вход по аккаунту


2018-06-01 Harper's Magazine

код для вставкиСкачать
New Schizophrenia Therapies
CCTV Cameras vs. Your Rights
FOUNDED IN 1850 / VOL. 336, NO. 2017
JUNE 2018
Fool Me Once
Easy Chair
The Wizard of Q
Harper’s Index
Punching the Clock
Space Invaders
Family History
And . . .
America’s addiction to war
From the Archive
Good Morning, Texas
Letter from Montana
A Syrian refugee family’s search for home
Can we treat psychosis by listening to
the voices in our heads?
How a young journalist untangled the riddle of My Lai
Artiicial intelligence and the expanding reach of the police
Notes from a purveyor
The uses and abuses of psychedelics
Rachel Cusk’s unforgiving eye
Fred Kramer, Judy Kranz
Walter Kirn
David Graeber
players of a new video game delect the come-ons of pickup artists
a never-before-published ethnography by Zora Neale Hurston
Cecily Brown, Chloe Sells, Daniella Zalcman,
and a school district trains an army of stoners against active shooters
Andrew J. Bacevich, Gregory Daddis, Jason Dempsey,
Buddhika Jayamaha, Sarah Kreps, Danny Sjursen
Louis Simpson
Abe Streep
T. M. Luhrmann
Seymour M. Hersh
Ava Kofman
Rabih Alameddine
Mary Gordon
Lidija Haas
Nick Richardson
Merve Emre
95 Richard E. Maltby Jr.
Illustration by John Ritter. Source photographs (details): © Kevork Djansezian/
AP Photo; © Wally Santana/AP Photo
John R. MacArthur, President and Publisher
James Marcus
Deputy Editor
Emily Cooke
Managing Editor
Hasan Altaf
Senior Editors
Katia Bachko, Giles Harvey
Editor Emeritus
Lewis H. Lapham
Ellen Rosenbush
Washington Editor
Andrew Cockburn
Art Director
Stacey Clarkson James
Poetry Editor
Ben Lerner
Web Editor
Joe Kloc
Associate Editors
Camille Bromley, Elizabeth Bryant,
Rachel Poser, Matthew Sherrill
Associate Art Director
Kathryn Humphries
Assistant Editors
Duncan Barile, Matthew Hickey,
Stephanie McFeeters, Will Stephenson
Assistant to the Editor
Adrian Kneubuhl
Editorial Interns
Matthew Browne, Whitney Kimball,
Victoria Uren
Art Intern
Kate Bowman
Contributing Editors
Andrew J. Bacevich, Kevin Baker, Dan Baum,
Tom Bissell, Joshua Cohen, John Crowley,
Rivka Galchen, Gary Greenberg, Jack Hitt,
Edward Hoagland, Scott Horton,
Frederick Kaufman, Garret Keizer,
Mark Kingwell, Walter Kirn,
Rafil Kroll-Zaidi, Gideon Lewis-Kraus,
Clancy Martin, Duncan Murrell,
Vince Passaro, Francine Prose,
Christine Smallwood, Zadie Smith,
Rebecca Solnit, Matthew Stevenson,
John Edgar Wideman, Tom Wolfe
Contributing Artists
Olive Ayhens, Lisa Elmaleh, Lena Herzog,
Aaron Huey, Samuel James, Steve Mumford,
Richard Ross, Tomas van Houtryve,
Danijel Žeželj
Vice President and General Manager
Lynn Carlson
Vice President, Circulation
Shawn D. Green
Vice President, Marketing and Communications
Giulia Melucci
Vice President, Advertising
Jocelyn D. Giannini
Virginia Navarro, Assistant to the Publisher
Kim Lau, Senior Accountant
Eve Brant, Ofice Manager
Courtney Joyal, Marketing Assistant
Advertising Sales:
(212) 420-5760; Fax: (212) 260-1096
Natalie C. Holly, Advertising Sales Representative
Marisa Nakasone, Production Manager and Designer
Sales Representatives
Chicago: Tauster Media Resources, Inc.
(630) 336-0916;
Detroit: Maiorana & Partners, Ltd.
(248) 546-2222;
Canada: JMB Media International
(450) 405-7117;
Direct Mail: Special Aditions Advertising, LLC
For subscription queries and orders please call:
Fool Me Once
Thomas Frank is right: the Trump
reelection nightmare could happen
[“Four More Years,” Essay, April]. But
I believe it is crucial that we not ignore fundamental truths. Trump’s
election exposed something defective in our political system—his win
was a betrayal of majority rule by the
Electoral College. Trump is a minority president.
We should stop perpetuating the
myth that Hillary Clinton had the
“wrong message” for America. The
majority of American voters endorsed her vision of what the country needed, rejecting Trump and his
values. If we had a truly democratic
election system in which every vote
counted equally, we would have celebrated Clinton’s great progressive
Clinton and the Democrats were
too magnanimous after Trump’s win.
By attempting to unify the country,
they failed the majority of American
voters. They should have asserted
themselves as the voice of the people instead of embarking on a selfdestructive search for someone to
blame for their electoral defeat.
So how do we avoid a second term
of the Trump Administration? The
Democratic Party’s priorities—
economic opportunity, health care,
and justice for all—are what most
Americans want. The challenge is to
Harper’s Magazine welcomes reader response.
Please address mail to Letters, Harper’s
Magazine, 666 Broadway, New York, N.Y.
10012, or email us at
Short letters are more likely to be published,
and all letters are subject to editing. Volume
precludes individual acknowledgment.
convince more voters that the party is
truly dedicated to those ideals.
It is hard to keep Trump’s darkness
from overwhelming us. The electoral
system is our reality. But this, too, is
a reality: the Democrats are the
voice of the present and the voice of
the future.
Fred Kramer
Richield, Minn.
We must hope that Thomas Frank
does not become the left’s Cassandra. His fear of a second term for
President Trump is no fever dream,
and he should not be ignored. Unfortunately, recent successes in offyear and special elections seem to
have inoculated many Democrats
against the hard introspection Frank
now counsels. The Democratic leadership, moreover, has been no proile
in courage: witness the government
shutdown, in which they capitulated
immediately in exchange for a (still
unfulilled) promise on DACA from
the Machiavellian Senate majority
leader. Must the party endure a second electoral loss before it heeds
Frank’s warning and returns to its
progressive, populist heritage?
David Routt
Richmond, Va.
If the Democrats want to win the
next presidential election, they will
need to come down from their mountain of self-righteousness, roll up their
sleeves, and rub elbows with everyday
working stiffs. Most politicians have
no idea how frustrated average people
are with increasing debt loads, deteriorating infrastructure, corporate tax
loopholes, wage stagnation, and the
impending environmental crisis. Yet
the Democratic National Committee
continues to suppress the true progressives within its ranks. I see very
little hope for the Democrats.
Sherwood Hines
Pressure Points
Brian Goldstone’s article makes
it clear that there are no easy solutions to the dual problems of adequate pain treatment and opioid
abuse [“The Pain Refugees,” Report, April]. Despite this imposing
challenge, we would like to offer
some optimism. Research in the
biomedical and psychosocial sciences is improving our understanding of the factors responsible for
the development and persistence of
chronic pain, as well as of the debilitating effects of opioids. At the
Center to Advance Chronic Pain
Research, we are helping to demonstrate that individual differences in
genetics, physiology, and psychology demand tailored approaches, and
this perspective is prompting novel
ideas for treatment.
Joel D. Greenspan and Susan Dorsey
Center to Advance Chronic Pain
Research, University of Maryland
I am a specialist in internal medicine, addiction medicine, and pain
management, and I have been discouraged recently by the incredible
amount of misinformation that appears every day in the media about
chronic pain and opioid treatment.
It was therefore refreshing and unexpected to read an empathetic and
balanced article that was clearly well
researched. Goldstone is one of the
few journalists who actually understands the signiicant difference between addiction and physical dependence and appreciates that only a
small minority of patients on opioids
become addicted. He recognizes that
the goal of treatment is to improve
people’s ability to function as well as
decrease their pain, and that compliant patients whose quality of life has
been shown to improve through the
use of opioids should be able to continue receiving the medication.
Goldstone rightly observes that the
diminishing availability of prescription opioids is driving people to obtain unregulated drugs on the street,
which has increased the number of
drug-overdose deaths. This article is
full of important information.
Jennifer Schneider
Tucson, Ariz.
Fit for Life
As a sixty-seven-year-old Pilates instructor and personal trainer, I’m
aware that there is a ton of hype in
the itness and diet industry [“Running to the Grave,” Readings, March].
And the skin-care industry. And the
gut-flora industry. Yes, life is futile and
we all end up dead, but daily exercise,
mild or intense, has been proved to
deter the development of joint pain in
seniors, to help with the problems associated with obesity, and to create a
heightened sense of well-being and
energy. Barbara Ehrenreich is way
smarter than I am, but my quality of
life as an exercise enthusiast cannot
be discounted. We were born to
move, so I will not stop moving until
my eventual demise.
at 100
s a v e th e d a t e :
July 9, 2018
With readings from
The Prison Letters
of Nelson Mandela,
performances, and
reflections celebrating
Nelson Mandela’s
centennial birthday.
Judy Kranz
Oak Bluffs, Mass.
Because of an editing error, the
March Index incorrectly stated the
month in which Alabama held a
special election for the US Senate.
The election took place in December 2017, not November.
Christine Smallwood’s “Never
Done” [Reviews, April] stated incorrectly that the son of Doreen Lawrence, Stephen Lawrence, was murdered by London police. The police
were never suspected of the murder.
We regret the errors.
Presented by
PEN America,
Symphony Space
The Wizard of Q
By Walter Kirn
n 2006, when the internet was
younger and seemed to hold untapped artistic possibilities, I was
asked to write a serial novel for Slate.
The subject of the “book” was up to
me, so I chose themes that seemed
appropriate to the new medium: hightech surveillance, cultural fragmentation, selfhood eroded by scrutiny. I
imagined people reading my dark
tale surreptitiously at their ofice
computers and feeling almost as
hunted as the characters, who were
a mix of anarchists and federal
agents, omniscient spies and hapless
nobodies. I titled the novel The Unbinding and illed it with experimental devices—speciically, scores of
hyperlinks—meant to hasten a Great
Leap Forward for iction. One of the
hyperlinks took you to a video of a
metal band from Scandinavia playing
a sped-up, scary-sounding cover of
Neil Diamond’s “Solitary Man.” How
I thought it might help the story I no
longer recall. I may have stuck it in
just because I could.
The Unbinding was, needless to
say, a flop. Few people ever found it
on the web, and fewer still bought
the printed version that followed
(in which the hyperlinks appeared in
bold but were functionally moot). Not
surprising: it was borderline incoherent. When I started the book, I had
a notion that I would use current
events to shape the plot. It was a
clever idea but not a good one. Fashioning a tale without an ending, a
tale that swerved as the headlines
changed yet retained its inner logic,
was a stunt I simply couldn’t manage. I wrote it in installments, week
by week, laying down a railroad
track to nowhere. I should have
called the project “The Unhinging,”
since writing it nearly sent me
around the bend.
To console myself for my failure I
concluded that the internet and the
novel were natural enemies. “Choose
your own adventure” stories were not
the future of literature. The author
should be a dictator, a tyrant who
treated the reader as his willing
slave, not as a cocreator. And hightech flourishes should be avoided.
Novels weren’t meant to link to Neil
Diamond songs or, say, refer to real
plane crashes on the day they happen. Novels were closed structures,
their boundaries fixed, not datadriven, dynamic feedback loops. Until quite recently, these were my beliefs, and no new works emerged to
challenge my thinking.
hen, late last year, while
knocking around on the internet one night, I came
across a long series of posts originally published on 4chan, an anony-
mous message board. They described
a sinister global power struggle only
dimly visible to ordinary citizens.
On one side of the ight, the posts
explained, was a depraved elite,
bound by unholy oaths and rituals,
secretly sowing chaos and strife to
create a pretext for their rule. On
the other side was the public, we the
people, brave and decent but easily
deceived, not least because the news
was largely scripted by the power brokers and their collaborators in the
press. And yet there was hope, I read,
because the shadow directorate had
blundered. Aligned during the election with Hillary Clinton and unable
to believe that she could lose, least of
all to an outsider, it had underestimated Donald Trump—as well as
the patriotism of the US military,
which had recruited him for a lastditch battle against the psychopathic deep-state spooks. The writer of
the 4chan posts, who signed these
missives “Q,” invited readers to join
this battle. He—she? it?—promised
to pass on orders from a commander
and intelligence gathered by a network of spies.
I was hooked.
Known to its fan base as QAnon,
the tale first appeared last year,
around Halloween. Q’s literary brilliance wasn’t obvious at first. His
obsessions were unoriginal, his style
conventional, even dull. He suggested that Washington was being
purged of globalist evildoers, starting with Clinton, who was awaiting
arrest, supposedly, but allowed to
roam free for reasons that weren’t
clear. Soon a whole roster of villains
had emerged, from John McCain to
John Podesta to former president
Obama, all of whom were set to be
destroyed by something called the
Storm, an allusion to a remark by
President Trump last fall about “the
calm before the storm.” Clinton’s
friend and supporter Lynn Forrester
de Roth schild, a member by marriage of the banking family abhorred by anti-Semites everywhere,
came in for special abuse from Q
and Co.—which may have contributed to her decision to delete her
Twitter app. Along with George Soros, numerous other bigwigs, the
FBI, the CIA, and Twitter CEO
Jack Dorsey (by whom the readers
of Q feel persecuted), these igures
composed a group called the Cabal.
The goal of the Cabal was dominion over all the earth. Its initiates
tended to be pedophiles (or pedophilia apologists), the better to keep
them blackmailed and in line, and
its esoteric symbols were everywhere; t he main st ream media
served as its propaganda arm. Oh,
and don’t forget the pope.
As I read further, the tradition
in which Q was working became
clearer. Q’s plot of plots is a retread, for the most part, of Cold
War–era John Birch Society notions found in books such as None
Dare Call It Conspiracy. These
Bircher ideas were borrowings, in
turn, from the works of a Georgetown University history professor
by the name of Carroll Quigley.
Said to be an important influence
on Bill Clinton, Quigley was a legitimate scholar of t wentiet hcentury Anglo-American politics.
His 1966 book Tragedy and Hope,
which concerned the power held by
certain elites over social and military planning in the West, is not
itself a paranoid creation, but parts
of it have been twisted and reconigured to support wild theories of
all kinds. Does Q stand for Quigley? It’s possible, though there are
Bring the War Home
The White Power Movement and
Paramilitary America
Kathleen Belew
“Counters the treatment of white terrorists as
‘lone wolves’ by tracing the contours of an
organized white power movement.”
—Joseph Darda, Los Angeles Review of Books
“A tour de force. An utterly engrossing and
piercingly argued history that tracks how the
seismic aftershocks of the Vietnam War gave
rise to a white power movement.”
—Junot Díaz
Zbigniew Brzezinski
America’s Grand Strategist
Justin Vaïsse
Catherine Porter
“Vaïsse gives Brzezinski high marks. Apart
from Kissinger, no adviser so dominated a
president’s agenda. His intellect was as sharp
as his tongue.”
—Edward Luce, Financial Times
“A captivating account of a decisive figure
who navigated through deep political
crosscurrents in order to extend American
influence across the globe.”
The Republic of Arabic Letters
Islam and the European Enlightenment
Alexander Bevilacqua
“[A] tour de force study of the origins of
modern Islamic scholarship in the West and
its central role in the Enlightenment...[An]
extraordinary book.”
—Jacob Soll, New Republic
“Deeply thoughtful...Republic is a delight.”
—The Economist
Belknap Press | $35.00
other possibilities (such as the Department of Energy’s “Q” security
clearance). The literature of rightwing political fear has a canon and
a pantheon, and Q, whoever he is,
seems deeply versed in it.
While introducing his cast of
iends, Q also assembled a basic story line. Justice was inally coming
for the Cabal, whose evil deeds were
“mind blowing,” Q wrote, and could
never be “fully exposed” lest they
touch off riots and revolts. But just
in case this promised “Great Awakening” caused panic in the streets,
the National Guard and the Marine
Corps were ready to step in. So were
panels of military judges, in whose
courts the treasonous cabalists
would be tried and convicted, then
sent to Guantánamo. In the manner of doomsayers since time began,
Q hinted that Judgment Day was
imminent and seemed unabashed
when it kept on not arriving. Q
knew full well that making one’s
followers wait for a definitive, cathartic outcome is a cult leader’s
best trick—for the same reason that
it’s a novelist’s best trick. Suspense
is an irritation that’s also a pleasure,
so there’s a sensual payoff from
these delays. And the more time a
devotee invests in pursuing closure
and satisfaction, the deeper her
need to trust the person in charge.
It’s why Trump may be in no hurry
to build his wall, or to inish it if he
starts. It’s why he announced a military parade that won’t take place
until next fall.
As the posts piled up and Q’s plot
t h ic ke n e d, h i s w r it i n g s t yle
changed. It went from discursive to
interrogative, from concise and direct to gnomic and suggestive. This
was the breakthrough, the hook,
the innovation, and what convinced me Q was a master, not just
a prankster or a kook. He’d discovered a principle of online storytelling that had eluded me all those
years ago but now seemed obvious:
The audience for internet narratives
doesn’t want to read, it wants to
write. It doesn’t want answers provided, it wants to search for them. It
doesn’t want to sit and be amused, it
wants to be sent on a mission. It wants
to do.
rom November on, as his following on 4chan, Reddit,
Twitter, and other platforms
grew, Q turned his readers into spies
and soldiers by issuing coded orders
and predictions that required great
effort to interpret and tended to remain ambiguous even after lengthy
contemplation. The messages often
consisted of stacked one-liners that
looked like imagist poems. They radiated mystery and portent. Take this
example from March 3:
Who controls the narrative?
