Thursday, 20 May 2004

Harper’s and A & L

George in San Francisco tells me that 2,000 people are injured every year in France while opening oysters. I can think of no comment to make on that, but apparently he saw it in Harper’s Magazine Index which he finds “rather useful for a sense of the Zeitgeist” (they talk like that all the time over there). Be that as it may - and all of us need to check on the old ziggers from time to time (though I am more of a Weltenschauung man myself) - the source was a revelation to me. Perhaps I had never encountered it before because I confused Harper’s with Harper’s Bazaar, which is not at all the same sort of thing.

Anyway, the Index is fascinating as a fund of statistical snippets (not all as trivial as the one above). Harper's Magazine itself, an “American journal of literature, politics, culture, and the arts published continuously from 1850”, is as wide-ranging and literate as the online-only Arts and Letters Daily, which more ambitiously claims to cover “philosophy, aesthetics, literature, language, ideas, criticism, culture, history, music, art, trends, breakthroughs, disputes, and gossip”. (What, nothing about plumbing?)

But the latter is only a digest, or rather a free library of well-displayed and tempting links, while Harper’s is mostly fine original writing, well worth the small amount it costs. With very little advertising, it is hard to see how it survives. But then, it is hard to see how any “literary, brainy, and left-leaning” magazine (Amazon’s description) survives in Bush’s America.


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