What are the best articles ever published by Harper's magazine?
October 14, 2010 7:57 AM   Subscribe

What are your favorite articles in the index of Harper's magazine?

I just got a subscription to Harper's, which also gives me access to their archives. With over a 100 years worth of articles, I really don't know where to start.

So, I ask you: What are your favorite articles that were ever published in Harper's magazine?
posted by reenum to Writing & Language (16 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: There was a short story about Chile decades ago, and I still remember it. Maybe you can find it based on these recollections: narrator's uncle figures out a way to evade corrupt police and outrageous tariffs on imported shoes by shipping two containers of loafers to the north and south ends of the country, then not picking them up. They go to auction, and narrator is charged with acquiring one of the containers (full of the finest Italian shoes, mind you) for an unreasonably small sum (or the family's finances will be destroyed!) I particularly remember a line about how it's said sharks can smell a molecule of blood in a swimming pool of water, and the uncle's smile when he thought of this plan was just like a shark that had smelled that molecule...
posted by spacewrench at 8:07 AM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Rebecca Solnit wrote a cool article on Detroit a couple years ago -- 2007 or 2008.
posted by sk932 at 8:30 AM on October 14, 2010

I loved In Persuasion Nation by George Saunders. Sadly, the second-to-last page in the archives is mis-scanned.
posted by Mountain Goatse at 8:38 AM on October 14, 2010

A lot of people I love have written stuff for Harper's at one time or another; one way to start might be to scan the author index (there's an author index, right?) for people you know you enjoy reading. "Tense Present: Democracy, English, and the Wars over Usage" by David Foster Wallace is a classic.
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 8:41 AM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: John Bartlow Martin's "Butcher's Dozen: The Cleveland Torso Murders" is one of the most evocative pieces of true crime writing that I've come across.

Martin's article on H.H. Holmes and his gritty, muckraking writing on labor issues from the 40s and 50s (index) are also well worth reading.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:57 AM on October 14, 2010

Best answer: I loved Jack Hitt's article The Mighty White of You (July 2005) and God or Gorilla by Matthew Chapman (February 2006). I also saw David Foster Wallace's Shipping Out (January 1996) recommended recently, although I haven't read it yet.
posted by neushoorn at 9:10 AM on October 14, 2010

Decades ago there was a story about a competition (in Scotland?) whereby the winner is the man who can keep a ferret down his pants the longest. I don't recall ever laughing harder at the written word ever in my life.
posted by msali at 9:16 AM on October 14, 2010

Best answer: I love Ben Marcus's defense of experimental fiction in his excoriation of Jonathan Franzen. Also, Mark Slouka's essay in the Notebook section about American acceptance of our disastrous international diplomacy snafus is brilliant.
posted by zoomorphic at 9:46 AM on October 14, 2010

The legendary story that msali references is "King of the Ferret-Leggers" by Don Katz in 1992. Here's an excerpt.
posted by Skot at 9:59 AM on October 14, 2010

Response by poster: Someone please find the story spacewrench is referencing. My Google fu has failed me entirely.
posted by reenum at 12:13 PM on October 14, 2010

Response by poster: Victory is mine! The story spacewrench referenced seems to be Zapatos by Filencio Salmon, translated by T. Coraghessan Boyle, from the October 1988 issue.
posted by reenum at 1:01 PM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Manfacturing depression: a journey into the economy of melancholy is one of the most thought-provoking articles I've ever read in Harper's and it got me hooked. The author Gary Greenberg also wrote an excellent recent article on Freud. If you like this style of essay, I recommend Submersion Journalism: radical reportage in the first person which is one of the most entertaining non-fiction books I've read in a while.
posted by Weng at 2:36 PM on October 14, 2010

er, sorry - make that "reporting in the radical first person"...
posted by Weng at 2:37 PM on October 14, 2010

Best answer: The Radioactive Boy Scout.

There was a short piece on emphysema that haunts me. I think it's this one but I can't read it so I don't know for sure.
posted by chairface at 4:34 PM on October 14, 2010

Oops. Bungled that first link.
posted by chairface at 4:37 PM on October 14, 2010

Best answer: A few that have stayed with me over the years:

The boy who loved transit: How the system failed an obsession by Jeff Tietz - great article about the failure of the court system

Welcome to cancerland: A mammogram leads to a cult of pink kitsch - by Barbara Ehrenreich, about the gendered industry surrounding cancer that she confronted during her battle with breast cancer

And of course, everything that David Foster Wallace did for them, especially Shipping Out
posted by susanvance at 5:03 PM on October 15, 2010

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