WHO wrote the singular censorship algorithm?
WHO deployed the algorithm?
WHO instructed them to deploy
the algorithm?
SAME embed across multiple platforms.
Why is the timing relevant?
Where is @Snowden?
Why did ES leave G?
To initiates, this set of clues (Q’s
audience calls these “crumbs” and
strives to “bake” them into “bread,”
meaning plain English) alludes to an
elaborate range of incidents related
to Trump’s war on the Cabal and to
the Cabal’s war—doomed to fail—
on us, the innocents. “ES,” for instance, is Eric Schmidt, the former
executive chairman of Alphabet,
Google’s parent company, whose resignation had been linked in previous posts to covert dealings with
North Korea, in Q mythology a CIA
puppet state and a center of traficking in drugs and sex slaves. The insidious censorship algorithm is the
work of Edward Snowden, who isn’t
a whistle-blower but a double or triple agent of murky allegiances who
works with Twitter’s Dorsey in some
obscure capacity to keep the citizenry blind and muzzled.
Preposterous, huh? Well, the Q
people don’t think so. Indeed, they
feel we’ll soon come over to their
side, once we understand the true
relationship between Q’s crumbs
and the subsequent news events
that the crumbs predicted. The
North Korean peace talks, for example, which some students of Q
saw coming last winter. Or the
scandalous revelations about Facebook’s illicit peddling of users’
data. “Do you believe in coincidences?” asks Q repeatedly, and the
answer he obviously wants is no.
That’s why his minions labor to
make connections between such
disparate phenomena as the flight
paths of jumbo jets and the alleged
escape plans of A-list fugitives.
“Expand your thinking,” Q exhorts
his legions, particularly when they
falter in their cryptography or lag
in their online detective work. He’s
the author as case oficer, tasking
slow-witted readers with enigmas
whose solutions he already knows
but insists that they discover on
their own.
And his posts aren’t all nonsense.
Some are quite uncanny in the way
they anticipate the headlines. On
March 9, he told his troops to watch
for “liquidity events” in the stock
charts of social media companies.
Days later, Facebook fell into disgrace and suffered a sizable market
sell-off. Then there are the intriguing correlations between the posts
and the president’s Twitter outbursts, which Q would have us
think are synchronized with splitsecond precision. The proofs he offers involve comparing time stamps,
and mathematically minded Qbots
swear by them. That they’re willing
to fuss with such puzzles is a testament to the compulsive power of
Q’s methods. By leaving more
blanks in his stories than he ills in,
he activates the portion of the mind
that sees faces in clouds and hears
melodies in white noise.
Could Q have actual foreknowledge? Was he somehow the oracle he
purported to be? Having followed the
posts for months now, I wish I could
summarily dismiss them, but so outrageous is our current reality, so reliably
unpredictable and odd, that it does
not seem impossible to me that there
might exist an internet seer stationed
in the White House whose job is to
brief lowly geeks on global intrigues.
My friend Matthew, who saw combat
in Afghanistan and has reported on
intelligence issues, believes that Q
may be the result of psyops conceived
to maintain morale among Trump’s
base. The trick, he says, is to fashion
a mental ilter that will make Trump’s
losses look like victories, his missteps
like chess moves, his caprices like
plans. After all, if most news is fake,
as Trump insists, the real news must
be hidden out of sight. Q claims to
offer glimpses of it, along with warnings about what would happen if we
beheld it all at once. To wake in an
instant to the Luciferian horrors of
the Cabal’s perverted machinations
would be like rushing forth from
Plato’s cave—blinding, debilitating, maybe deadly. Instead,
Q leads us gently toward the
light, a patient guide, like Virgil was to Dante.
One night this spring, in
northwest Arkansas, Matthew
and I stayed up past midnight
interpreting several recent posts
from Q that trembled on the
verge of clarity, seeming to offer
highly privileged insights into a
crisis rumored to be forthcoming. I sat on the couch. He
paced. We thought out loud,
competing to crack the message
and setting different values for
different variables. We argued
our cases as the night slid by; we
raved away in an ecstasy of
guesswork. Q was being good to
us. Q was delivering everything
we craved.
Q is part fabulist, part
fortune-teller, holding up a
computer-screen-shaped mirror
to our golden age of fraudulence. He composes in inklings,
hunches, and wild guesses,
aware that our hunger for order
grows more acute the longer it
goes unsatisfied. Q calls the
vista he’s gradually revealing
the map, and he knows how
badly his people crave it, which
is why he doesn’t disclose in
one fell swoop Trump’s strategy
for national salvation. A hope
fulilled is also a hope exhausted. Tension and foreboding, on
the other hand, are thrills that
keep on thrilling, for fear can
never be fully put to rest. Even
if his followers’ dreams come
true and the Clintons, Podestas, Schmidts, and Dorseys are
hustled off in chains to distant
gulags, and even if Kim Jong-un
is released from the CIA contract that requires him to play
a nuclear madman to keep the world
off balance so America’s spymasters
can rule it, one can never be sure the
Cabal won’t rise again. And it will, of
course, since that’s what archiends do:
rise from the dead.
The novel is the same way. It dies
and dies so it can live and live. The
Q tale may be loathsome and deeply
wicked, a magnet for bigots and ig-
noramuses whose ugly dreams it caters to and ratiies, but as a feat of
New Age storytelling I ind it curiously encouraging. The imagination
lives. A talented bard can still grab
and keep an audience. Now for a
better story, with higher themes.
Now for the bracing epic of recovery that the dark wizards have
shown us how to write.
Penis Envy and Other Bad
The Emotional Costs of Everyday Life
“Mari Ruti is a treasure. . . . she puts the unspoken
ailments of our everyday into words, and brings
us that much closer to finding a cure.”
—Kate Bolick, New York Times bestselling author of
Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own
How Did Lubitsch Do It?
“McBride subtly and concretely describes the
change in cinematic tastes over the course of
a century. We who love cinema and Lubitsch
should be grateful to have such a book in our
lifetime, and it will be the definitive work for
years to come.”
—Molly Haskell, author of
From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of
Women in the Movies
Troublesome Science
The Misuse of Genetics and Genomics
in Understanding Race
“[An] urgent and important defense against the
modern resurgence of racial science.”
—Dorothy Roberts, author of Fatal Invention: How
Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race
in the Twenty-First Century
“his biography ofers an
excellent point of entry
into Sand’s life and
thought, encouraging
reevaluation of a famed
but perhaps underrated
author who felt ‘for
humanity . . . because
they are me.’”
—Publishers Weekly
264 pages | 1 illustration | 5 × 8
isbn 978-0-271-08106-9 | cloth: $29.95
George Sand
Translated with an introduction by Gretchen
van Slyke
Median number of views a YouTube video had in 2006 : 10,262
In 2016 : 89
Average amount Microsoft spends each month assisting people who need to change their passwords : $2,000,000
Minimum number of US municipalities that have outlawed crossing the street while texting : 3
Percentage of teens who have received a “sext” : 27
Who have sent a sext : 15
Who have forwarded a sext without the original sender’s consent : 12
Maximum ine for public sexual harassment under a proposed French law : $3,681
Number of years since Belgium passed a law criminalizing sexism in public : 4
Number of people who have been convicted under that law : 1
Percentage of registered US voters who say that Donald Trump is a good role model for young people : 29
Of Americans who said the same of Bill Clinton in 1998 : 18
Average number of additional assaults that occurred in a city when it hosted a Trump campaign rally : 2.3
When it hosted a Hillary Clinton campaign rally : 0
Percentage of biographical Wikipedia pages that are about women : 17
Percentage of US political donors in 1990 who were women : 23
Today : 47
Minimum number of countries since 2012 that have changed their anthems’ lyrics to make them more gender inclusive : 2
Factor by which women who win parliamentary or mayoral elections are more likely to get divorced than women who lose : 2
Number of billionaires in the National People’s Congress of China : 45
Year in which China’s coal consumption is expected to peak : 2018
Number of countries whose irst coal plants are being constructed with Chinese inancing : 7
Number of minutes by which clocks ran late this spring following power disruptions in Serbia and Kosovo : 6
Number of countries in which clocks were affected : 26
Average factor by which a Seoul city-government employee works more overtime than a South Korean–government employee : 1.8
Time at which Seoul’s government shuts down computers on Friday evenings to force employees to stop working : 7:00
Percentage of US counties in which food stamps don’t cover the cost of three meals a day : 99
Percentage of black American men born into the wealthiest quintile who remain in that bracket as adults : 17
Of white American men : 39
Portion of trauma patients at hospitals nationwide who are admitted for gunshot wounds : 1/25
Of trauma patients at Stroger Hospital in Chicago who are : 3/10
Number of Navy medics who have been trained there since 2014 : 70
Percentage of US secondary-school teachers who were physically attacked by a student in the 2015–16 school year : 2
Of elementary-school teachers : 9
Number of job listings seeking pagan chaplains for UK prisons in February : 7
Percentage by which hamburgers outsold ham-and-butter baguette sandwiches in France last year : 20
Portion of Americans who have eaten a pint of ice cream in one sitting : 1/2
Portion of those who felt guilty afterward : 2/5
Who felt ill : 1/10
Figures cited are the latest available as of April 2018. Sources are listed on page 44.
“Harper’s Index” is a registered trademark.
The Science of Mindfulness:
A Research-Based Path
to Well-Being
Taught by Professor Ronald D. Siegel
Why Mindfulness Matters
Our Troublesome Brains
Informal, Formal, and Intensive Practices
Who Am I? The Perils of Self
Mindfulness or Psychotherapy?
Attention and Empathy in Relationships
The Science of Compassion
and Self-Compassion
Tailoring Practices to Fit Changing Needs
Modifying Our Brain Function and Structure
10. Solitude—An Antidote to Loneliness
11. Connecting with Children and Adolescents
12. Seeing Sadness and Depression in a New Light
13. Befriending Fear, Worry, and Anxiety
14. Transforming Chronic Pain
15. Placebos, Illness, and the Power of Belief
16. Interrupting Addiction and Troublesome Habits
17. Overcoming Traumas Large and Small
18. Groundbreaking Mindfulness Programs
19. The Neurobiology of Self-Preoccupation
20. Growing Up Isn’t Easy—Facing Impermanence
21. Toward a Science of Wisdom
22. The Promise of Enlightenment
23. Mindful Ethics as a Path to Freedom
24. The New Science of Happiness
Meld Ancient Wisdom
with Modern Science
Many problems that we face—such as depression, compulsive and
addictive behaviors, chronic pain, and stress and anxiety—stem from
the human brain’s hardwired tendency to seek pleasure and avoid
pain. For thousands of years, people have used mindfulness practices
to deal effectively with life challenges such as these. And we are now
in the midst of an explosion of scientific research, demonstrating that
mindfulness practice changes the function and structure of the brain.
In these 24 fascinating lectures, Professor Ronald D. Siegel, a clinical
psychologist at Harvard Medical School, reveals the science behind
mindfulness in compelling detail and demonstrates its application to
a wide range of issues—psychological, social, and medical. Learn how
these techniques can radically transform the mind, the heart, and the
experience of everyday life—joining ancient wisdom practices and
scientific methodology in forging new possibilities for living.
Ofer expires 07/07/18
The Science of Mindfulness:
A Research-Based Path to Well-Being
Course no. 9303 | 24 lectures (30 minutes/lecture)
Video Download
Audio Download
NOW $79.95
NOW $59.95
NOW $59.95
NOW $34.95
+$10 Shipping & Processing (DVD & CD only)
and Lifetime Satisfaction Guarantee
Priority Code: 159691
For over 25 years, The Great Courses has brought
the world’s foremost educators to millions who want
to go deeper into the subjects that matter most. No
exams. No homework. Just a world of knowledge
available anytime, anywhere. Download or stream
to your laptop or PC, or use our free apps for iPad,
iPhone, Android, Kindle Fire, or Roku. Over 600
courses available at
By David Graeber, from Bullshit Jobs, which was
published last month by Simon and Schuster. Graeber is a professor of anthropology at the London
School of Economics.
veryone is familiar with the sorts of jobs
whose purpose is dificult to discern: HR consultants, PR researchers, communications coordinators, inancial strategists, logistics managers. The list is endless.
This is how Kurt, a subcontractor for the
German military, describes his job:
“The German military has a subcontractor
that does its IT work. The IT irm has a subcontractor that does its logistics. The logistics irm
has a subcontractor that does its personnel management. I work for that company.
“Let’s say a soldier moves to an ofice two
rooms down the hall. Instead of carrying his
computer over, he ills out a form. The IT subcontractor reads and approves it and forwards it
to the logistics irm. The logistics irm approves
the move and requests personnel from us. I get
an email to travel to the barracks. The barracks
are up to three hundred miles away from my
home, so I rent a car. I drive to the barracks, ill
out a form, unhook the computer, load it into a
box, and seal the box. A guy from the logistics
irm carries the box to the new ofice. There, I
unseal the box, ill out another form, hook up
the computer, get a few signatures, drive back
home, send a letter with the paperwork, and
then I get paid.”
In 2015, YouGov, a polling agency, asked Britons whether they believed their job made a
“meaningful contribution to the world.” More
than a third—37 percent—believed it did not.
(Only 50 percent said that it did; 13 percent were
uncertain.) A more recent poll conducted in the
Netherlands found that 40 percent of Dutch
workers felt their job had no good reason to exist.
Our society values work. We expect a job to
serve a purpose and to have a larger meaning.
For workers who have internalized this value
system, there is little that is more demoralizing
than waking up ive days a week to perform a
task that one believes is a waste of time.
It’s not obvious, however, why having a
pointless job makes people quite so miserable.
After all, a large portion of the workforce is being paid—often very good money—to do nothi ng. T hey might con sider t hem selves
fortunate. Instead, many feel worthless and depressed.
n 1901, the German psychologist Karl Groos
discovered that infants express extraordinary
happiness when they irst discover their ability
to cause predictable effects in the world. For
example, they might scribble with a pencil by
randomly moving their arms and hands. When
they realize that they can achieve the same result by retracing the same pattern, they respond
with expressions of utter joy. Groos called this
“the pleasure at being the cause,” and suggested
that it was the basis for play.
Before Groos, most Western political philosophers, economists, and social scientists
assumed that humans seek power out of either a desire for conquest and domination or
a practical need to guarantee physical gratiication and reproductive success. Groos’s insight had powerful implications for our un-
From a database listing the names of LGBTQ employee resource groups at more than 800 companies.
The database is maintained by the Human Rights
Campaign, a civil rights advocacy organization.
UberPride (Uber)
AirPride@ (Airbnb)
Pridebox (Dropbox)
Pridelings (Eventbrite)
Propel with Pride! (Rolls-Royce)
BPROUD (Bloomberg)
BEAGLES (Boeing)
Gayglers (Google)
GLAmazon (Amazon)
Gaythenistas (athenahealth)
GLEAM (Microsoft)
GLAD (Dow Chemicals)
OPEN (Campbell Soup Company)
MMMPower (Morris, Manning and Martin)
Rainbow Posse (Gordon and Rees)
Rainbow Carrots (Instacart)
Pinwheels (Pinterest)
WeQual (Wendy’s)
Out at Work (Staples)
Outspoken (SiriusXM)
OUTburst (Yelp)
StandOUT! (Standard Insurance Company)
LyftOUT (Lyft)
RESPECT (Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida)
BRAVE (CDW Corporation)
HERO (Goodyear)
HERE (Hallmark)
derstanding of the formation of the self, and
of human motivation more generally. Children come to see that they exist as distinct
individuals who are separate from the world
around them by observing that they can
cause something to happen, and happen
again. Crucially, the realization brings a delight, the pleasure at being the cause, that is
the very foundation of our being.
Experiments have shown that if a child is allowed to experience this delight but then is suddenly denied it, he will become enraged, refuse
to engage, or even withdraw from the world entirely. The psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Francis Broucek suspected that such traumatic experiences can cause many mental health issues
later in life.
Groos’s research led him to devise a theory
of play as make-believe: Adults invent games
and diversions for the same reason that an infant delights in his ability to move a pencil. We
wish to exercise our powers as an end in themselves. This, Groos suggested, is what freedom
is—the ability to make things up for the sake
of being able to do so.
The make-believe aspect of the work is precisely what performers of bullshit jobs ind the
most infuriating. Just about anyone in a supervised wage-labor job finds it maddening to
pretend to be busy. Working is meant to serve
a purpose—if make-believe play is an expression of human freedom, then make-believe
work imposed by others represents a total lack
of freedom. It’s unsurprising, then, that the
irst historical occurrence of the notion that
some people ought to be working at all times,
or that work should be made up to ill their
time even in the absence of things that need
doing, concerns workers who are
not free: prisoners and slaves.
istorically, human work patterns have
taken the form of intense bursts of energy
followed by rest. Farming, for instance, is
generally an all-hands-on-deck mobilization
around planting and harvest, with the offseasons occupied by minor projects. Large
projects such as building a house or preparing
for a feast tend to take the same form. This is
typical of how human beings have always
worked. There is no reason to believe that
acting otherwise would result in greater eficiency or productivity. Often it has precisely
the opposite effect.
One reason that work was historically irregular is because it was largely unsupervised.
This is true of medieval feudalism and of most
labor arrangements until relatively recent
times, even if the relationship between worker
and boss was strikingly unequal. If those at
Apologies to Mr. Bohm, a painting by David Hytone, whose work was on view in November at Linda Hodges Gallery, in Seattle.
the bottom produced what was required of
them, those at the top couldn’t be bothered to
know how the time was spent.
Most societies throughout history would never have imagined that a person’s time could belong to his employer. But today it is considered
perfectly natural for free citizens of democratic
countries to rent out a third or more of their
day. “I’m not paying you to lounge around,” reprimands the modern boss, with the outrage of a
man who feels he’s being robbed. How did we
get here?
