Tag Archives: Harper’s Magazine

The Hedgehog’s Array: February 20, 2016

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Noteworthy reads from the last week:

“Where do Morals Come From?,” Philip Gorski
“The social sciences have an ethics problem.”

“The Hunger Artist,” Bee Wilson
“Many authors whisper, as though to a diary, or chat, as though to a friend, but Fisher communicates with the heady directness of a lover. She writes to confide her secret delights and to impress someone with her mastery of the table.”

“There’s Not Always a Pill for That,” Jen Bannan
“If you talk to literature professors, you may have heard them wonder aloud at the tendency of their students to diagnose characters. Anna Karenina clearly has borderline personality disorder, Holden Caulfield seems to have been abused as a child, Raymond Carver’s characters wouldn’t have these problems if they’d just go to AA.”

“Harper Lee—A Life in Pictures”
“Nelle Harper Lee, loved around the world for the Pulitzer prize-winning book To Kill A Mockingbird, has died aged 89.”

“Looking for Beauty in the Age of Design,” Alexandra Schwartz
“If there’s something post-apocalyptic about the notion of making a crushed plastic water bottle into a home, there’s an optimism to it, too.”

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The Hedgehog’s Array: September 18, 2015

hedgehog array logo_FLAT_72dpi[3]Noteworthy reads from the last week:

“Finding Your Way Home,” Peter Godfrey-Smith
“Dreyfus and Taylor think that philosophy constantly invents new ways to falsely intellectualize our relationship to things that we do. Philosophy itself does not subside once we see these issues clearly; philosophy has tasks beyond merely diagnosing errors.”

“The Accidental Diorama of a Novelist’s Life,” Mary Duffy
“In the face of this older, employed, nearly-tenured professional person who would probably write real things, publishable things in this chair, I suddenly worried that I would have to relinquish it, that I had done something rude.”

“What Is the Point of College?,” Kwame Anthony Appiah
“As higher education expands its reach, it’s increasingly hard to say what college is like and what college is for.”

“Speaking in Science,” Christine Mitchell
“Scientific Babel, it might be said, now confronts us on seemingly different fronts—the human and the machinic.”

“Inside The Mermaid Economy,” Elizabeth Segran
“As someone who has tracked mermaid culture for about a decade, Wolbert says that fascination with mermaids has always been there under the surface.”

“Cattle Calls,” Ted Conover
“The heartland has been emptying of large-animal vets for at least two decades, as agribusiness changed the employment picture and people left the region. Many vets simply close shop when they retire; private practice is too hard a way to make a living. Meanwhile, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has become the nation’s largest single employer of vets, most of whom work in meat and poultry plants, where they oversee not animal husbandry but slaughter.”

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The Hedgehog’s Array: August 21, 2015

hedgehog array logo_FLAT_72dpi[3]Noteworthy reads from the last week:

“Selling Out the Newspaper Comic Strip,” Luke Epplin
Calvin and Hobbes, which centered on a headstrong child and a stuffed tiger that comes to life under his gaze, shared many similarities with Peanuts: articulate children, fantasy sequences, episodic storylines, philosophical undercurrents, and an aversion to facile punch lines. But Schulz and Watterson harbored fundamental disagreements about the nature and direction of their medium, and their entrenched beliefs shaped their divergent approaches to comics as both an art and a business.”

“Melancholy,” Carina del Valle Schorske
“Melancholy is a word that has fallen out of favor for describing the condition we now call depression. The fact that our language has changed, without the earlier word disappearing completely, indicates that we are still able to make use of both.”

“The Ashley Madison Hack Should Scare You, Too,” Heather Havrilesky
“At the exact moment when citizens worldwide should be noticing that we’re all living in glass houses, many of us are picking up stones instead.”

“Why Can’t People Just Be Sensible?,” Jenny Diski
“Oh, Doris would say to anyone in any kind of emotional trouble, why can’t people just be sensible? Once or twice I shouted back: because we’re people. The answer carried no weight at all.”

“The Riders of the Waves,” Alice Gregory
“Reputations are made and maintained in the ocean, but they’re premised on more than just talent. Seniority, humility, pain tolerance, and a hundred other factors contribute to a surfer’s local eminence.”

Hedgehogs abroad:

“Gallery Chronicle,” Leann Davis Alspaugh
“El Greco (1541–1614) knew the value of his work and was not afraid to go to court to prove his point.”

