An American Album: One Hundred and Fifty Years of Harper's Magazine

Lewis H. Lapman, Editor, Ellen Rosenbush, Editor, Arthur Meier Schlesinger, Jr., Foreword by Franklin Square Press $50 (712p) ISBN 978-1-879957-53-4
When America's longest-running magazine produces a retrospective anthology, its table of contents reads like a who's who of American letters (plus some British notables). The catholicity of taste and comprehensiveness testify to a magazine that has always been, if not avant-garde, then at least at the literary forefront. Fiction excerpts include classics such as Herman Melville's Moby-Dick and Henry James's Washington Square, as well as the more contemporary and controversial The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. There are stories from such literary stars as Edith Wharton, Jack London, Virginia Woolf, Eudora Welty and Nadine Gordimer, and selections from the best American humorists: Twain, Thurber and E.B. White. The nonfiction is uniformly notable throughout the anthology, and spans a broad spectrum of subject matter, from the literary (a profile of Gertrude Stein by Katherine Anne Porter) to the newsworthy (Seymour Hersh on My Lai) to the athletic (a profile of Cassius Clay by George Plimpton), along with commentary on such contemporary issues as AIDS (Richard Rodriguez) and date-rape (Mary Gaitskill). Although the above may suggest an all-purpose greatest-hits collection, Lapham, the magazine's longtime editor, has in mind not only Harper's history but also America's. Financial reporting, for instance, extends from an essay on the stock market panic of 1873 through one by John Kenneth Galbraith on the origins of the Great Depression. Combat journalism begins with the Civil War (George Noyes at Antietam), and passes through San Juan Hill (Frederic Remington) and Iwo Jima (John P. Marquand). In a volume overflowing with riches, Lapham's sesquicentennial selections vividly form a mosaic portrait of the American experience. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 01/01/2010
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