By the fourteenth century, the common
u nder st a ndi n g of wh at ti me wa s h ad
changed; it became a grid against which work
was measured, rather than the work itself being the measure. Clock towers funded by local merchant guilds were erected throughout
Europe. These same merchants placed human
skulls on their desks as memento mori, to remind
“Explosion,” a photograph of banded agate with iron traces by Lisa M. Robinson, whose work was on view in February at Klompching Gallery,
in New York City.
themselves that they should make quick use
of their time. The proliferation of domestic
clocks and pocket watches that coincided
with the advent of the Industrial Revolution
in the late eighteenth century allowed for a
similar attitude toward time to spread among the
middle class. Time came to be widely seen as a
finite property to be budgeted and spent,
much like money. And these new time-telling
devices allowed a worker’s time to be
chopped up into uniform units that could be
bought and sold. Factories started to require
workers to punch the time clock upon entering and leaving.
The change was moral as well as technological. One began to speak of spending time
rather than just passing it, and also of wasting
time, killing time, saving time, losing time,
racing against time, and so forth. Over the
course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, an episodic style of working was increasingly treated as a social problem. Methodist preachers exhorted “the husbandry of
time”; time management became the essence
of morality. The poor were blamed for spending their time recklessly, for being as irresponsible with their time as they were with
their money.
Workers protesting oppressive conditions,
meanwhile, adopted the same notions of
time. Many of the irst factories didn’t allow
workers to bring in their own timepieces, because the owner played fast and loose with
the factory clock. Labor activists negotiated
higher hourly rates, demanded fixed-hour
contracts, overtime, time and a half, twelveand then eight-hour work shifts. The act of
demanding “free time,” though understand-
able, reinforced the notion that a worker’s
time really did belong to t he
person who had bought it.
he idea that workers have a moral obligation to allow their working time to be dictated has become so normalized that members of the public feel indignant if they see,
say, transit workers lounging on the job. Thus
busywork was invented: to ameliorate the
supposed problem of workers not having
enough to do to ill an eight-hour day. Take
the experience of a woman named Wendy,
who sent me a long history of pointless jobs
she had worked:
“As a receptionist for a small trade magazine,
I was often given tasks to perform while waiting for the phone to ring. Once, one of the adsales people dumped thousands of paper clips
on my desk and asked me to sort them by color.
She then used them interchangeably.
“Another example: my grandmother lived independently in an apartment in New York City
into her early nineties, but she did need some
help. We hired a very nice woman to live with
her, help her do shopping and laundry, and
keep an eye out in case she fell or needed help.
So, if all went well, there was nothing for this
woman to do. This drove my grandmother crazy. ‘She’s just sitting there!’ she would complain. Ultimately, the woman quit.”
This sense of obligation is common across
the world. Ramadan, for example, is a young
Egyptian engineer working for a public enterprise in Cairo.
The company needed a team of engineers
to come in every morning and check whether
the air conditioners were working, then hang
around in case something broke. Of course,
management couldn’t admit that; instead,
the firm invented forms, drills, and boxticking rituals calculated to keep the team
busy for eight hours a day. “I discovered immediately that I hadn’t been hired as an engineer at all but really as some kind of technical bureaucrat,” Ramadan explained. “All
we do here is paperwork, illing out checklists
and forms.” Fortunately, Ramadan gradually
igured out which ones nobody would notice
if he ignored and used the time to indulge a
growing interest in ilm and literature. Still,
the process left him feeling hollow. “Going
every workday to a job that I considered
pointless was psychologically exhausting and
left me depressed.”
The end result, however exasperating,
doesn’t seem all that bad, especially since Ramadan had igured out how to game the system. Why couldn’t he see it, then, as stealing
back time that he’d sold to the corporation?
Why did the pretense and lack of purpose
grind him down?
A bullshit job—where one is treated as if
one were usefully employed and forced to
play along with the pretense—is inherently
demoralizing because it is a game of makebelieve not of one’s own making. Of course the
soul cries out. It is an assault on the very
foundations of self. A human being unable to
have a meaningful impact on the world ceases to exist.
From testimony given in March by David Helsel, the
superintendent of the Blue Mountain School District,
in Pennsylvania, at a meeting of the Pennsylvania
House of Representatives education committee. Hal
English is a state representative.
david helsel: Our district has been training
staff and students in an armed-intruder defense plan. Ever y classroom has been
equipped with a five-gallon bucket full of
river stone. If an armed intruder attempts to
gain entrance, they will face a classroom full
of students armed with rocks. And they will
be stoned.
hal english: I’m intrigued by the rocks. Do you
give slingshots?
helsel: No, we have some people who have pretty
good arms. They can chuck a rock pretty fast.
english: Did you consider any other nonlethal
methods, such as rubber bullets?
helsel: Obviously the teachers have pepper
spray. The rocks are just for students. We used
to have them huddle underneath desks.
We’ve learned from Virginia Tech: the gentleman that did it went to a shooting range a
week before and put the targets on the
ground because he knew students were going
to be under the desks.
The idea is we have rocks. Some people
have golf balls. But golf balls bounce around.
I was afraid of collateral damage with our
kids, so I thought, the rocks won’t bounce.
We had a dump truck go over to a landscaper
and get river stone. They’re nice, they’re
smooth, and you can hurl them pretty quickly, and hard.
english: I commend your practical thinking.
By Dilara O’Neil, from The California Review
of Images and Mark Zuckerberg, which was
published last year.
n Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook proile photo uploaded during the summer of 2013, he
presents himself neither as a businessman nor
as a thinker but as a Normal Guy. He is wearing one of his signature gray T-shirts beneath
a matching gray hoodie. He is neither smiling
nor frowning, and the picture is cropped close
to his face, so close that we are unsure whether he posed and took the photo himself,
whether someone else took it on the spur of
the moment, whether there were others originally in the picture. The scenery behind him
is nondescript—there are no landmarks or
recognizable clues to his location. We can see
the slope of his shoulders and his neck, but
otherwise his pose lacks physical agency. The
photo is maddeningly neutral.
The image of neutrality is deceptive, of
course. Zuck’s T-shirts, which he stocks in
bulk, reportedly cost $400 each. (Visibly expensive clothing used to distinguish the
wealthy from the nonwealthy, but now we
From titles of horror ilms released since 2002 whose
plotlines involve social media.
Death Tube
Selie From Hell
have normcore.) Just as Zuck’s uniform is inspired by the middle and lower classes, so too
is his professional conduct. He interacts with
his users, or at least makes them feel like they
can interact with him. We don’t see his body
in photos, not even his hands, because unlike
Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, who often held up
their products for pictures, Zuck has nothing
to hold up. Facebook is too vast, too connected to other parts of the internet to be deined.
Rather than presenting himself as a public igure or a celebrity, Zuck presents himself as a
face on a screen—the proile photo is both approachable and terrifyingly distant, bodiless
and omniscient, looming at us blankly. As one
Facebook user commented, “Your eyes look
like they’ve been hacked by an electromagnetic pulse machine.”
The message in this picture is that Zuck, and
all of Facebook, is everywhere. We may not
have realized that in 2013, but we certainly do
now. A year after the photo was posted, we discovered that Facebook was experimenting with
news feeds to hack our moods and emotions.
Four years later, Facebook was accused of disseminating fake news and enabling Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Unlike websites that remain static until consumers grow bored and move on, Facebook is
always evolving.
Many tech leaders have an identiiable persona. For Bill Gates, it is his clunky glasses,
neatly combed hair, and sweater. Steve Jobs
had his signature black turtleneck and lightwash jeans. Zuck’s image is one of nondescript
youth. It is identical to the proile pictures of
many men I grew up with. He could be a boy
on my college improv team. Most photos of
him before 2016 look like this one: nonthreatening and approachable. He is not a CEO; he
is a self-made entrepreneur. The picture is not
early Mark Zuckerberg (he’s been on Facebook
since 2004), but it is Zuck before children,
marriage, and politics. Now Zuck employs a
professional photographer to shoot his tours of
the United States.
Hierarchies of power look different these
days than they used to. The picture represents
how fully integrated the powerful appear to be
among the masses of their software users. Just
as Zuck’s plain-color T-shirts are indistinguishable from any T-shirt, Facebook’s algorithms appear organic instead of strategic. Invisible money drives the advertisements and
sponsored posts that populate our news feeds.
This is the shifting form of commodity exchange on social media. In a post last year,
Zuck wrote, “Trump says Facebook is against
him. Liberals say we helped Trump. Both sides
are upset about ideas and content they don’t
like. That’s what running a platform for all
ideas looks like.” A neutral presence is Zuck’s
public image, and Facebook’s. Zuck’s underwhelming proile picture reminds us that the
appearance of neutrality masks a deliberate
naturalization of monetary power.
The proile pic may not be the most lasting
image of Zuck. But before candid pictures were
published of him walking his dog, exercising
with his daughter, feeding a calf in Ohio from a
bottle, or leaning on a beige table in a beige
room livestreaming his solution to Russia’s interference in the election, this picture attempted a democratic vision of what a CEO could be.
Unlike the tech innovators that came before
him, Zuck does not have a defined point of
view. His image is malleable. It seeks to accommodate his followers. We’ve watched Zuck mature as we’ve watched Facebook solidify. There
will likely never be a single iconic image to
symbolize Mark Zuckerberg’s career; his image
is a gradual becoming.
He pauses.
erik: I don’t think we should get to know each
player: Why not?
Erik looks in the direction of his friends and
erik: I thought you’d like to join the party. But
you seem like too much of a nice girl for me.
player: You don’t know shit about me!
Erik smiles. He leans in and looks closely at
your hair.
erik: Is that your natural hair color?
player: No.
erik: Well, it its you.
The compliment seems to be delivered with
erik: So check this out. Did you know that Elvis Presley dyed his hair?
player: No. I can’t say I really care about Elvis.
From game play of The Game: The Game, a
dating-simulation video game developed by Angela
Washko, an assistant professor of art at Carnegie
Mellon University. Washko modeled the characters
and dialogue on prominent pickup artists and their
coaching materials. The player chooses her dialogue in conversations with the characters she
meets; this conversation is adapted from one potential pathway. The character Erik is based on
Erik von Markovik, aka Mystery. The game was
exhibited earlier this year at the Museum of the
Moving Image, in New York City.
ou step into your favorite bar. It’s starting
to get crowded. Your friends are with a group of
people you don’t know. As you join them you
see a tall, long-haired man wearing a cowboy
hat and black nail polish appear to make a
woman’s cocktail glass levitate.
The man’s name is Erik. He abruptly turns to
you and asks in a irm and loud voice:
erik: So . . . who the hell are you?
player: That’s a broad question . . . uh . . .
Erik stares at you intensely.
erik: Actually . . .
Erik gives you a look of disapproval.
erik: You come on strong.
He pauses.
erik: Save that for later in the relationship.
Erik turns to his friends.
erik: Hey, guys! What movie is this from? “Nobody puts Baby in a corner!”
group: Dirty Dancing!
They erupt in laughter. He turns back to you.
erik: Do you think spells work? Like magic spells?
I was having a debate with some friends.
player: Weird.
Erik gestures for you to tone it down.
erik: You really wrecked a moment!
He looks at you with disappointment.
erik: Your ex-boyfriends must have hated that
about you.
He laughs, then pushes his drink toward you
and positions his hands on either side of the
glass like a sorcerer conjuring visions from a
crystal ball.
“Kiss the Sky,” a photograph by Chloe Sells, whose work was on view in March at Julie Saul Gallery, in New York City.
erik: Here. Hold this.
He puts your hands around the glass.
erik: I don’t know whether you can remember
the last time you were able to feel an incredible connection with someone.
He pauses.
erik: When you feel that, it’s almost as if you
can imagine a cord of light extending from
you to that person. And as you begin to glow
with the warmth of that connection, you
can imagine a time in the future, still feeling
that amazing sense of connection, and look
back on today as having been the start of it.
player: Please just stop.
Erik rolls his eyes.
world with no chance of failure, what would
you be?
erik: We are so broken up. I want my CDs back.
He smiles slyly.
He laughs and briefly turns away from you, as
though someone or something else has caught
his attention. Then he turns back toward you
and irmly grabs your shoulder. He gives you an
intense, urgent look.
erik: Is there more to you than meets the eye?
There are lots of beautiful women here.
He moves his hand from your shoulder and
looks away as he awaits your response.
player: Come on, give up the lines.
Erik looks shocked.
erik: I don’t think my girlfriend would like you
flirting with me.
player: What girlfriend?
Erik bursts out laughing.
erik: Oh my God! You’re attracted to me! I
knew that would make you jealous.
He smiles smugly and looks off in another
player: So, what is your story? What do you do?
erik: I’m an adventurer.
player: What does that mean?
erik: Have you ever played Dragon’s Lair?
player: Yes, of course! I’m surprised when anyone knows that reference.
erik: Well, I’m Dirk the Daring!
Before you can respond, he continues:
erik: And you are the fair princess Daphne. I’m
here to save you from the evil dragon.
He contemplates for a second.
erik: I’m not really a video gamer, but that
game was way ahead of its time!
player: Yeah, it was really unusual. You must
be talking about the arcade version.
Just as you deliver your statement, a young
woman comes by and puts her arms around Erik.
They exchange a brief but sensual kiss. She
whispers something to him and walks off. He returns his eye contact to you. You say nothing.
erik: Real quick, and then I have to rejoin my
friends. If you could be anything in the
erik: And don’t say a princess.
By Zora Neale Hurston, from Barracoon, a
previously unpublished ethnography based on
interviews that she conducted with eighty-six-yearold Cudjo Lewis in Alabama in 1927 and 1928.
Lewis was then the last known surviving man to
have been brought to the United States from
Africa as a slave. Hurston (1891–1960) was a
novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist. The book
was published last month by Amistad.
udjo’s friends down the bay caught us a
marvelous mess of blue crabs. We left these
people late in the afternoon with many lingering exchanges of good wishes.
On the way home we saw some excellent late
melons in front of a store and bought two of
them. I left one melon on his porch and took
the other with me.
At the gate he called after me, “You come
tomorrow and eatee de crab wid me. I lak you
come keep me comp’ny!”
So the next day about noon, I was sitting on
his steps between the rain barrels, eating crabs.
When the crabs were gone, we talked.
“Let Cudjo tellee you ’bout our boy David.
He such a good boy. Cudjo doan fugit dat day.
It Easter Saturday. He come home, you unnerstand me, and ind me sweepin’ de church. I
been de sexton long time den. So he astee me,
‘Papa, where mama?’
“I tell him, ‘She in de house.’
“Derefo’ he go in de house, you unnerstand
me, and astee his mama what she goin’ have for
dinner. She tellee him she got de baked ish. He
say, ‘Oh, I so glad we got baked ish. Gimme my
dinner quick.’ His mama astee him, ‘When did
you ever see me give you anything to eat befo’
your Pa?’ He say, ‘Never.’ She say, ‘You takee yo’
bath den maybe dat time yo’ Pa here to eatee
his dinner.’
De boy runee back out to me and tell me
make haste so he git something to eat. He hongry. I choppee de wood so he take de axe and
choppee de wood hisself. I say, ‘Go on, son, I
ain’ weak yet. I kin chop dis wood!’ He say,
‘No, I doan want you chop wood and I right
here and strong.’ Derefo’ he choppee de wood
and keer it in de house where his ma kin
reachee it.
“Den we eat our dinner and David washee
hisself and his mama put out de clean clothes
for him to put on. He got on de unnershirt
but he ain’ got on de top shirt. He ain’ got no
button on de unnershirt so me and his ma
see de flesh. So I say, ‘Son, fasten yo’ clothes
so yo’ mama doan see de skin.’ He lookee at
hisself, den he astee me, ‘Who irst saw me
naked? My ma.’ Den he laugh and put on de
rest of de clothes. He say, ‘Papa, Mama, I go
in de Mobile and gittee de laundry. Den I
have clean shirts.’
From criteria used to catalogue photographs taken
by “Caesar,” an anonymous photographer for the
Syrian military. Between 2011 and 2013, Caesar
photographed 28,707 men tortured and killed by the
regime of Bashar al-Assad. In 2013, he smuggled the
photos out of the country, and they were indexed by
activists. Operation Caesar, an account of Caesar’s
work by the journalist Garance Le Caisne, was
published this month by Polity. Translated from the
French by David Watson.
Light torture
Severe torture
Broken limbs
Skin lesions
Traces of fresh blood
Herniated intestine
Abdomen cut open
Electric shocks
Use of chemicals
Whip marks
Holes in the body
Eyes gouged out
Right index inger raised in a sign of faith
“I astee him, ‘How long befo’ you come from
town?’ He say, ‘Not long. Maybe I ketchee de
same car back.’
“So he go leave de house.
“After while we hear somebody dey come
laughing and talking. My wife, Seely, say, ‘David got a friend wid him.’ I lookee to see who
David got wid him, but it ain’ David.
“Two men come tell me, ‘Uncle Cudjo, yo’
boy dead in Plateau.’
“I say, ‘My boy not in Plateau. He in de Mobile.’
Dey say, ‘No, de train kill yo’ boy in Plateau.’
“I tell dem, ‘How kin de train kill my David in
Plateau when he not dere? He gone in de Mobile
to git his laundry. He be back after while.’
“Seely say, ‘Go see, Cudjo. Maybe it not our
boy. Go see who git killed.’
“Den I astee de men, ‘Where dat man git
killed you tellee me about?’
“Dey say, ‘On de railroad track in Plateau.’
“Derefo’, you unnerstand me, I go follow de
people. Then I gittee to de place wid de big
crowd stand ’round lookee.