“The Genealogy of Orals,” Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
“When someone from abroad wants to learn about our university system, his first pressing question is: How do your students participate in university life? We answer: By means of the ear — they take part as listeners. The foreigner is amazed and asks: Purely by listening? Purely by listening, we repeat.”
(excerpted from Anti-Education, a volume of Nietzsche’s lectures edited by Chad Wellmon)

“Digital Star Chamber,” Frank Pasquale
“For wines or films, the stakes are not terribly high. But when algorithms start affecting critical opportunities for employment, career advancement, health, credit and education, they deserve more scrutiny.”

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The Hedgehog’s Array: August 14, 2015

hedgehog array logo_FLAT_72dpi[3]Noteworthy reads from the last week:

“Michael Dirda on Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books,” Bill Tipper and Michael Dirda
“In my younger days, when I was just trying to read as much as possible, I believed that the text alone mattered. But as soon as you start to collect seriously, to create a library that reflects who you are or that explores some interesting subject, you begin to see books as physical artifacts, as appealing objets d’art in their own right.”

“Mothers of ISIS,” Julia Ioffe
“These women are just four of thousands who have lost a child to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. Since the Syrian civil war began four years ago, some 20,000 foreign nationals have made their way to Syria and Iraq to fight for various radical Islamist factions. Over 3,000 are from Western countries. While some go with their families’ blessing, most leave in secret, taking all sense of normalcy with them. After they’ve gone, their parents are left with a form of grief that is surreal in its specificity.”

“Pulp Inequality,” Benjamin J. Dueholm
“Kimmy Schmidt, on the other hand, is part of what has come to be known as the precariat. These Americans work in part-time, short-term, or piecemeal jobs that offer little prospect for security or stability, much less advancement.”

“What Does ‘Self-Care’ Really Mean?,” Jennifer Pan
“In its ideal forms, self-care enacts a labor slowdown and asserts the right to be lazy, the right to stop working. Yet, as demonstrated by my former co-worker, who ran herself in circles in her quest to de-stress, self-care can go awry when it ends up seeming like work in and of itself, something that we’re obligated to do to improve ourselves.”

“Family Bones,” Ryan Schnurr
“I don’t carry on any traditions. I know little of my heritage. But my family bones fill these holes in the ground in Oxford, Indiana.”

“My Summer with Proust,” Marion Coutts
“I don’t keep diaries, so I don’t know the year, but some time in the late 1980s I was spending the summer in a borrowed flat in Edinburgh. I had finished an art degree, my friends had left the city and all the usual distractions had gone. I didn’t have much money and my social life was minimal. I ate samosas from the corner shop and walked everywhere. It was a self-willed isolation.”

Hedgehogs abroad:

“Bloodbath & Beyond,” Alan Jacobs
“But the outlaw gangs are, implicitly, making another claim as well: that the state’s sovereignty doesn’t extend to all of its citizens in all circumstances. When, in the months before the Waco shoot-out, tensions were building between the Bandidos and the Cossacks, some of the gang leaders sent a clear and simple message to police: Stay out of this; let us sort it out.”

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The Hedgehog’s Array: July 24, 2014

hedgehog array logo_FLAT_72dpi[3]Noteworthy reads from the last week:

“Duties of Care in the Study of Literature,” Alex Wong
“How can anyone choose, except at random, what to take for representative? The judgement, the recommendations, the selectiveness of past readers can become, in this matter, a practical aid; ‘can become’, and in reality always do, like it or not. We might as well like it.”

“Indulgences: Counted & Forfeited,” Maureen Mullarkey
“Like any childhood game, my variant of double-entry bookkeeping was played in earnest. Saturday afternoon confession took care of the debit side. My little ledger memorialized the credit side.”

“Caved-in and Chopfallen,” Brett Busang
“It is Witkin’s capacity to both reflect and transform that is his greatest gift. For those of us who look for America in its facades and factories, Witkin’s apocalyptic vision is not reassuring. The old gods have been toppled, but not replaced.”

“John Craske’s Embroidered Life,” Alexandra Harris
“It is hard to tell whether this is a simple or a complicated book: its power lies in its being both.”

“In Praise of Boredom,” Claire Messud
“The need for art, film, and literature to entertain becomes disturbingly pressing: that is its purpose. It’s the reason why we bother with it, and without a reason, who would bother?”

