Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Notes from a Former Subscriber

Snow again. A gentle, steady snowfall for a few hours in the evening, with practically no wind. The first full coverage of the season. The girls went out and romped in it under the glow of the nearby streetlight, which is where I look at night to see the intensity of a snowfall.

Garbage collection was today, including a recycle bin, and so in the newly empty bin this evening I tossed out a fair number of back issues of Harper's. Books never leave the house, but sometimes old magazines need to, if only in the interest of space.

I'm not sure when I let my subscription lapse, but lapse it did some years ago, and I barely noticed. I'd been a subscriber most of the time since the mid-80s, except for when I was in Japan, but in the end the sour editorship of Lewis Lapham wore me out, along with some of the nonsense that passed for articles.

I don't remember the particulars any more -- title, author, issue it was published -- but one early-2000s essay especially summed up the magazine's contempt for human beings. The author's point was that the rise of agriculture was a dreadful, evil turn of events for the world, and that the cultivation of wheat in particular was some sort of crime against the biosphere. Better that mankind be hunter-gatherers, but with the right frame of mind. In that context, he detailed his own slaying of an elk. Which was done for food, and with the proper respect for the spirit of the animal.

Unspoken in this romantic moonshine was the cold reality that, perhaps, the Earth could support only a few hundred thousand noble hunter-gatherers. And what about the rest of us? Excess baggage. Taken not even to its logical extreme, but rather just to the next step, he was dreaming of a vast culling of the human race. Meaning me, you and pretty much everyone we've ever known or met. Sure. Sign me up for that, so Gaia can be happy.

I understand that Lapham retired last year. Should I take a fresh look at the magazine? Naah. Who needs it anyway when you have Arts & Letters Daily?


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