“I go through de crowd and lookee. I see de
body of a man by de telegraph pole. It ain’ got no
head. Somebody tell me, ‘Dass yo’ boy, Uncle
Cudjo.’ I say, ‘No, it not my David.’ He lay dere by
de cross ties. One woman she face me and astee,
‘Cudjo, which son of yours is dis?’ and she pointee
at de body. I tell her, ‘Dis none of my son. My boy
go in town and y’all tell me my boy dead.’
One Aficky man come and say, ‘Cudjo, dass
yo’ boy.’
“I astee him, ‘Is it? If dat my boy, where his
head?’ He show me de head. It on de other side
de track. Den he lead me home.
“Somebody astee me, ‘Cudjo, yo’ boy dead.
Must I toll de bell for you? You de sexton. You
toll de bell for everybody else, you want me toll
it for David?’
“I astee him, ‘Why you want to toll de bell
for David? He ain’ dead.’
“De Afficky man told de people pick up de
body and keer it home. So dey took de window
shutter and lay de body on it and fetch it to Cudjo’s gate. De gate, it too small, so dey lift it over de
gate and place it on de porch. I so worried. I wishee so bad my David come back from town so de
people stop sayin’ dat my son on de shutter.
“When dey place de shutter on de porch, my
wife she scream. De Afficky man say again,
‘Cudjo, thass yo’ boy.’ I say, ‘If thass my son, tell
me where de head.’ Dey brung it in a box and I
lookee down in David face. Den I say to de
crowd, ‘Git off my porch! Git out my yard!’ Dey
went. Den I fall down and open de shirt and
pushee my hand in de bosom and feel de marks.
And I know it my son. I tell dem, toll de bell.
“My wife lookee at my face and she scream and
scream and fall on de floor and cain raise herself
Sing First That Green Remote Cockagne, a painting by Cecily Brown, whose work was on view in December at Paula Cooper Gallery, in New York City.
up. I runnee out de place and fell on my face in
de pine grove. Oh, Lor’! I stay dere. I hurtee so. It
hurtee me so to hear Seely cry. Those who had
come cross de water come to me. They say, ‘Uncle Cudjo, come home. Yo’ wife want you.’ I say,
‘Tell Seely doan holler no mo’. I cain stand it.’
“She promise me she won’t holler if I come
home. So I got back to de house. I astee de
friend, ‘Where de head?’ He say, ‘Dere yonder
in de cracker box.’ I tellee him, ‘I want you to
put it dere on de neck and fasten it so dat when
people come in de mornin’, dey won’t know.’
“My friend he fasten de head so it doan look
lak it cut off. Derefo’ nexy day, when people
come lookee in his face, he look jes lak
he sleep.
“De bell toll again.”
ur house it very sad. Lookee lak all de
family hurry to leave and go sleep on de hill.
“Poe-lee very mad ’cause de railroad kill his
brother. He want me to sue de company. I astee
him, ‘Whut for? We doan know de white folks’
law. Dey sey dey doan pay you when dey hurtee
you. De court say dey got to pay you de money.
But dey ain’ done it.’ I very sad. Poe-lee very mad.
De deputy kill his baby brother. Den de train kill
David. He want to do something. But I ain’ hold
no malice. De Bible say not. Poe-lee say in Aficky
soil it ain’ lak in de Americky. He ain’ been in de
Aficky, you unnerstand me, but he hear what we
tellee him and he think dat better dan where he
at. Me and his mama try to talk to him and make
him satisfy, but he doan want hear nothin. He say
when he a boy, the children ight him and say he
a savage. When he gittee a man dey cheat him.
De train hurtee his papa and doan pay him. His
brothers gittee kill. He doan laugh no mo’.
“Well, after while, you unnerstand me, one
day he say he go ketchee some ish. Somebody
see him go t’wards de Twelve Mile Creek. Lor’
Lor’! He never come back.”
There was a muted mournful pause, in which
I could do nothing but wait with my eyes in the
chinaberry tree lest I appear indecently intrusive. Finally he came back to me.
“Excuse me I cain help it I cry. I lonesome
for my boy. Cudjo know dey doan do in de
Americky soil lak dey do cross de water, but I
cain help dat. My boy gone. He ain’ in de house
and he ain’ on de hill wid his mama. We both
missee him. I doan know. Maybe dey kill my
boy. It a hidden mystery. So many de folks dey
hate my boy ’cause he lak his brothers. Dey
doan let nobody ’buse dem lak dey dogs. Maybe
he in de Afficky soil lak somebody say. Po’
Cudjo lonesome for him, but Cudjo doan know.
By Keston Sutherland, from Whither Russia, which
was published last year by Barque Press.
I look down on you, stars of my depression,
Since your shining is so domineering,
Lighting up the drowning, their distresses,
Slaves alike to God and to his humans:
You don’t love and never will know how to.
Unstoppable hours permanently follow
Your lead across the false distended heaven.
What trials they have already got through
Since in the real embrace of my beloved
I forgot them and outlived their midnight.
“I try be very nice to Seely. She de mama, you
unnerstand me, and derefo’, you know she grieve
so hard ’bout her chillun. I always try please her,
you unnerstand me, but when we ain’ got but
two our chillun wid us, I cain stand see her look
so lak she want cry all de time. We ain’ got but
one chile in de house wid us, cause Aleck, dat de
oldest one, you unnerstand me, he married and
live wid his wife. We buildee him a house right
in de yard, jes lak in de Aficky soil.
“Look lak we ain’ cry enough. We ain’
through cryin’. In de November our Jimmy come
home and set round lak he doan feel good so I
astee him, ‘Son, you gittee sick? I doan want you
runnin’ to work when you doan feel good.’ He
say, ‘Papa, tain nothin’ wrong wid me. I doan
feel so good.’ But de nexy day, he come home
sick and we putee him in de bed. I do all I kin
and his mama stay up wid him all night long.
We gittee de doctor and do whut he say, but our
boy die. Oh Lor’! I good to my chillun! I want
dey comp’ny, but looky lak dey lonesome for one
’nother. So dey hurry go sleep together in de
graveyard. He die holdin’ my hand.
“When we gittee back from de funeral, tain
nobody in de house but me and Seely. De
house was full but now it empty. We old folks
now and we know we ain’ going have no mo’
chillun. We so lonesome, but we know we cain
gittee back de dead. When de spit goes from de
mouf, it doan come back. When de earth eats,
it doan give back. So we try to keep one ’nother
comp’ny and be happy.
“I still sexton of de church. It growing to be a
big church now. We call it de Old Landmark
Baptis’ Church, ’cause it de irst one in Aficky
Town. Dey done build mo’ Baptis’ churches
now, but ours, it de irst.
“My wife she help me all she kin. She doan
lemme strain myself.
“One day we plant, de nexy we reap
so we go on.”
efore I left I had Cudjo’s permission to
photograph him. But he forbade my coming
back within three days. A cow had broken in
his fence and was eating his potato vines.
It was on a hot Saturday afternoon that I
came to photograph him.
“I’m glad you takee my picture. I want see
how I look. Once long time ago somebody
come take my picture but they never give me
one. You give me one.”
I agreed. He went inside to dress for the
picture. When he came out I saw that he had
put on his best suit but removed his shoes. “I
want to look lak I in Afica, cause dat where
I want to be,” he explained.
He also asked to be photographed in the cemetery among the graves of his family.
Clockwise from top left: “Selina Brittain, Marieval Indian Residential School 1954–62,” “Mike Pinay, Qu’Appelle Indian Residential School
1953–63,” “Valerie Ewenin, Muskowekwan Indian Residential School 1965–71,” and “Rosalie Sewap, Guy Hill Indian Residential School
1959–69,” photographs by Daniella Zalcman from the series Signs of Your Identity. The series portrays survivors of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools program, which from the 1880s to the 1990s forcibly removed some 150,000 indigenous children from their homes and enrolled
them in government-funded, largely church-run boarding schools. Zalcman’s work is on view as part of the twenty-fourth Moving Walls exhibition, Here We Are: Visual Resistance and Reclaiming Narratives, at the Open Society Foundations, in New York City.
© Daniella Zalcman. Signs of Your Identity was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
America’s addiction to war
few months before the United
States invaded Iraq, in 2003, Donald Rumsfeld, the defense secretary at
the time, was asked on a radio show how long the war would take. “Five
days or ive weeks or ive months,” he replied. “It certainly isn’t going to
last any longer than that.” When George W. Bush departed the White
House more than ive years later, there were nearly 136,000 US soldiers
stationed in the country.
The number of troops has fallen since then, but Bush’s successors have
failed to withdraw the United States from the region. Barack Obama campaigned on ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, only to send hundreds of troops into Syria. For years Donald Trump described America’s efforts in Afghanistan as “a waste” and said that soldiers were being led “to
slaughter,” but in 2017 he announced that he would deploy as many as
4,000 more troops to the country. “Decisions are much different when you
sit behind the desk of the Oval Ofice,” he explained. Every president, it
seems, eventually learns to embrace our perpetual war.
With the Trump Administration’s attacks on affordable health care, immigration, environmental regulation, and civil rights now in full swing,
criticism of America’s military engagements has all but disappeared from
the national conversation. Why hasn’t the United States been able—or
willing—to end these conflicts? Who has beneited from them? Is victory
still possible—and, if so, is it anywhere in sight?
In March, Harper’s Magazine convened a panel of former soldiers at
the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. The participants, almost all of whom saw combat in Iraq or Afghanistan, were
asked to reflect on the country’s involvement in the Middle East. This
Forum is based on that panel, which was held before an audience of cadets and oficers, and on a private discussion that followed.
Andrew J. Bacevich fought in the Vietnam War from 1970 to 1971. He is a contributing editor of
Harper’s Magazine and the author of America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History
(Random House).
Gregory Daddis retired as an Army colonel after serving in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi
Freedom. He is currently an associate professor at Chapman University and the director of the school’s Program in War and Society. His latest book is Withdrawal: Reassessing America’s Final Years in Vietnam
(Oxford University Press).
Jason Dempsey served as an infantry oficer in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He is an adjunct senior fellow
at the Center for a New American Security and a senior adviser to the Columbia University Center for
Veteran Transition and Integration. He is the author of Our Army: Soldiers, Politics, and Civil-Military
Relations (Princeton University Press).
Buddhika Jayamaha served in Iraq as a ire team leader and direct-ire rileman in the 82nd Airborne Division from 2004 to 2009. Under the pseudonym J. B. Walker, he is the primary author of Nightcap at
Dawn: American Soldiers’ Counterinsurgency in Iraq (Skyhorse Publishing).
Sarah Kreps served in the Air Force as a foreign area oficer for European and sub-Saharan African affairs from 1999 to 2003. She is an associate professor at Cornell University, an adjunct scholar at West
Point’s Modern War Institute, and the author of several books, including Drones: What Everyone Needs
to Know (Oxford University Press).
Danny Sjursen has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He is the author of Ghost Riders of Baghdad:
Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge (ForeEdge).
andrew j. bacevich: We’re meeting here at
West Point more than sixteen years after US
forces entered Afghanistan and almost ifteen years after invading Iraq. I think it’s fair
to say that these wars and our military experiences elsewhere since 9/11 have not gone as
expected. Even though we have the world’s
best-trained and best-equipped military—as
each of you knows from your own service—
we seem unable to achieve conclusive success. Organizations that engage in terrorism
continue to proliferate, especially in Africa,
and we’ve failed to establish a stable democracy in either Afghanistan or Iraq. Our conflicts just drag on. So let me ask you: Why
don’t we win?
buddhika jayamaha: Another way to put
your question is: We always win individual
firefights. Why can’t we manage to put
those tactical victories into a coherent political formula?
gregory daddis: We actually don’t always win
tactically. That’s the false narrative that
comes out of Vietnam, that we won tactically but the damn politicians—or the antiwar
movement, or the media, or Jane Fonda—
lost the war for us.
jayamaha: I am citing an empirical fact about
direct-fire engagements. I would estimate
that we win 90 percent of the time. In my
personal experience as a rifleman, we won
every single time.
bacevich: When you say we won, you’re saying
we killed more of them than they killed of
us. They withdrew from the battleield and
we stayed.
jayamaha: Exactly. But my point is that it
would matter only if we rolled these victories into a broader strategy. In terms of being on the ground and taking control of,
say, Baghdad during the surge, our plan did
work. But then you go up to the policy level
and we fail.
bacevich: Because we don’t have a coherent
danny sjursen: We are really waging a war
not against a state but against a tactic: terror. They used to call it the war on terror.
It’s bound to be indecisive. You could argue that the original sin of the war is calling it a war—the minute you do that, everyone starts to run around and act like a
warrior. And we’re surprised that it is
jayamaha: There are also context-speciic issues in Afghanistan and Iraq that keep us
there. For example, we are staying in Afghanistan to avoid state failure: if we leave,
the bottom will fall out. In Iraq, we thought
we were done. What happened was, the political system that we set up didn’t hold in
our absence, so we went back. And now staying put has no political cost.
sjursen: It would be politically dangerous to
bacevich: For politicians, staying is the safer
course. As long as they make a show of
supporting the troops, they are able to
evade accountability.
sjursen: Whether you are a Republican politician or—especially, perhaps—a Democrat, you say, “We will let the president
continue so he can keep us safe.” Congress
has relinquished its constitutional power
to declare war.
In this situation, also, having an allvolunteer force creates a perfect storm. If this
were a draftee army, if there were conscription in some way, I think it would be much
harder to keep the forever war going. The
reason why it has been seventeen years and
there is still really no antiwar movement—
like we saw during Vietnam—is because
the ighting is done by such a small portion
of Americans.
jayamaha: I have students who, when I tell
them we own a third of Syria, say, “Wait,
what? We have soldiers in Syria?” We have
like two thousand of them! I don’t think
people even care.
jason dempsey: Most Americans don’t know
enough to care.
bacevich: When four soldiers were killed in
Niger, even Lindsey Graham, who sits on
the Senate Armed Services Committee,
said, “I didn’t know there was a thousand
troops in Niger!”
dempsey: Americans are beset by an attitude of
respectful indifference. The approval rating
of the US military is astronomical—really,
no institution merits a 70 percent approval
rating, especially not one that struggles to
wrap up conflicts over seventeen years. How
do we explain this? Some of it is just ignorance. The American public today has no
idea how the military operates, how the defense budget is spent, what portion of our
budget is actually devoted to foreign aid.
They just know that they should respect the
military. I submit that a good portion of public approval of the military can be explained
by, basically, “I’m not being asked to do any
of this. So who am I to criticize?”
sarah kreps: That’s part of it. We also used to
have war taxes. That’s a different way in
which war came home for the American public. It put pressure on leaders to reevaluate
how wars were going.
The last war that the United States unequivocally won was the Second World War.
That is a very clear inflection point. One of
the things that changed after that was the
introduction of nuclear weapons. They made
Illustrations by John Ritter
this doctrine of “go all in or don’t go at all”
really untenable, because going “all in” now
means ten million people die. No one is willing to do that. So we end up doing these half
measures that lead to stalemate.
bacevich: Can I press you a little bit on your
point about nuclear weapons? Maximum US
troop strength in Iraq at the time of the
2007–08 surge was about 160,000. Maximum
troop strength in Afghanistan during the
Barack Obama surge in 2010 –11 was
100,000. If you look at those numbers in
comparison with other American wars, they
are nothing. I don’t know that a ground force
of 500,000 could have paciied Iraq, but it
might have had a better chance than a force
of 160,000. I don’t think the reason we were
willing to send half a million troops to Vietnam and only 100,000 to Afghanistan has
anything to do with nuclear weapons.
kreps: Nuclear weapons pushed both Vietnam
and Afghanistan to the periphery because
we didn’t want to come up against countries
like Russia or China. So we keep the scale of
our conflicts just small enough that they
don’t prompt a retaliatory response from a
major power, and end up in this practice of
ighting asymmetric conflicts in which the
other side wants to win more than we do.
dempsey: The military is waging these wars doing
just what it likes to do: targeting and direct-ire
engagements. We put the patina of counterinsurgency on our strategy, but counterinsurgency is about working with and through local
forces to ind solutions for that country. That
takes individuals who are committed to the
in Afghanistan is, “Look, we punched those
guys in the face. We pushed them off the
battleield. We created space.” That’s the goto excuse. We drove out the enemy to “create
space,” and now by some miracle the Afghan
government is going to ix itself.
daddis: It allows the blame to be shifted to the
local government: “We created the space, we
did our job; it’s not our failure, it’s the failure
of the locals.”
dempsey: That’s one of the most fascinating
things—the excuses you hear about why we are
not successful in Afghanistan. You can boil every single one of them down to: “Our strategy
in Afghanistan would be going perfectly if only
Afghanistan were a different country.”
ight long enough to understand the nuances of
local politics and culture—something the US
military simply will not support. We will continue to be a tactical force that prioritizes conventional war-ighting skills, sending conventional war-fighting units into battle in
seven-, nine-, and twelve-month increments.
If you think you can do counterinsurgency
in nine-month increments, we can’t even
have a conversation.
By our own metrics of success, we say, “We
did great!” What we’ve said for sixteen years
jayamaha: We’re focusing on Afghanistan
and Iraq, but there are a lot of places where
we are at war but aren’t technically at war,
such as the Sahel, from Mauritania to
South Sudan. Our primary concern is making sure failing states don’t collapse, but
that requires soldiers, which requires bases,
which requires more soldiers to guard those
bases. It just keeps growing. Now we have
drone bases all across the region.
bacevich: Does anyone think drone strikes are
helping us win these wars?
kreps: I don’t think it is a successful strategy,
but I can see why it persists. US decision
makers have incentives to carry out drone
strikes—to do something—to get those tactical victories and keep the ighting out of the
newspapers at home, to keep the phone calls
out of senators’ ofices. All these interests are
aligned to perpetuate this policy, even if strategically it is a loser—and on questionable
ethical grounds.
dempsey: It’s telling that ethics is the only
framework we use to criticize drone policy.
We never ask, “What the hell do the people
on the opposite side actually think about
America, and what message does this send?”