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The European Issues

As we at The Hedgehog Review were putting the last touches on our upcoming spring issue,  Harper’s magazine made its timely appearance in my mailbox. Its provocative cover: a Nazi-esque armband adorned with a euro symbol. The headline: “How Germany Reconquered Europe.”

Harper's February 2014 cover

Harper’s February 2014 cover

How indeed? I was particularly curious because our spring issue devotes several essays to the precarious and uncertain future of the European Union.

Harper’s look at the subject takes the form of  a roundtable discussion among five  eminent scholars—”two Germans, a Frenchman, an Englishman, and an American.”  The points made by these discussants are often as controversial as the cover. Economist  James K. Galbraith, the American voice, makes his views of the crisis crystal clear: “On the question of the effects of a crisis in the United States, let me offer a radically contrarian view: I’m looking forward to it. I’m absolutely looking forward to it, in all seriousness.” ( His reason:  Ultimately, it will help the American economy rid itself of too-big-to-fail “zombie institutions” that should have failed after the 2008 financial collapse.)

The main questions circle the euro:  Will it survive? If so, in what form? If not, what will replace it? And how will America and the world be affected?

The consensus is that, yes, the euro will survive, at least for a time, and at least partially because the world—America, China, among others—want it to.

A goodly portion of the symposium addresses the next possible moves in the EU’s game of transnational chess. veering for a moment into the divisive question of Europeanness. Do Greeks, Spaniards, Italians, Danes, and others view themselves as Europeans?

Ulrike Guérot, associate for Germany at the Open Society Initiative for Europe, argues yes:

We are not just talking economics here; there is a cultural, traditional, historical attachment. I traveled to Greece, Portgual, Spain, and Italy before coming here, and if you question these people, give them the option to leave the euro, they will say that being part of Europe is a sort of national raison d’état.

Emmanuel Todd, political scientist at the National Institute of Demographic Studies Paris, sees things quite differently:

The way our German friends talk about Europe is very strange to a Frenchman. From an ideological point of view, outside Germany, Europe is a dead concept. In France nobody believes in Europe.

This side disagreement piqued my interest, and not ony because it is a theme explored by several essays in our next issue.  Montserrat Guibernau, a professor of politics, begins her article  with the question–“Can there be a European identity?”—and goes on to define it as an “emergent ‘nonemotional’ identity.”

Historian Marcello Verga weighs in with historical perspective, detailing the issues of identity that plagued the Council of Europe in the 1950s and remain live considerations today.

Political scientist Philippe Bénéton plays a variation on the topic in his discussion of Europe’s attempt to move beyond the nation-state:

An agreement on the rules of the game does not suffice to make a strong society. Who would risk his life to defend procedures, either those of the political regime or those of the market? And can this agreement itself be solid if the members of the society have nothing in common? According to a more substantial definition, political society cannot be reduced to a mere association. In particular, it cannot be established successfully except in the kind of community that was forged in the modern era: the nation-state. Liberal democracy and the nation-state can be separated only at great risk.

That question of a transnational democracy emerges in the Harper’s discussion as well:

Says Galbraith: “The idea of an integrated federal democracy in Europe seems to me to be an impossible hurdle at this stage. It’s also, in my view, entirely unnecessary.”

Guérot responds: “This is the line that really divides us here in this discussion. I don’t want to believe that a politically integrated Europe is impossible before we have really tried. To me, political integration is really the project of today, tomorrow, and beyond.”

One subject that is never broached in Harper’s conversation: religion.

For that, readers should await the thoughts of our contributor Christian Joppke, who makes the case that Christianity, while the most likely contender, cannot serve as the foundation of a new pan-European identity, at least in any formal legal or institutional ways:

Yet when the European Union had a chance to define itself, in the preamble of its never-realized constitution, a reference to Europe’s Christian roots was refused, though not without a fight. All one finds in this document is an anemic acknowledgment of the “cultural, religious, and humanist traditions of Europe.” Even the U.S. Supreme Court, though heavily constrained by the separationist legacy of the First Amendment’s establishment clause that has no parallel anywhere in Europe, has recently moved toward a “recognition of the role of God in our Nation’s heritage,” a recognition that makes the European refusal appear all the more puzzling.

Readers whose interest has been whetted by the Harper’s symposium should look forward to the Hedgehog’s diverse delvings into Europe’s current crisis.  All share our characteristic focus on the deeper cultural and philosophical  dimensions of the subject. Starting in March, look for the issue in your mailbox or in select Barnes & Noble bookstores.

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