childhood kitchen, ready to watch one of the home videos my father has made. The videotape still exists somewhere, so somewhere she still is, that girl on the screen: hair that tangles, freckles across her nose that in time will spread across one side of her forehead. A body that can throw a baseball the way her father has shown her. A body in which bones and hormones lie in wait, ready to bloom into the wide hips her mother has given her. A body that has scars: the scars over her lungs and heart from the scalpel that saved her when she was a baby, the invisible scars left by a man who touched her when she was young. A body is a record or a body is freedom or a body is a battleground. Already, at eight, she knows it to be all three.

But somebody has slipped. The school is putting on the musical South Pacific, and there are not enough roles for the girls, and she is as tall as or taller than the boys, and so they have done what is unthinkable in this striving 1980s town, in this place where the men do the driving and the women make their mouths into perfect Os to apply lipstick in the rearview. For the musical, they have made her a boy.

No, she thinks. They have allowed her to be a boy.

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Trash, Rock, Destroy·

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The writer and filmmaker Virginie Despentes lives in a nondescript modern building in the Belleville neighborhood of Paris. I know it well: it has a Bricorama—like a French Home Depot—on the ground floor, where we sometimes had cause to shop back when we lived in the neighborhood. The people who work there seemed to hate their jobs more than most; they were often absent from the sales floor. In the elevator to Despentes’s apartment, I marvel that while I was trying to get someone to help me find bathroom grout she was right upstairs, with her partner, Tania, a Spanish tattoo artist who goes by the name La Rata, like someone out of one of Despentes’s novels.

In an email before our meeting, Despentes asked that we not do a photo shoot. “There are so many images available already,” she explained. Much had been written about her, too. A Google search yielded page after page: profiles, interviews, reviews, bits and bobs—she read from Pasolini at a concert with Béatrice Dalle; someone accused her of plagiarizing a translation; a teacher in Switzerland was fired for teaching her work. The week I met her, she appeared in the culture magazine Les Inrockuptibles in conversation with the rapper-turned-actor JoeyStarr. The woman is simply always in the news.

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The Red Dot·

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That night at the window, looking out at the street full of snow, big flakes falling through the streetlight, I listened to what Anna was saying. She was speaking of a man named Karl. We both knew him as a casual acquaintance—thin and lanky like Ichabod Crane, with long hair—operating a restaurant down in the village whimsically called the Gist Mill, with wood paneling, a large painting of an old gristmill on a river on one wall, tin ceilings, and a row of teller cages from its previous life as a bank. Karl used to run along the river, starting at his apartment in town and turning back about two miles down the path. He had been going through the divorce—this was a couple of years ago, of course, Anna said—and was trying to run through his pain.

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.

The Chevrolet Suburban sport utility vehicle was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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At Ivanwald, men learn to be leaders by loving their leaders. “They’re so busy loving us,” a brother once explained to me, “but who’s loving them?” We were. The brothers each paid $400 per month for room and board, but we were also the caretakers of The Cedars, cleaning its gutters, mowing its lawns, whacking weeds and blowing leaves and sanding. And we were called to serve on Tuesday mornings, when The Cedars hosted a regular prayer breakfast typically presided over by Ed Meese, the former attorney general. Each week the breakfast brought together a rotating group of ambassadors, businessmen, and American politicians. Three of Ivanwald’s brothers also attended, wearing crisp shirts starched just for the occasion; one would sit at the table while the other two poured coffee. 

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