We live so much in our own bubble. We believe that what we are doing is right, that we
are launching these drones with good intent.
But they have consequences for innocent
people. When civilians get killed, we say,
“Okay, so the strike killed a wedding party.
We’re sorry. That’s cool, right?” We have no
idea what storm of second- and third-order
effects that one mistake has had.
kreps: It’s really dificult to suss out whether
this or that wedding-party strike actually just
created more terrorists.
Source photograph: © RASimon/Getty Images
dempsey: Still, we have no one on the ground
mitigating the effects of these strikes. We wonder why terrorist groups are popping up by the
dozens across the Middle East and Africa. We
somehow forget that there is a political component to force, not just an ethical one.
jayamaha: Even when we do have people on
the ground, the local information they receive gets us sucked into other people’s political fights. In Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh
used our drone strikes to go after his own opponents. According to some reports, this
may have happened in Somalia as well.
bacevich: It appears that ever since the onset
of the so-called forever wars, our knowledge
of local conditions has been deicient.
kreps: The United States has its tentacles everywhere. A couple of months ago a journalist at
the Wall Street Journal called me wanting to
talk about the Sahel, where the United States
and France have deployed military assets to respond to increasing terrorist activity. I said, “I
am not a Sahel expert.” He replied, “I can’t ind
anyone who is!” This guy is combing through
all these experts and no one is a Sahel expert.
A few years ago we needed Yemen experts.
Now they’re sort of anachronistic. Today we
need Sahel experts. It’s this vicious cycle.
jayamaha: Before we engaged in Yemen, why
would anyone have chosen to study it? I work
with a lot of oficers who would like to specialize in Africa, but they don’t—it would be
a career killer.
bacevich: Professional incentives reinforce our
daddis: I think it’s the military’s assignment cycle as well. I have a friend who served in Iraq
three times over ive years. Instead of sending
him back to the same province so he could
start on his second or third tour with at least
some local knowledge, the military assigned
him to a different place each time. We can’t
even get this right inside one country.
sjursen: I’m skeptical that more regional experts would have had much of an effect.
While I agree 100 percent that there is a better way to do these forever wars, I’m not convinced expertise would matter. A real
expert—an academic or someone outside the
military—might advise us to stay out.
kreps: Right. My friend in the State Department told me that in 2003 they were always
building new latrines in Afghanistan because the Afghans were just throwing rocks
down the toilets. They had never used these
facilities before. It would have been helpful if
we had spoken with some people who had
knowledge of the region. They might have
said, “Maybe you shouldn’t do nation building. Rethink this whole enterprise.”
dempsey: When I got over to Afghanistan, we
wanted to build a bunch of outposts but didn’t
trust the local politicians or even our partner
military forces with money. So we contracted
the work out to companies in Kabul. Two or
three years later, I visited one of these newly
constructed outposts. It was in the wrong
spot. Its kitchen was built with propane
stoves; everyone in Afghanistan cooks with
wood. Was the whole country just supposed to
start cooking a different way? And who
thinks transporting propane to remote outposts in Afghanistan is a good idea?
bacevich: We make these mistakes without appreciating the consequences.
dempsey: It is utterly absurd. It ties in with the
idea that the military can do no wrong. The
analogy I’ve been using lately is: Let’s say you’re
a Marriott executive. And you want to build a
hotel from scratch in Mongolia, where there
has never been one before. You say, “How are
we going to do it? Well, the guy who manages
the hotel in Newburgh, New York, is pretty
good. Let’s send him.” And then you tell the
guy, “You’ve got nine months. Here’s a checkbook.” It’s an absurd proposition. But stick
someone in a uniform, and we’re like, “You can
be the mayor of an Iraqi town!”
Now, if you took a West Point cadet and
marched him over to Cornwall, New York,
and told the townspeople, “Give him your
books for a year because he’s going to manage
your town,” you’d get laughed off the street.
But we believe that if it is an oficer doing it
in Iraq or Afghanistan, then it must be okay.
He’s just solving brown people’s problems.
bacevich: But it’s not that we have a white
man’s army—one in which only white men
go off to these places. We have an army that
is sensitive to issues of race and ethnicity in
its own ranks.
dempsey: Most senior oficers do believe they
are color-blind. But it’s easy to be color-blind
when you are sitting around a table and everybody is a white, Christian male of your
age. “Hey, Bill, are you racist?” “No, I’m not
racist.” “Hey, Bob, are you racist?” “No.”
“Okay, we’re going great! This is awesome!”
That’s the convo in the senior ranks. It’s not
ill will, just human nature, which makes it
even harder to ix.
sjursen: Let’s also not forget that the combatarms division of the military is much whiter
and much more male than the support
branches. Most people interacting with Iraqis or Afghans or—jeez—now Syrians are
white, Christian, and male.
dempsey: Right. I’d trace it back to American exceptionalism, the idea that we can land in a
country and say, “Hey, have you heard of us?
Because we’re awesome. You must have already
heard of us. So let’s create something that looks
like us.” We never consider that there are a lot
of Afghans who don’t want to move to America, who think that they are pretty awesome.
We have bought into our own propaganda so
deeply that we have no idea that other people
might not even have been exposed to it.
bacevich: You are saying American exceptionalism has a racial element, right? That even
though the instrument of exceptionalism—
the military—is integrated pretty successfully, our expectations of who we are and what
we can achieve hark back to a white, Christian, male image. But it’s not explicit.
daddis: I think it is explicit when you take a
look at the theories underpinning American exceptionalism—like modernization
theory from the Fifties and Sixties. We still
believe that there is a formula and there is
an end state and we are the end state. General Stanley McChrystal used to say in Afghanistan, “We’ve got a government in a
box.” That is military orientalism—the idea
that rational, culturally advanced Americans can impose their ways on the savage
other in a foreign land. It’s a theoretical assumption based on racism.
bacevich: That conviction is hardwired into
many Americans—that we are the chosen
people and that we came into existence in
order to fulill some kind of providential purpose. And it doesn’t seem to be going well in
places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
dempsey: Sadly, being played for suckers in other people’s wars might just be the purest expression of American exceptionalism.
bacevich: To acknowledge that is to commit
what, in the context of our civil religion, is a
mortal sin.
bacevich: Our conversation brings to mind The
Soldier and the State, a book by the political
scientist Samuel Huntington that has been
popular here since the Fifties. He concludes
with this remarkable reflection comparing
West Point and Highland Falls, the nearby
town. When I was a cadet here long ago, we
couldn’t even go to Highland Falls. But we
knew it was an unlovely little place. Huntington’s point was that the contrast between
West Point and Highland Falls said something very important about America. Highland Falls was commercial—the people there
wanted to make money—but when you passed
through West Point’s Thayer Gate, you en-
countered people who were inspired by duty,
honor, and country. West Point was sacred,
Highland Falls profane. And he emphasized
the gap, from his point of view, between those
two worlds that existed right next to each other. When I was a cadet, I found the comparison utterly compelling. Now that I am older, I
think it is probably one of the most dangerous
notions ever proposed by a serious scholar.
sjursen: Yeah, when the military starts to enjoy the adulation and expect it, I’m not certain that’s healthy.
dempsey: Demanding a discount at Applebee’s
is not service.
daddis: We have moved from having respect
for the military to being unable to criticize it.
Think of some of the political debate revolving around John Kelly, the White House
chief of staff, over the past few months. Back
in late 2017, Kelly publicly disparaged a Florida congresswoman and wrongly accused her
of taking credit for funding an FBI building.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the press secretary,
said it was “highly inappropriate” for reporters to criticize a four-star general. That’s not
a good place for our democracy to be. Just
because Kelly served admirably in the Marines for forty years, that doesn’t set him on a
plateau where we can no longer criticize him.
It is dangerous to establish a hierarchy in
which generals are above critique.
dempsey: Remember how our senior leaders
talked about the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t
Tell? You had a whole cohort of oficers—
reportedly including Kelly—who were convinced that the repeal was going to ruin
the military.
daddis: If you are a senior military oficer and
you disagree with anything—policy, personnel, strategy—the trump card is to say that
this will undermine cohesion and the ability
to accomplish the mission.
dempsey: When the topic of women serving in
combat positions came up, you had Colin
Powell and a bunch of Vietnam-era leaders
who all said, “Hey, when I was in combat,
this wouldn’t fly.” Everybody else said, “Oh,
shit! I’d better listen to the generals.” Then
these two wars broke out. We had all these
individual experiments. Infantry units like
mine in Afghanistan, in Kunar province,
would have women integrated throughout.
We did that a thousand times, and we built
bathrooms and barracks for multiple genders.
We igured it out. What we actually had was
widespread bottom-up adaptation. Really, before the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and
the integration of women, the military was a
social experiment that catered to the sexual
hang-ups of sixty-ive-year-old males.
kreps: I think that a lot of these bottom-up experiments had to take place. Look at
Obama’s evolution on gay marriage. In 2008
he had a fairly conservative position. And then
over a few years, as society changed and he saw
that actually, this works pretty well, he became
more receptive to it.
daddis: As society continues to evolve, so
does the idea of the soldier. I remember
here at West Point when we were going
through the debate over the integration of
women into combat forces, most cadets just
shrugged their shoulders. There was one cadet whose biggest concern was not whether
he would be serving with women but whether he could still be called an infantryman—
his father and grandfather had gone to West
Point, and he wanted to be called, like them,
an infantryman.
bacevich: Ah, to be eighteen!
daddis: Yeah, he didn’t care about cohesion or
dempsey: Cleaning latrines with toothbrushes
has been used as a hazing and team-building
exercise in basic training. I once heard a senior military oficer lament that this exercise
wouldn’t be allowed if women were integrated. As if there were no other team-building
exercises they could do. The point is we had
all these officers who were categorically
wrong about the force they were leading, and
yet we still listen to them. We still take their
word for it.
daddis: What civilian policymaker is going to
look a general in the eye and say, “General, I
disagree”? That’s a hard thing to do.
kreps: I think it is about more than just talking to
the generals. I think there is something less
nefarious—or more nefarious—going on.
bacevich: I’m for more nefarious!
kreps: I can tell. There is a bigger narrative. You
have people like Obama, who campaign on
getting out of Iraq, getting out of Afghanistan. But what does he do when he gets into
office? He says, “Well, actually, no.” The
American experience is one of not giving up,
so you don’t want to be the guy who withdrew
from the war. As long as these leaders are responsive to a public that doesn’t want to see
us losing, we’ll just continue muddling on.
bacevich: What about the soldiers ighting these
wars? The opinions at this table seem to suggest that the wars are futile. But the widespread
disintegration of discipline and morale that affected US forces in Vietnam—which I very
much recall from my own time there—seems
not to have happened in the post-9/11 wars.
jayamaha: Being a soldier is now a profession.
My platoon sergeant, getting ready for his
eighth deployment to Afghanistan, might
have said, “Yeah, it is bullshit,” but he was
excited to go.
bacevich: In other words, “This is just what
we do.”
jayamaha: Strip everything out of it. Think of
it as a job you are committed to.
daddis: It’s not a job—it’s a drug. We’ve addicted our soldiers to war, and to the cycle of
war. The costs of being addicted—damaging
soldiers’ psyches, tearing families apart, creating an unhealthy relationship between soldiers and the adrenaline rush of combat—
are hidden until later.
I think there is also a class component to
the all-volunteer force that we shouldn’t underrate. This is another way that adulation
for the military plays a part in the enduring
war. Young soldiers have an opportunity for
social recognition that might be out of their
reach anywhere else in American society.
For a young man or woman of a certain class,
this is an opportunity for something that is
visceral: they matter in society, they are recognized, they have worth.
sjursen: The military is also a welfare state; it is
the most socialist institution we have. It provides a certain degree of economic stability. I
worry that we have a military caste that is
growing—that it’s become a family business.
jayamaha: For 80 percent of those who serve,
it is a family tradition.
kreps: Think of the past thirty years—real
wages in the US economy have stagnated.
Here you have an opportunity to get a raise
of 2 or 3 percent a year, and decent health
care as well.
daddis: Add in the GI Bill, which you can pass
on to your kids.
dempsey: Society says that you join the Army
and you’re set for life and you’re a hero forever. But that is a terrible oversimpliication. In
2009, when we were leaving Afghanistan, we
did some pretty good proactive soldier assessments, trying to preempt all the issues we
were going to have when we got back. One
of our primary concerns as leaders was that it
wasn’t necessarily about the soldiers who had
experienced trauma during the deployment.
It was about those who had issues before the
deployment but thought that somehow service in combat was going to solve family, inancial, and personal issues that they
brought with them.
bacevich: When they get home, their problems
are waiting for them.
bacevich: There are many thousands of our
fellow citizens who come home and whose
lives are permanently damaged from these
wars that simply drag on and on and on.
How is it that the senior military leaders at
this juncture of the long war can dismiss the
price being paid by the soldiers for whom
they are responsible?
dempsey: I don’t think any of them wake up in
the morning and say, “I don’t care. I’m not
trying to do the right thing.”
bacevich: Okay, okay. But the alternative is
that they get up in the morning and say, “It’s
not up to me.”
dempsey: There has been a lot written about
John Nicholson’s command of US forces in
Afghanistan, and about the sunk-cost mentality. He’s been there in one capacity or
another since 2006. He’s lost soldiers there.
Maybe at this point he doesn’t have the
perspective to stop.
bacevich: He’s lost so many of his soldiers that
he can’t bear to acknowledge that this is a
failed enterprise?
dempsey: Right. He thinks, “If I were to walk
away, what does that mean for the legacy of
when I was in charge?”
I have a great experiment that we could
do right here at West Point with all the oficer evaluation reports from the war. Pick a
province—any province in Afghanistan.
Then pull the reports from every single commander who was in charge of that province
from 2007, 2008, 2009, and so on. Erase the
personal identifying information and read
them in chronological order. What do you
think you are going to read?
daddis: Progress.
dempsey: Yeah, a story of success.
Every guy walks into the war on a ninemonth assignment. He’s trying to do some
things with the Afghans, but he decides getting out and killing Taliban is maybe a little
easier than training Afghan forces to ight
for themselves. He conducts a great targeting
effort for six to nine months and he sells it as
progress. He says, “Yeah, those Afghans just
weren’t willing to work with us yet, but as
long as the next guy follows up with them,
we are going to do great.” The bureaucracy
has told every single one of the nine, ten,
twelve guys in a row who owned Kunar or
Wardak or Logar that they were all fantastic
people doing a great job. There is a disconnect between how the bureaucracy evaluates
itself and what our true goals are. But you’re
never going to get anybody to dig into that,
because that would call for some accountability from our senior oficers.
bacevich: Is there any obligation for oficers
to dissent?
sjursen: In theory, the obligation increases as
you rise up through the ranks. That said, it’s
not an accident that everyone on this panel
was probably a major or topped out at colonel. Most of the people dissenting in the mil-
itary are probably of middle rank. I haven’t
seen any general willing to put his or her
stars on the table and say, “The forever war
isn’t working. I don’t think you’re giving us a
winnable task.”
bacevich: There have been generals—albeit in
retirement—who have spoken critically. But
their doing so ends up being a twenty-fourhour story: “Retired general so-and-so says
that the Afghanistan war is unwinnable.” It
is a page 15 story in the New York Times, and
that’s it.
dempsey: I remember an oficer who saw a retired general speak out, and he said, “He’s
got that retirement courage.” Well, goddamn! That’s better than none at all.
jayamaha: I don’t agree. Active-duty generals
should not be dissenting publicly. Protracted
wars are a function of political failures. Answers to political failures do not come from
politicizing the officer corps. The answers
have to be determined by politics, in the relationship between elected lawmakers and
the wider public.
I believe there is room for dissent within
the military, but I wonder: What does dissent mean if you are a four-star general? To
whom do you dissent?
bacevich: Take the chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff. When there is a proposal to
send another 30,000 troops to Afghanistan,
he might say, “Mr. President, Mr. Secretary,
this ain’t gonna work. Either we should send
300,000 or we should find our way out of
there.” That is his appropriate role.
dempsey: But look at the tenure of Richard Myers or Peter Pace as chairman. Both were utter
disasters. In Myers’s case, it was not necessarily his fault—he thought he was going to modernize the military and make it look more like
the Air Force, and suddenly he was ighting a
ground war in Iraq. He was out of his league.
Pace, however, had issues even being heard in
the White House. He didn’t understand what
his obligation was. We don’t train them for
the job. They don’t know about all these informal levers of power that they must sometimes pull to be effective in Washington.
daddis: There is an organizational-culture issue, too. We grow up in the military with
this sense that dissent equals disrespect. We
just had a senior leader here at West Point
leave this room uncomfortable with the conversation we were having because it was in
front of cadets. He was arguing that the military does what it is asked and that is what it
is supposed to do—to be prepared for fullspectrum warfare.
kreps: One of the oficers was rolling his eyes.
It is so ingrained in them.
After 9/11, I was in the perfect place in
the sense that I was happy to be in uniform and serving the country. But then
Iraq rolled around. By then I was a captain
and so I voted with my feet. I moved over
to the intelligence side, which seemed
somehow more benign. A few years later I
ran into David Petraeus, who was by then a
four-star general. Somehow we started talking about the Iraq War, and I said, “Well, I
was only a captain, so what could I do?”
And then he said, “Yeah, I was only a twostar general. What could I do?” * As a captain you think the generals surely have a
voice. But he felt that as a two-star general
he didn’t have a voice.
bacevich: Let’s say no one steps in to end these
wars. How likely is it, then, that the United
States will be able to achieve its original
aims in Iraq and Afghanistan—that both
nations will become stable countries aligned
with the United States?
sjursen: I’m 100 percent pessimistic.
