I frequently change magazine subscriptions just to see what's out there. Harpers, however, is a staple and for the simple reason that its writing is the best and the most varied in terms of length and subject matter. The real measure of its success is that I will wade into articles, memoirs and discussions, whatever the subject, and find I come away with something to talk about with friends instead of an hour spent with teaser paragraphs and no payoff. You know the feeling from coffee table mags where your eyes wind up tired and inside your head a dull tom-tom begins to beat . . . Harpers is a strange amalgam of irreverence, analysis, personal revelation and humor that puts it somewhere between the New York Review of Books, the New Yorker and Mother Jones--without the branding that the others cordon you with. Check it out and be sure to read the pieces not usually on your checklist. They'll take you places you haven't been.
Harper's Magazine is quite simply the single most comprehensive and highest quality literary rag to date. Displaying an unabashed moderate to left wing view, it is a publication for the people. Unafraid to poignantly uncover some of the world's most touchy subjects, this magazine also proudly displays some of the most talented writers and essayists in the world. With former contributors including V.S. Naipul, Joyce Carol Oates, Don Dilillo, et al., you would be hard pressed to find a literary rival. Fun, user friendly, challenging, and eye opening, Harper's is just the best thing out there. Holding a firm edge over such others as Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, Mother Jones, and The Economist, Harper's delivers information and creativity with zeal unmatched in today's magazine scene.
Harper's is simply the best magazine around--thoughtful, critical, varied, insightful, challenging. It refuses to bow down and to pretend that the emperor is not naked, and yet it does not have a shrill or grating tone. In a world gone mad, it is the voice of reason and sanity, liberal in the finest and most liberating sense of the word. It is the only magazine I give as gifts--as of 2008, to seven different people, who have all come to love it, and to look forward to it, as much as I do.
When one considers a subscription to Harper's, it may be a good idea to spot check one's core beliefs first, and then compare them against the editorial slant of the magazine. In the brief product review, Harper's is described as liberal and left-leaning. In my opinion, if it were to lean any farther, it would topple over.
I've subscribed to Harper's for several years now, and will continue to do so when my current subscription runs out in the Spring. Over this time, I've been continually impressed with the magazine's consistancy and broad ranging articles. It also seems to believe that its readers have longer attention spans than what it takes to read a postage stamp, and so it's never felt the need to follow the current trend of wasting two or more introductory pages crammed full of paragraph-sized teaser articles and sidebars. (See National Geographic, Scientific American, American Scholar, and just about the entire issue of The Writer).
In any given issue of Harper's, you will find:
The Index - a collection of statistics that tell their own story,
The Reporter's Notebook - A spotlight soapbox,
Readings - a collection of short essays, fiction, memoir, transcripts, etc. of wide and varying interests,
Review of New Books,
A critical in-depth essay on some facet of Art or Literature,
A memoir or a travelogue,
And cover stories that address the political and social climate in America.
I don't agree with everything Harper's puts forth - as I said, their politics are plainly worn on their sleeve, and I think the Reporter's Notebook column is little more than a forum for griping by a revolving coterie of journalists. At times elitist (though far less since Lewis Lapham's influence has waned) and perhaps open to the claim they write from an ivory tower, it is also smart, funny, immensely engaging, informative, and above all, thought provoking. Even if I'm at odds with the view of a particular article, the occasion is an opportunity to redefine to myself where I do stand on the subject. As someone who believes himself to be centrally positioned socially and politically, neutral on many of the hot-button issues of today, and fiscally conservative, Harper's still manages to entertain and engage on a regular basis.
Sadly, the author of my favorite recurring column, John Leonard, died late last year. He reviewed new books, and it was from his column that I learned of many of my own choices throughout that time. I can only hope that the new reviewer will share at least some of the same qualities that Mr. Leonard did.
Lastly, if you are able to complete the puzzle in the back, then you are a far smarter person than I. I've subscribed for over three years, and I think I can count on one hand how many clues I've figured out.
Recommended for the open-minded.
...a day of great joy. This is the most recent of my magazine (re)-discoveries, and one that I am quickly discovering it difficult to be without. It provides wit, thought-provoking material, and the odd bizaare classified advertisement (nothing like an offer for free material on forthcoming alien invasions to brighten my day). The editorial staff is deserving of commendation for assembling such literate, thoughtful, and relevant articles. Though certainly not devoid of bias (and who'd want that, anyway?), it is a remarkable and enjoyable magazine.
My favorite Harper's pieces over the years include:
-McManus almost wins the World Series of Poker
-D.F. Wallace takes a cruise
-Pollan flirts with growing opium poppies
-Darcy Frey hangs with a young Stephon Marbury and friends
-DeLillo's "Pafko at the Wall"
-the devastating critique of the McMartin child abuse case
At a buck an issue, it only takes a few brilliant pieces such as these to make this magazine worthwhile.
Harper's magazine is awesome. I love that I can keep up with current events while also enjoying some fiction too.
Along with the Atlantic Monthly, this is probably one of the best mass-circulated literary/cultural periodical in print today. With the Bush administration pursuing an increasingly conservative agenda, Harper's is really at its best since its editors have meaningful opposition to critique and criticize. Plus, this magazine gets away from the "you NEED to know this" mentality--the writing they publish is always excellent, but never limited to breaking news or urgent matters. Well-balanced and enjoyable.
I discovered this wonderful magazine by chance a short time ago. I wish I had discovered it sooner. Out of curiosity I decided to read it and it was well worth it. I have read magazines such as Time and Newsweek on and off over the years so I had expected similar articles. I was amazed at the outstanding quality of the magazine in comparison to the commoner periodicles. It was like a stallion among donkeys. The thought provoking articles, reviews, etc. are an intellectual pleasure to read. I actually feel like I have attained a greater understanding of the world after reading an issue (...). I recommend that you read an issue of this magazine for yourself to see if it really is all I've said it is or if I'm just a fool who is overenthusiastic about a periodical.
Whenever I feel that this country has gone beserk, I read Harper's and especially Lewis Lapham's editorials, and realize that sanity still exists. He always seems to hit the mark squarely and it is a shame that we don't hear and see more of him.