I just came from Fort Leavenworth, where
they have a formula: ends equals ways plus
means. But the ends we laid out are unachievable. It doesn’t matter how many ways
or means you come up with. There is absolutely no chance of success as it was laid out
by the Bush Administration. Or even in
some of Obama’s rhetoric.
bacevich: That’s depressing.
sjursen: We should really be guarding our core
national-security interests—of which there
are very few in the Middle East and North
Africa—and go for something more similar
to counterterrorism, where we focus on policies and military tactics aimed at thwarting
terrorist organizations.
Our objective now should be to extricate
ourselves from the region without causing
more damage. You’re not going to have a
lot of serving oficers say that, because it
has become the norm to just deploy and redeploy. This has been going on for seventeen years.
jayamaha: In Iraq, we did get out, and then we
got sucked back in. Now we’ve defeated the
Islamic State, but everyone is worried about
what’s going to happen at the country’s next
election, in our absence. There are about ifty militia groups in Iraq.
bacevich: Are they all anti-government?
Petraeus told Harper’s Magazine that he did not recall
this conversation.
jayamaha: No, no. They are part of the Iraqi
security architecture. But they have their
own interests, and they are aligned with political parties. Think about that. Every political party has its own armed force. How is
that gonna work out?
Now, at the moment there is a strange
dynamic in Iraq. We are there and the Iranians are there. Iraqi politicians are in the
middle, and they feel safe. But how is this
going to evolve when we leave?
During 2006 and 2007, many Iraqi Sunnis who had allied with Al Qaeda realized
that we were better to work with than
those nutjobs, and so they switched over to
us. Then the Iranians came in, and got in
the middle of domestic Iraqi Shia politics.
Now there is an election coming, and
there are some Sunnis and Shiites who
cannot stand the Iranian Revolutionary
Guard Corps oficers lording it over them.
They like to have us around and would
like to use us as a hedge against the Iranians. But thus far, we have not made any
credible public comment about whether we
are staying or leaving. I have no idea
whether we plan to get out. Or, if we stay
in, what the objective is.
daddis: When we discuss this question of
whether we can eventually win, we have to be
careful not to misuse history—particularly
military history.
bacevich: Says the historian.
daddis: I had to. Look, we still ind alluring
this Great Man approach to history. I
think that leads to a false sense of optimism about what the future holds. When
we look back to Vietnam, we still find
compelling this narrative that the wrong
general with the wrong strategy—like William Westmoreland—was losing the war,
and then a good general with a good strategy came in and won the war. We want to
believe that an American who is culturally
attuned, who has a better way, can come
in and give us a path to victory. Because
we are Americans and we are exceptional.
I think that explains the popularity of
Max Boot’s new book on Edward Lansdale,
The Road Not Taken, in which he argues that
had Lansdale’s views been embraced by political leaders in South Vietnam and by senior American military oficers, things might
have turned out quite differently.
bacevich: The expectation of a savior general
has a complement: the expectation of a savior in chief. It’s the idea that a civilian leader
with foresight and an equally wise military
leader can take all these problems and somehow solve them—that the management of
war can be top-down. What I remember being taught about war is that it’s chaos. Fog
and friction are omnipresent. It is utterly, totally disorganized. With so much happening
at so many levels, the notion that war can
somehow be harnessed or controlled is a pernicious falsehood.
daddis: We Americans want to believe it is a
management problem.
bacevich: That’s right. “Give me a good president, give me a good general, and by golly,
we can ix this!”
jayamaha: Think of the situation in Iraq and
Syria today. Your argument doesn’t really
hold. Do you even know who the commanding general is for Operation Inherent Resolve?
bacevich: You’re right. I don’t know. But my
point is that expecting some smart general
to fix things removes the responsibility
from citizens to say, “We’re almost seventeen years into this war. What the hell are
we doing?”
dempsey: We’re so enamored by generals that
the president can just say, “I’ve unleashed
these guys—to do more bombing, to bring us
victory.” But do you think Trump is going to
hold the bag two years from now when we’ve
made little progress? He’ll put it on the military. Then the military will say they were
just following orders and made progress
“militarily”—whatever that means.
bacevich: It’s going to end up being Mattis’s war.
dempsey: That’s how the narrative is going to
work out.
kreps: Eventually the narrative is going to
morph into, “This isn’t really a war.” You
probably know the military historian Peter
Mansoor. His model for this is Korea. We’ve
been in Korea for almost seventy years.
bacevich: But Trump told the people whose
votes he was soliciting that he would bring
great change.
sjursen: He is being pulled in all directions by
his generals.
kreps: I don’t see Trump in any of this.
bacevich: He lacks the necessary attention span?
dempsey: He’s almost irrelevant to the argument. He was probably faced with, “Do you
want to be seen as a loser, or do you want to
just keep bombing for a couple of years? And
keep bragging about how great you are?”
daddis: In this case, I wish Trump had embraced the populist platform on which he
ran and more forcefully contested the framework around which this forever-war concept
is built.
jayamaha: Why would Trump want to take
the initiative to get out of these wars?
That has a cost. There is no cost when you
don’t decide.
1 9 6 6
By Louis Simpson
efore dawn I woke, shivering
with cold. I had never been so
cold in my life. While it was still
dark, the bugle sounded reveille. We
dressed as close to the heat as we
could, then fell out under the frosty
stars and were shoved and commanded by the sergeants into the semblance of a company formation.
We were given instruction in tank
driving. The idea was simple. You
pulled on a lever that braked one track;
the other track would keep
going and the tank would
lurch in the braked direction. The farm boys, fresh
from tractors, had no trouble with this; neither did
truck drivers from Brooklyn; but I had never driven
anything but a bicycle. At one point my
instructor shouted, “Jesus Christ!” and
swung at my head with a monkey
wrench—though I don’t believe he was
really trying to kill me; it was just selfdefense. They listed me not as a driver,
but as a loader and radioman.
The aim of military training is not
just to prepare men for battle, but to
make them long for it. Inspections
are one way to achieve this. When
you’ve washed the barracks windows
and floor till they are speckless, you
arrange your clothing and equipment in symmetrical patterns on and
around a bed made tight as a drum.
You stand at attention while a colonel and your company oficers pass
by. Sometimes the colonel stops in
front of you. He may ask you to recite one of the sacred orders of guard
duty; he may look through the barrel
of your weapon, or harass you in a
new way.
The colonel stopped in front of me.
“Soldier,” he said, “do you believe
in God?”
For weeks no one had asked my opinion about anything. My vanity was
roused and I seized the opportunity to
star. I hesitated, then said, “No, sir.”
In a moment the air seemed to
have become as fragile as glass. I had
already begun to be sorry. The colonel spoke again. “Soldier, look out of
that window.”
I looked. There was a brown glimpse
of Texas and a slice of sky. There were
the tanks drawn up in rows.
“Who made all that?”
Someone else might have replied,
“General Motors,” but I didn’t. Retreating from my expressed position as
fast as possible, I said, “I suppose it was
God, sir.”
The colonel told me that He had,
and not to forget it.
e turned out in the freezing
dawn. I climbed into the tank
turret, put on my helmet, and strapped
myself to the seat. The tank lurched
with whining engines and jingling,
squeaking tracks over the plain. When
the sun rose, through the periscope I
glimpsed jigsaw pieces of sky and
earth. We traveled in clouds of dust.
At the end of day, we joggled home
and came to a stop. But the task was
not over. The tank guns then had to
be cleaned and greased, and sometimes a track had to be repaired.
While the infantryman returned to
the barracks, cleaned his rifle, showered, and went his way to chow and a
movie, we struggled with our monster,
cursing, shoving, sledgehammering.
Fort Hood! It was there we beat the
Germans. There, shivering at dawn and
sweating at noon, we endured the climates of Africa and pestilent Kwajalein.
The iron of which those tanks were
made entered our souls.
Hood was our university.
There we got our real education, which set us off
from the men who came
before and the men who
came after.
Under certain conditions human nature can be changed
into something else. A man can be
changed from a political animal into a
machine—articulated to climb or leap
from a height, to swing a sledgehammer, to dig with a shovel. His instincts
can be trained so that with ingers from
which all doubt has departed he can
pick apart a machine gun under a blanket and assemble it again. Turn men
out of their offices, separate them
from the flesh of women, and books,
and chairs; expose them to the naked
sky and set them drudging at physical
tasks, and in a few months you can
change the mind itself. Religion, philosophy, mathematics, art, and all the
other abstractions, can be blotted out
as though they never existed. This is
how Ur and Karnak vanished and this
is how the Ice Age will return.
Reprinted by permission of the Estate of
Louis Simpson.
From “The Making of a Soldier USA,” which appeared in the February 1966 issue of Harper’s Magazine. The complete essay—along with the
magazine’s entire 168-year archive—is available online at
Albert Einstein remains the quintessential icon of
modern genius. Like Newton and many others,
his seminal work in physics includes the General
Theory of Relativity, the Absolute Nature of
Light, and perhaps the most famous equation of
all time: E=mc2.
Following his death in 1955, Einstein’s brain
was removed and preserved, but has never
been fully or systematically studied. In fact,
the sections are not even all in one place, and
some are mysteriously unaccounted for! In this
compelling tale, Frederick E. Lepore delves into
the strange, elusive afterlife of Einstein’s brain,
the controversy surrounding its use, and what
its study represents for brain and/or intelligence
Finding Einstein’s Brain
Frederick E. Lepore
Comic Book
New York Jewish Intellectual
Historians on
How a Blockbuster
Musical Is Restaging
America’s Past
Edited by
Renee C. Romano
Claire Bond Potter
A Harper’s bestseller
finally re-issued
Writing in America
Edited by
John Fischer and
Robert B. Silvers
A Rutgers University Press
Diet and the
Disease of
Stanley Kubrick
Comic Book Movies
New York Jewish
Blair Davis
Adrienne Rose Bitar
Nathan Abrams
Quick Takes: Movies and
Popular Culture series
Quick Takes: Pocket-sized gems on popular culture. Collect them all!
Digital Cinema
The Modern British
Horror Film
New African Cinema
Stephen Prince
Monster Cinema
Steven Gerrard
Digital Music Videos
Barry Keith Grant
Film Remakes and
Steven Shaviro
Daniel Herbert
Ian Olney
Comic Book Movies
Blair Davis
Rock ‘n’ Roll Movies
David Sterritt
Valérie K. Orlando
Zombie Cinema
Disney Culture
John Wills
A Syrian refugee family’s search for home
By Abe Streep
he family was informed they
would be moving to a place
called Montana. Jaber Abdullah had never heard of it, but a Google
search revealed that it
was mountainous. Up to
that point, he and his
wife, Heba, had thought
they’d be moving from
Turkey to Newark, New
Jersey. The prospect of
crime there concerned
Heba, as she and Jaber
had two young sons: Jan,
a petulant two-year-old,
and Ivan, a newborn.
Montana sounded like
the countryside. That,
Heba thought, could be
good. She’d grown up in
Damascus, Syria, where
jasmine hung from the
walls and people sold dates
in the great markets.
These days, you checked
the sky for mortar rounds
like you checked for rain,
but she still had little desire to move to the United
States. Basel, Jaber’s brother, a twenty-two-year-old with a cool,
quiet demeanor, merely shrugged.
Jaber, for his part, grew excited. He
loved the outdoors, having grown up
Abe Streep lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His article “In Search of a Stolen Fiddle” appeared in the May 2015 issue of
Harper’s Magazine.
Illustrations by Danijel Žeželj
farming and hunting in a small village
near Mount Abdulaziz, in northern
Syria. And the mountains would not
have the searing heat of their last
home, Adana, Turkey, where a frustrated resident once tried to shoot the
sun. He liked the idea of his children
growing up with American opportunities; however, he was worried they
would feel like strangers. The family
was Kurdish, an identity they clung to
dearly. Jaber once said being Kurdish
was “something special.” But their new
home wouldn’t offer much in the way
of Jaber and Heba’s culture. “The last
best place,” as Montana is sometimes
called, is 89 percent white. More than
6 percent of the population is Native, but it’s the
least black state in the
nation, and just 2 percent
of the population are immigrants. This demographic homogeneity has
attracted militias, Patriot
groups, and white supremacists such as Richard Spencer, who resides
part-time in the ski town
of Whiteish.
On January 16, 2017,
two days after the oficial
charged with arranging
refugee travel for the US
Department of State
handed them their documents, the Abdullahs
boarded a plane. They
brought just a few suitcases of clothes. Basel
carried on his baglama (a
stringed instrument akin
to a bouzouki) so that the
wood wouldn’t warp in the baggage
hold. They stepped off the plane in
Missoula and saw brightly colored
jackets, a giant poster advertising
catch-and-release fly-fishing, and
enough taxidermy to ill a wing of a
museum—the Missoula airport more
closely resembled a ski lodge than an
international hub.
Jaber wore slim jeans and a crisp
port windows he could see high snowfade haircut, an appearance that bebanks. He and Basel decided to have
lied his rural roots. Over the years he’d
a cigarette, and the brothers stepped
worked as a farmer, a stone crusher, a
through automatic doors into the
cook, a dishwasher, a cement layer, a
night. Jaber lit up, inhaling smoke and
falafel-delivery man, an arborist, and
freezing air. He felt like a stranger.
a canary breeder. Now he was twentyeight, with a big laugh that revealed a
he Abdullahs arrived in Mismissing lower tooth. Heba, who was
soula thanks to the efforts of
twenty-ive, loved poetry and fashion.
Mary Poole, a thirty-six-yearShe had a round face, a mole on her
old jewelry maker, former nurse, arupper lip, and expressive eyebrows
borist, and raft guide who has short
that often signaled dismay at Jaber’s
black hair and a nose ring. In Sepsudden decisions. After they fell in
tember 2015, Poole had been breastlove, he downsized the flock of canarfeeding her infant son and scrolling
ies he tended from forty to eight, a
through her Facebook feed when she
more reasonable number. In March
saw a series of photos of Alan Kurdi,
2014, sixteen months after their marthe three-year-old Syrian boy who
riage and three years after the onset of
drowned that month near Bodrum,
civil war, they sold everything they
owned and fled their home in Qamishli, a Syrian city on the Turkish
border with a large Kurdish comOFFICE IN MISSOULA—THE FIRST
munity. The birds stayed behind.
Jaber made the trip irst, running
across the border with a group of
about ifty men as guards ired into
the darkness around them. Heba and
Basel followed two months later, paying $5,000 each to a smuggler who had
Turkey. The boy was lying on his belly,
paid off the guards. The cost was neceswith his face tilted slightly to one side.
sary: Heba had given birth to Jan just
It was as though he were napping. Poole
twenty days earlier, and Basel, whose
looked twice, then again. A closer
legs were partially paralyzed from a facviewing showed that his nostrils were
tory accident, struggled to walk on the
covered by tidewater, his sneakers soddesert rock. They met Jaber in Adana
den from the sea. The next photo
and joined a vast line of refugees seeking
showed a Turkish oficial carrying the
resettlement in a third country. Basel’s
child. He held him just as Poole carried
disability eventually proved a blessing,
her own son. She imagined the chain
propelling the Abdullahs to the front;
of events behind the images—an overthey waited less than three years. Ivan
loaded boat in the night, a mishap, the
arrived. Born in Turkey to Syrian parboy’s father arriving alone onshore—
ents, the boy was stateless, so Heba and
and began to cry. Her tears alarmed
Jaber chose a name that could travel.
her; anyone who had seen her peel the
There were Ivans in Syria, Turkey, the
hide off a deer could attest that she was
United States, and Europe.
no bleeding heart. This was a new feelNow Jaber watched the baggage
ing, jagged and urgent. She thought: I
carousel slowly spit out their suitcases.
must help those poor drowning people.
A representative from the local refugee
In the months that followed, Poole
agency was supposed to meet the famled an effort to establish a resettlement
ily and give them a ride to the Motel 6,
program in her hometown in response
but no one had yet appeared. Jaber
to the ongoing migrant crisis. Her
wandered over to a glass case not far
naïveté both spurred her on and
from the carousel and found himself
shielded her from the limits of her
looking at the largest animal he had
experience. She thought it would be
ever seen. It was a stuffed grizzly bear,
simple to bring refugees to Montana.
nearly twice his height, with claws
When Poole started googling “refuthe size of human ingers. He imaggees,” she did not know that, according
ined great predators roaming the
to the United Nations, Alan Kurdi was
streets of Missoula. Through the airnot one—his family had not submitted
a formal application. Those migrants
who obtained refugee status and sought
entry to the United States often found
themselves stalled in an extensive vetting process. And even after approval
by this byzantine system of governments and international organizations,
it often took years to ind a new home.
On that front, Montana posed a particular problem—it was one of two
American states without an active resettlement program. (The other was
and remains Wyoming.) Poole knew
none of this. She assumed there were
dozens of other communities welcoming refugee families in need. “I thought
we would be eighty-second on that list,”
she told me, “and that we would have
to scramble to get to the front.” But
there was no list.
Poole called her organization Soft
Landing Missoula. She began receiving donations and requests to
volunteer; within two months, more
than two hundred people had signed
on to assist refugees who had yet to
arrive. She connected with the Seattle ofice of the International Rescue Committee, founded in 1933 to
aid Jews fleeing Nazi Germany. With
the support of the State Department—
at the time, the Obama Administration
was looking to increase resettlement of
refugees, especially Syrians—the IRC
agreed to open an ofice in Missoula.
It was the irst time in the organization’s history that it did so at an individual’s request.
A thirty-nine-year-old woman
named Molly Short Carr moved in
from Nairobi, Kenya, to run the ofice.
She was as experienced in refugee
work as Poole was green, as circumspect as Poole was bold. One of Carr’s
irst tasks was to ind landlords and
employers. Over the past two decades
Missoula County has grown by more
than 20 percent, to 117,000 people,
but inding full-time work can still be
a challenge, and Missoula lacks large
meatpacking or warehousing industries that attract and thrive on refugee
labor. “What do you call a woman
with one job in Missoula?” Poole
joked. “A lazy bitch!”
Shortly after Soft Landing Missoula’s formation was publicly announced, Poole started receiving
threatening emails, and several Facebook groups were launched in opposi-
tion to the organization. Forty-five
miles south of Missoula, in Hamilton,
Ravalli County, hundreds of people
gathered in a school gym to air their
grievances. A silver-haired preacher
dressed in camouflage intoned, “This
is about setting the stage so that there
will be a battle in Ravalli County, so
that ISIS will come for our women.
And unfortunately, in Ravalli County,
women pack weapons!”
Missoula, they were welcomed by the
native Salish people. By 1891, however, the Salish had been forced to
move north, to what is now the Flathead Indian Reservation. In the late
nineteenth century, Chinese miners
flocked to the state, drawn by a gold
rush, and by 1870 they made up 10 percent of Montana’s population. Irish
Catholic, Eastern European, Jewish,
and black laborers followed to work on
A couple of weeks later, on March 1,
2016, Poole organized an anti-hate
march in Missoula. The march was well
attended, but the animus was alive
elsewhere. Anti-refugee activists had
rallied at the county courthouse, and
at the state capitol, in Helena. In Kalispell, two hours north, a few white
supremacists took to the streets. “I had
no idea,” Poole told me, “the hornet’s
nest I was stepping into.”
the railroads and in the booming copper town of Butte.
But after the Chinese Exclusion Act
was passed in 1882, the Chinese population plummeted. Around the same time,
the anti-Catholic American Protective
Association gained influence in Montana. The APA targeted the Irish,
claiming that Catholics would not submit to American law. (This is now a
common rallying cry for the anti-Muslim
movement.) Within decades, the black
population also began to decline, with
mobs running African Americans out
of small towns via so-called sundown
ordinances. In the 1920s, the Ku Klux
Klan opened forty-six chapters in Mon-
enophobia is as Montanan as
timber and fly rods. In 1805,
when the struggling Lewis
and Clark expedition made it to the
verdant Bitterroot Valley, just south of
tana, and by the end of the decade it
claimed a statewide membership of
5,100—more than twice the combined
black and Chinese population.
Montana is larger than Germany but
less populous than Rhode Island, with
a landscape that creates the illusion of
open frontier. That land, however, is
spoken for—and expensive. Charles
Schwab, Huey Lewis, an heir to the
Hyatt fortune, and the captains of
fracking own huge spreads here; so do
many other landowners who prefer to
be left to their own devices. In the past
twenty years, the cities of Missoula and
Bozeman have exploded thanks to
growth in real estate and tech, while
rural counties built on extractive industries have struggled. The cities are blue,
most rural areas red, and resentment
simmers between them.
The schism is reflected in the state’s
politics—the state legislature is conservative, and Montana’s sole representative in the US House is a Republican,
but one senator and the governor are
Democrats. In 2008, Barack Obama
came within 3 points of winning the
state; in 2016, Donald Trump won by
more than 20. In few other places do
these two diametrically opposed visions
of America—one extractive, rural, and
Trumpian, the other cosmopolitan and
urban—exist in such an uneasy balance. Montana also contains the
looming presence of hate groups, a
small but concerning minority, and
anti-immigrant sentiment has entered
mainstream politics.
The irst refugees were dropped into
this climate in August 2016. They were
a Congolese family of six. Aoci, the
father, a thin, square-jawed man, had
scars on his neck from a witch doctor
who cut him in a refugee camp in Tanzania. He found work at a small baconprocessing plant. Nyota, the mother,
carried herself with a regal air and soon
skipped out, iling for divorce and moving to Kentucky with three of their
children. Four more Congolese families
arrived after that. The women cleaned
rooms at a hotel while the men joined
Aoci at the bacon plant; they were,
however, quickly laid off. Aoci wrote a
self-help book for new refugees whose
tips included “pay attention to time”
and “pray.” Like his fellow Congolese,
Aoci was a devout Christian, a fact
that the Missoula press trumpeted but
that did little to soften opinions outside
town. In late August, a YouTube video
popped up, attacking Carr for importing “Congloids.”
In September, a local bike shop
began planning a Halloween parade.
Poole thought about inviting the
Congolese families to participate,
then decided against it. It occurred
to her that they hadn’t flown across
the globe for show-and-tell. And
the online vitriol was on her mind.
She told the bike-shop owner,
“Maybe let’s not pa rade t hem
through town.”
eating tips. She showed an image of
potato chips and soda next to a red
trafic light. The barber asked where he
could ind halal meat. No one was sure.
When Jody began to get into the
minutiae of recycling—Missoula is the
type of place where buying a coffee with
a disposable lid can get you a reprimanding look—the refugees’ eyes strayed to
their cell phones. Eventually, Carr took
over. “Have you been watching the
news?” she asked. It was one week after
the inauguration of Donald Trump, and
rumors of anti-Muslim acts were circulating. Everyone started talking at once.
“We know about his possible ban on
Muslims,” Heba said.
“As long as you stay inside the United States, you will not be removed,”
Carr said.
In halting English, Jaber tried to
explain to me that his mother, his sister, and another brother were still back
in Adana. In the two years the family
had spent applying for refugee status,
hen the Abdullahs arrived in
Missoula, they were put up
in the Motel 6. Their irst
days were illed with appointments. The
family was told to report to the IRC ofice after a week for a cultural-orientation
session. They were joined there by two
Sunni men in their thirties. One, an
Arabic teacher from Iraq, had fled
Baghdad after being kidnapped by
Shiite militias; the other, a Syrian
barber, had lived in Damascus until
mortar shells destroyed his roof.
The room was an open office
space. The refugees sat at a long
table with Carr and a few volunteers, among them a silver-haired
woman named Jody and an interpreter. Jody and the interpreter presented a slideshow covering everytheir ile had been divided. He waved
thing from education (“The school
his hand in frustration, typed someyear runs from August to June”) to
thing into Google Translate, and held
flossing (“It’s good for gums”) to lanup his phone. “This episode got me
guage requirements. “The expectation
real,” it read.
is that you’ll learn English,” Jody said.
Then Carr made an abrupt transiThe refugees would receive $925 per
tion. “I’m leaving you,” she told the
person from the IRC to cover the irst
group. “Today’s my last day.” For most
three months in Missoula, including
of the past six months she had been
rent. They were eligible for the Supoverburdened, arranging housing and
plemental Nutrition Assistance Projobs for all the refugees with only a
gram (food stamps) and could apply for
single full-time staffer to help.
Temporary Assistance for Needy
That afternoon, news broke of
Families or a matching grant program
Trump’s irst attempt to ban immigration
for adults seeking work.
from seven Muslim-majority nations.
The volunteers were eager to help
the refugees navigate social services
n November 2015, two months afand initiate them into the town’s valter starting Soft Landing Missoula
ues, but they hadn’t necessarily anticiand just after the terrorist attacks
pated their priorities. Jaber wanted to
in Paris, Poole received an email that
know if vocational training would be
contained a photo of a man pointing a
provided. “I am a tree butcher,” he deshotgun at the reader. The text read: “I
clared, explaining his most recent line
know what you are. And I will stop
of work. “Not directly,” Jody informed
you.” Her brother-in-law received a
him—but they would go over healthy
threat on the phone. Soon afterward,
a handwritten letter arrived: “It was the
white man from Europe that built this
once great nation. The ‘people’ you
bring don’t count.” At a meeting of
retirees, someone asked her how she’d
feel if a Muslim raped her. But most of
the vitriol reached Poole through Facebook comments.
For a while, Poole made an effort to
engage with her critics. She spoke at
social clubs and Lutheran churches
and eventually alongside a man from
an anti-refugee group called Sons of
Odin. She reached out online, offering
to meet her critics for beers. (A local
historian said approvingly of Soft
Landing, “They don’t scare.”) One
man, a Navy veteran and former private investigator, met Poole for coffee
and continued a dialogue online.
“One wolf isn’t bad,” he said, referring
to Muslims coming to Montana. Ten
wolves, though, was a different matter.
But he liked Poole, because she seemed
genuinely interested in hearing him
out, and began to feel differently
about refugees after one of the Congolese families moved in next door
to him. “The truth is not what you
think,” he liked to say. “It’s what
you discover.” What he discovered
was that the family next door made
great neighbors.
But he was an exception. Earlier
that summer an Afghan American
named Omar Mateen had killed fortynine people at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and after that Poole
had found that people were less willing
to hear from her. By that time there
were at least ive anti-refugee Facebook groups in Montana. Wild rumors
rebounded in the conservative echo
chamber: Walmart was giving away
jobs to refugees, President Obama
would soon declare martial law, and
Mary Poole was getting rich. Around
the same time, a rumor spread on
Facebook that a contractor in Ravalli
County was building housing for Syrians. The window to his truck was
shot out, and a homemade doll with a
noose around its neck was dropped in
his driveway. He found one of his prize
4-H goats dead near his house, then
received a text saying, “How did you
like seeing your goat hung and dragged
to death your next you refugee loving
fucker.” In October, another rumor
suggested that the government would
air-drop ive thousand Syrians into a
small town called Belgrade, and an
aide from the office of Democratic
senator Jon Tester took it seriously
enough to call Poole. Montana, Poole
told me, “is a very conspiracy-theoryprone area of the world.”
Poole was unprepared to handle
some of the political attacks against
her, especially an onslaught of allegations about an imminent takeover by
sharia law. (Sharia—“the way”—is a
set of guiding Islamic principles, aspects of which have been codiied as
penal law in some nations.) Over the
past ten years, a nonproit group called
ACT for America has served to bolster
anti-Muslim sentiment nationwide by
spreading fears of sharia. ACT calls
itself the “NRA of national security.”
Its chair, a Lebanese-American woman named Brigitte Gabriel, has been a
visitor to Trump’s White House, and
Michael Flynn, the former national
security adviser, was once a member of
ACT’s board. ACT has multiple chapters in Montana; it has hosted events
attended by prominent politicians,
including state legislators and Stan
Stephens, a former governor.
In October, ACT organized a gathering in Missoula featuring Shahram
Hadian, an Iranian American who
left Islam and became a Christian
pastor who speaks frequently about
the threat of sharia law. At a hotel
on the northeast side of town, some
seventy people—most of them older,
although there was a teenage boy in a
T-shirt bearing the image of an assault rifle—came to listen.
The attendees were far outnumbered by protesters on the street.
Poole joined the demonstrators, then
moved inside, choosing a seat near
the middle of the room. She watched
Hadian, a squat man in a trim suit,
take the mic. He announced that he
had come to refute two popular misconceptions: irst, that Islam was “a
religion of peace”; second, that it was
protected under the First Amendment. In short order, Hadian described Mohammed as a false prophet who took hundreds of sex slaves,
called Islam an illegitimate religion,
implied a connection between Islam
and the Holocaust (“Where do you
think Hitler got the idea?”), and
warned that Syrian refugees afiliated
with the Islamic State were coming
to town (“They’ve burned the ingerprints off their hands”). He explained
that the Islamist strategy for “cultural
jihad” was to migrate, populate, and
segregate, and worried that soon
American women would be forced to
cover their bodies. The speed of his
oration conveyed a kind of opaque
authority—that of someone too busy
for actual explanation—and at the
end of two and a half exhausting
hours many in the audience had the
glassy eyes of the newly converted.
Someone asked for advice on how to
deliver the word of Jesus to a Muslim.
Hadian gestured toward the back of
the room, where his wife was selling
a DVD called Evangelizing Muslims.
After Hadian’s speech, a woman
from the audience asked whether
Mary Poole was in the room. Poole
raised her hand gamely. But as
soon as the event concluded she
made a quick exit, deeply rattled.
Later, she told me, “I got advice:
‘Be careful or someone will get
killed.’ Do you play into that drama
and listen? Or do you do what you
believe to be right?”
Before long, Poole stopped reaching out to her online critics. When
Love Lives Here, a nonproit in Kalispell, asked her advice about inviting a resettlement program there,
Poole answered carefully. The decision, she later told me, “needs to be
the opinion of a professional, not
necessarily the opinion of people
who want to help.”
wo days after the orientation
meeting, in January 2017, Jaber, Heba, and Basel walked
through the streets of Missoula surrounded by a protective shell of volunteers. An impromptu rally in support of the city’s small Muslim
population was being held, and it
seemed as though half the town had
turned out. The Abdullahs held
signs citing the Statue of Liberty’s famous inscription—the one about the
huddled masses yearning to breathe
free—and smiled while fellow protesters with puffy jackets and man-buns
rallied around them.
Jaber and Heba thought it was a
pretty fine thing, and if they were
aware of the guy yelling, “What about
the homeless?” or the man with the
stand against white genocide sign,
they didn’t let on. Basel, who was
handsome and single, seemed to be
enjoying himself; a number of these
pro-Muslim activists were attractive
young women. The family paused for
a cigarette at a bridge overlooking the
Clark Fork River, and a clean-cut
man in blue jeans approached. “Can
you vote?” he asked. “I’d love to register ’em all to vote!” Someone in the
crowd told him that one had to become a citizen to vote, a process that
takes a refugee at least ive years. He
looked crestfallen.
In early February, the Abdullahs
moved out of the motel and into a
small two-bedroom apartment, with
Basel taking the basement. Jenny
Montgomery, a former State Department employee who volunteered with Soft La nding a nd
owned a distillery in town, helped
furnish the apartment with donated
couches, chairs, and beds. The TV,
also donated, provided a constant
stream of American cartoons designed to teach Jan and Ivan English by osmosis. A prayer rug was
offered to the family, but they declined. Though they were Sunni,
the Abdullahs identified foremost
as Kurds; Heba didn’t bother to
wear a headscarf. Above the couch
they hung a photo of a raging Montana wildire.
Once they settled in, Basel posted a proile on He had
the delicate features and graceful
build of a movie star, but to walk he
lurched on forearm crutches. With
the optimism of youth, Basel chose
a sultry photo of himself playing the
baglama and wrote that he had a
temporary leg injury. Montgomery
suggested that he tweak this description for accuracy.
Basel soon got a date with a recent
high school graduate named Renae
Gosse. Montgomery tailed them on
their irst date, paranoid that it might
be a setup, but the romance was genuine. Basel and Renae began seeing
each other regularly, and soon they
were hired at a local grocery store,
where they made $8.50 an hour.
He also started playing his baglama at Montgomery’s distillery. He
sat in a corner, crutches propped on
an amp, playing traditional Kurdish
tunes while people sipped craft
cocktails. He didn’t introduce his
songs, so the crowd didn’t know
their names: “The World Is a Traitor,” “I Am Strong,” “We Are Journeying on the Long Road,” and a
mournful, haunting one called “I
Am the Stranger.”
Some evenings at home, the two
brothers would sing together, Basel on
pitch, Jaber off, Heba and Jan smiling
while Ivan, the baby, climbed around
the carpet. “Basel has a problem of
playing too softly,” Jaber complained.
This wasn’t true. Basel’s technique
was flawless, his rhythm impeccable.
He was reserved and hard to read, a
sharp contrast with Jaber’s gregarious
optimism. Before long Jaber started
playing goalie in pickup soccer games
and landed a job working on a poplar
plantation designed to serve as a natural wastewater-treatment plant. The
pay was $12 an hour. He was thrilled.
He worked quickly, cutting thin
whips from the trees and replanting
them in neat rows, smoking and whistling while he pruned.
His family, meanwhile, remained
in Turkey, their resettlement stalled
as the courts litigated the Trump
Administration’s various bans. They
shrugged off the delay, just as they
did the daily grind of bad news from
Syria. In March, however, when images circulated of the Assad government’s sarin attacks on children,
Heba cried. The episode served as a
grim validation of their move. “We
are here for Jan and Ivan,” she said.
She wanted to see them grow up as
both Kurdish and American.
Heba had limits, though. When a
high-end sleep consultant sent over
to treat Ivan for nightly crying told
her to let the baby wail until he
crashed, Heba thanked the consultant and sent her on her way. Everyone in Qamishli knew that if you let
a baby cry at night he would end up
neurotic. Like all Kurds, Ivan had to
be strong.
eanwhile, Keith Regier—a
Republican state legislator
from Kalispell who once
compared women to cattle—had introduced a bill to ban “the application of foreign law.” His proposal cop-
ied legislation that ACT for America
had pushed through thirteen other
state legislatures. The bill passed
both chambers of the statehouse before Steve Bullock, the governor, vetoed it. Around the same time, Greg
Gianforte, a multimillionaire Republican from California and New Jersey
with outspoken anti-refugee views,
won Montana’s seat in the House the
night after punching a reporter at his
campaign headquarters.
Nonetheless, Soft Landing carried
on. By April, the IRC had brought
twenty-three refugee families to
Missoula. The refugees endlessly
praised the kindness of Montanans.
Then they talked about how they
couldn’t pay their bills. With Carr
gone, the IRC was struggling to arrange housing, jobs, schooling, vaccinations, registrations, and financial support for upwards of eighty
people. Soft Landing functioned as a
sort of welcoming committee that
also provided smaller, but no less essential, services. They organized an
ice-skating lesson, procured goats for
slaughter on holidays, and arranged
for childcare, En glish classes, and
driver’s ed. But there were now 250
volunteers working with Soft Landing, and coordinating their roles became dificult. Sometimes volunteers
would show up unannounced at the
city’s language classes; at other
times, they would overwhelm the local Job Service department. The director of the program, a German immigrant, told me bluntly, “It’s like
herding cats. How do you manage
two hundred and fifty volunteers
with one caseworker?” Poole was
aware of the challenges but had no
regrets. She often returned to the
fact that Montana’s refugees were no
longer fleeing war; the kids were safe
and attending school. For her, this
was enough.
Montgomery worked to make the
Abdullahs feel at home. One day in
late spring, she drove Jaber, Heba, and
the two children north to the National Bison Range, passing newly
green hills where buffalo grazed with
their calves. They ascended to the top
of a hill with stunning views. To the
east, they saw the Mission Mountains
rising like clean teeth; far below them,
the Flathead River was blue with fresh
snowmelt. Then, just thirty yards
away, a black bear broke into a run.
Jaber had never seen anything so
beautiful. Back in town, he started to
speak about one day owning a home
in Montana, a place by the river
where he could raise vegetables and
birds. Montgomery gave him a cage
for four new lovebirds. He named the
irst pair Heba and Jaber, the second
Jenny and Ryan, after Montgomery
and her husband.
From the perspective of Poole and
the IRC, the Abdullahs were a great
success. When Starbucks reached out
to Poole to make a branded video
about do-gooders, she recruited the
Abdullahs to costar. In the resulting
story, Heba smiles and plays with her
kids while Jaber stands on the side of
a soccer ield and says, “My dream is
to live a stable and safe life.” It was a
sweet if facile vision. The Abdullahs’
optimism was convincing because
they had little choice in the matter.
Montana was not some idyllic canvas
on which to project the American
dream; it was a life raft.
nce or twice a week, Basel
rode a bus across Missoula’s
commercial sprawl to a hospital where he met with Mike Tran,
his physical therapist. Tran, who is
thirty-ive, has tanned skin, gelled
hair, and biceps the size of logs. He
loves Garth Brooks. One day, another patient asked whether Tran had
checked Basel “for bombs.” Tran replied that, like most refugees, Basel
hadn’t had any say in his destination.
Tran knew more about that than
he let on. His father had been
among nearly a thousand Hmong
and Vietnamese the IRC resettled
in Missoula in the Seventies and
Eighties. Later, when the local timber industry crashed, many of them
left for California or Wisconsin.
Tran’s father, a South Vietnamese
Navy veteran who married an Irishwoman, was one of a few hundred
who stayed. Though Tran was born
and raised in Missoula, and was
happy with his career, he had never
felt at home there. In high school,
he was frequently called “chink
chink Chinaman” or “gookycrisp.”
Fifteen years later, he said, “I still
kind of feel like a guest.” Tran’s was
a success story; but still, sometimes,
he felt something missing.
When Basel showed up at his clinic with a referral from the IRCassigned doctor, Tran thought of his
father. Over his sessions with Basel,
he began to tell him about his father’s journey to Missoula, and his
own life. But Basel was uninterested
in chatting—he was focused on getting his legs back. In Damascus, before his spinal cord injury, he had
played soccer and worked in a bowling alley; in the mornings he bowled
with his boss. “If I have my legs,” he
said, “I win always.” In the clinic,
Basel did assisted squats and tried to
stand on his own, sweat beading on
his forehead. He couldn’t balance for
more than a few seconds, but he
swore that in the solitude of his bedroom he could occasionally stand
without braces. He now felt sensation all the way down to the top of
his feet.
Basel could get stronger, Tran
said, but the neurological damage
was irreversible. Still, for Basel, the
occasional flickers of feeling were
tantalizing. One day, smoking a cigarette outside the clinic following a
tough workout, his reserve melted
away. “I want to walk,” he said. “I
want to go, like, walking. Everything. Just walking. Myself.”
ne day while pruning trees,
Jaber felt a sharp pain in his
back: a pinched nerve. He
was forced to stay home from work.
Montgomery hired Jaber to work in
her garden, but he refused to accept
payment. Back in his village, he said,
the neighbors respackled one another’s mud homes every spring after the
rainy season. “You helped build my
house,” he told Montgomery. “Now
I’ll help with yours.”
After a month Jaber’s back healed,
and he reapplied for his job, but the
position was no longer available. He
interviewed to drive a delivery truck,
but the company insisted on seeing a
record of his employment history. “I
have no history,” he said, frustrated.
Then he clariied: he had a history. It
just didn’t matter here.
The IRC hired more full-time
staffers, and by April it had promoted a caseworker experienced with
Become a
Sign up to
14 metro areas
we can build a
bright future.
homeless and migrant populations to
resettlement director. She soon set
up a system for the refugees to give
feedback on the IRC’s work. With
refugee arrivals ground nearly to a
halt because of the Trump Administration’s travel ban, IRC and Soft
Landing focused intently on the
families already in town. Poole arranged for a stand at the farmers
market for women to sell baklava
and Ethiopian coffee. Before long almost every refugee family had at
least one employed adult. But Jaber
wasn’t one of them. When he wasn’t
working, he said, “I go crazy.”
One day in early June, Ivan
picked up a rug. “Where are we going now?” Heba joked to Jaber.
Among many Kurds, it’s understood
that if a baby picks up a rug, its parents will soon move.
Jaber laughed, but the suggestion
stayed with him. He called a friend
from Syria who had been resettled
in Indianapolis, to wish him happy
Ram adan, and told him about his
troubles finding work. His friend
suggested he head east. There were
fourteen Kurdish families in Indianapolis, he said. The thought attached itself like a burr. The Abdullahs had been insulated from the
racism elsewhere in the state; their
entire existence was occupied with
constructing the foundations of
their new life. They liked Missoula
well enough, but the thought of Jan
and Ivan growing up without Kurdish culture was painful. The family
longed for connection to other
Kurds, and they had not found them
in Missoula.
Heba thought that perhaps in Indiana she wouldn’t be so lonely. For
months, she had been too scared to
go to the grocery store on her own.
“In Syria I had upwards of ten good
friends,” she said. “I am sure that
out of fourteen families I can ind
one good friend.” She remembered
the dates she would buy at the market in Syria. In Montana, she said,
the dates “taste like you need to
open them up and pour sugar in
them.” The memories of the bear
and buffalo at the National Bison
Range faded in a moment.
Poole had arranged to give donated cars to the irst refugees to obtain
driver’s licenses, Jaber among them.
The car he received was a donated
1990 Toyota sedan with more than
200,000 miles on it. The hood jiggled, the windshield was cracked
and leaky, and the manual transmission lacked a tachometer, meaning
he had to shift gears by sound. At
sixty miles per hour the vehicle
would shake.
“It is a wreck,” Jaber said. But he
soon found himself testing it for a
cross-country journey. He took the
car on drives up a nearby canyon, a
popular hiking spot, and convinced
himself that the vehicle had hidden
strengths. “She is strong,” he said approvingly. By mid-June, it was decided. They would move to Indiana.
Basel would stay behind. “I have
my therapy here,” he said, “and my
work.” Soft Landing had arranged
for him to take a free coding class
with a company that might have a
job for him. He’d picked up English
easily, without taking an ESL class.
“I’m smart like that,” he said. But
the primary reason for Basel staying in Montana, Jaber knew, was
not work or therapy or coding. He
was in love. After the family’s departure, Basel would move to Renae’s mot her’s hou se; t hen he
would drive to Walmart and pick
out a silver engagement ring.
Jaber returned their donated
clothing and furniture to the Soft
Landing ofice. In the second week
of July, he gave away the lovebirds.
The irst pair, Jaber and Heba, had
never produced chicks, and eventually Heba (the person) realized the
problem: “T hey are Jaber a nd
Basel!”—both were male. Jaber unceremoniously released the pair near
a chain-link fence. He gave Ryan
and Jenny, the other pair, to Basel.
One possession the family didn’t
relinquish was a motorized toy truck,
a birthday present for Jan from Heba
and the irst purchase she’d made in
town on her own. In the family’s inal
weeks in Montana, Jan ripped around
the carpet on the green truck while
Heba washed dishes and the Abdullah brothers played FIFA and smoked
cigarettes. One hot afternoon Basel
took out his baglama. First he played
“The World Is a Traitor.” Then Jaber
asked him to play “When I’m Poor,
You Don’t Look at Me.” And, as always, Basel closed with the haunting,
slow “I Am the Stranger.”
Jaber and Heba had saved about
$1,500—enough, they hoped, to pay
for gas, tolls, hotels, and food on the
drive to Indiana. As for the first
month’s rent, they would sort that out
upon arrival. Jaber thought he might
look for a job in a store or restaurant;
outdoor labor was getting to be too
hard on his body. They packed a few
bags of clothes and some extra tires.
At four-thirty on the morning of July
26, Jaber and Heba roused the children; Basel woke to smoke one last
cigarette with his brother. “Be safe,”
they told each other.
Jaber climbed behind the wheel.
He steered through town, crossing
the great river and turning east onto
I-90. He drove the irst hour in darkness, the moon obscured by clouds
and the mountains that loomed over
the highway. Jaber thought of the
Kurds in Indiana. “If they move to
another state I will move with
them,” he said later. “We have a plan
to move and live together.” It would
be like back home. He hoped never
to leave them again. The breath of
his sleeping wife and children illed
the car. Soon the sun’s first light
shone through the cracks in the
windshield. He hit the gas.
June Index Sources
1,2 Mathias Bärtl, Offenburg University of
Applied Sciences (Germany); 3 Microsoft
(Redmond, Wash.); 4 Harper’s research;
5–7 Sheri Madigan, University of Calgary
(Alberta); 8 State Secretariat for Equality
Between Women and Men (Paris); 9,10
Federal Public Service Justice (Brussels); 11
Quinnipiac University Poll (Hamden, Conn.);
12 Langer Research Associates (NYC);
13,14 Christopher Morrison, University of
Pennsylvania (Philadelphia); 15 Minassian
Media (NYC); 16,17 Center for Responsive
Politics (Washington); 18 Harper’s research;
19 Olle Folke, Uppsala University (Sweden);
20 Hurun Report (Shanghai); 21 US Energy
Information Administration (Washington);
22 CoalSwarm (San Francisco); 23,24
European Network of Transmission System
Operators for Electricity (Brussels); 25,26
Seoul Metropolitan Government (South
Korea); 27 Craig Gundersen, University
of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign; 28,29
Equality of Opportunity Project (Stanford,
Calif.); 30–32 Cook County Health and
Hospitals System (Chicago); 33,34 National
Center for Education Statistics (Washington);
35 Guardian (London); 36 Gira Conseil
(Paris); 37–39 MWWPR (Chicago).
Can we treat psychosis by listening to the voices
in our heads?
By T. M. Luhrmann
arah was four
years old when her
spirit guide first
appeared. One day,
she woke up from
a nap and saw him
there beside her
bed. He was short,
with longish curly
hair, like a cherub
made of light. She
couldn’t see his
feet. They played a
board game—she
remembers pushi n g t he pie c e s
around—and then
he melted away.
After that, he
came and went like
any child’s imaginary friend. Sarah
often sensed his
presence when strange things happened—when
forces of light and darkness took shape in the
air around her or when photographs rippled as
though shimmering in the heat. Sometimes
Sarah had thoughts in her head that she knew
were not her own. She would say things that
upset her parents. “Cut it out,” her mother
would warn. “This
is what they put
people in psychiatric hospitals for.”
Sarah was the
youngest of four
siblings. Her father
was a sales manager
for a pharmaceutical company, and
he traveled a lot
w h i le h i s w i fe
stayed home with
the kids. Sarah’s
mother was a strict
disciplinarian. She
was determined to
straighten out her
children, whom she
felt had been
s p oi le d by t he
housekeeper they’d
left behind when
they moved to California. Sarah remembers one
day, not long after she played the game with her
spirit guide, when she and some neighborhood
kids tried to set up a barbecue in the back yard.
Her babysitter found them in the basement,
burning strips of paper in the pilot light of the
furnace. When Sarah’s mother came home, she
T. M. Luhrmann is the Watkins University Professor of Anthropology at Stanford University. Her article “Worlds
Apart” appeared in the February issue of Harper’s Magazine.
Wormholes, 1919, by August Klett, who was a patient at the psychiatric clinic at the University of Heidelberg, in Germany.
Under the alias August Klotz, he was one of the ten “schizophrenic masters” whose work was collected in the book Artistry of
the Mentally Ill (1922). The book was compiled by Hans Prinzhorn, a psychiatrist and art historian, who recorded Klett as hearing voices that were obscene, accusatory, and threatening. © Prinzhorn Collection, University Hospital Heidelberg, Inv. No. 568
held the girl’s ingers in the flame of a cigarette
lighter as punishment.
As Sarah grew up, she started to dislike the
strange experiences she had, and she decided
that they could not be real. Then she went to
college and became a nurse, and she began to
see the souls of dead patients leave their bodies. Sometimes what emerged was a transparent version of the corpse. Other times she saw
what the patients must have looked like when
they were young. A few would stand next to
the bed. More floated up to the ceiling and
looked down. They were usually startled to see
their own bodies and horriied to witness the
pummeling they took from doctors trying to
keep them alive.
Sarah found that the dead would speak to
her. It sounded like they were really talking, as
if she could hear them with her ears, although
she quickly learned that no one else could
of many people who are challenging what
psychiatrist s t hin k t hey k now
about mental illness.
earing voices is, it turns out, surprisingly common. In 1894, a team led by Henry Sidgwick, a philosopher at the University of Cambridge, published the Census of Hallucinations,
which surveyed 17,000 people in the United
Kingdom and found that around 10 percent of
them reported having seen, heard, or felt something “which impression, so far as you can discover, was not due to any external physical
cause.” Many more recent studies have supported that observation. In 1983, two psychologists,
Thomas Posey and Mary Losch, modiied Sidgwick’s basic question and found that the rate
skyrocketed to 70 percent when participants
were given the opportunity to say that they had
heard a voice but decided that it wasn’t real.
hear them. They gave her messages to give to
people they’d left behind, but mostly she
helped them release their grip on life. That
was her task, the reason they became visible
to her. “Some people get very distraught,” she
told me. “They’re terriied of the transition.”
Most of the time, the souls would be visible
only for a minute, but occasionally they stayed
as long as an hour. Eventually they would dissipate, like mist into air.
When I met Sarah, in the summer of 2016,
she was sixty-two and still working full time.
I am an anthropologist, and I was interested
in Sarah because she said she still heard voices, sometimes as often as every day. For decades, hearing voices—having auditory or
quasi-auditory perceptions of the speech of invisible others—has been seen as a deinitive
sign of the radical break with reality that we
call psychosis. Voice hearing is one of the
identifying features of schizophrenia, the most
devastating and intractable of psychiatric
disorders. But Sarah is not psychotic. To use
the language of psychiatric nosology, she has
no “functional impairment.” She can work
and care for herself and others; her marriage
is good and stable. She has never been hospitalized. At the time of our interview, Sarah
was long past the danger zone of early adulthood, during which most people with serious
psychoses are diagnosed. By any normal measure, she is completely healthy. Sarah is one
And as many as 80 percent of people who have
lost a loved one report hearing, seeing, or feeling them in the months after their death.
For years, I have spoken with such people. I
study the odd and the uncanny—voices, visions, the supernatural. I seek out people who
have experienced otherworldly events, and as
I have published my research they have sought
me out in turn. People have told me that while
they were driving, God spoke up from the back
seat and said that he would always love them,
or that as they stood looking at the ocean, the
waves became light and language. Others have
shrugged and said that they were speeding and
God’s voice came over the radio to tell them to
slow down.
I wrote my dissertation on Londoners who
called themselves pagans, witches, and druids.
They were people with ordinary, stable jobs
who nevertheless claimed to live in a lush garden of wizards and goblins and to travel on an
astral plane. These adults gave themselves permission to play with invisible others and refused to be embarrassed about whether or not
they were real. I knew people who had whole
rooms devoted to goddesses—altars to Cerridwen, Artemis, and Freya. They brought them
gifts and talked to them. Sometimes, the goddesses would respond.
Later, I spent years with Charismatic
Christians in the United States, most of
whom would hate to be identified with so
motley and marginal a crowd. Yet much about
the blunt structure of their spirituality was
similar. They, too, longed for intimacy with
an invisible being and used their minds to
imagine him. They immersed themselves in
stories about him and spent hours contemplating those stories in intense daydreams.
They went for walks with him, danced with
him, sat in his lap as they prayed. They told
me that God sometimes talked with them in
ways they could hear with their ears. And,
Stanford University, I randomly assigned about
a hundred Charismatic Christians to either
daily lectures on the Gospels or daily prayer
practice, which involved listening to story sequences based on Scripture. I found that those
in the prayer group were more likely to report
that they had heard a voice or seen a vision.
But the great majority of people who hear
voices—whether they take the voice to be a god
or goddess, a recently dead mother, or the bark
of an absent dog—experience very few such
like the Londoners, they had subtle and complex ideas about the relationship between fantasy and reality. As one pastor said, “The excruciatingly delightful tension between what
is imagined and what is real is where I live.”
People who claim to have seen or heard invisible beings tend to score high on the Tellegen Absorption Scale, a measure introduced in
1974 that assesses a person’s responses to engaging stimuli. They are often people who lose
themselves in nature, become captivated by
books, or pray ardently—in other words, people
who get caught up in their inner worlds. When
the witches and druids in London performed
rituals, they sat in the dark with their eyes
closed, trying to see, hear, and feel what the
leader was describing. During my research at
events. The invisible other speaks to them once,
maybe twice. The voices are brief and transient:
“I will always be with you,” “I love you,” “Yes.”
On the surface, these seem nothing like the
voices that torment people with schizophrenia.
The voices of madness are horrifying. People
who are mentally ill often feel besieged by their
voices, as if their heads have been thrust into a
beehive of sneering, attacking, commanding
words. The words are sounds or quasi sounds,
or even thoughts that seem to come from an
exterior source. Elyn Saks, the author of a remarkable memoir of living with schizophrenia,
wrote, “Thoughts crashed into my mind like a
fusillade of rocks someone (or something) was
hurtling at me—ierce, angry, jagged around
the edges, and uncontrollable.” Mad voices
An untitled painting by Eugen Gabritschevsky, c. 1950. Gabritschevsky completed advanced
degrees in genetics and biology and worked at the Pasteur Institute before being diagnosed
with schizophrenia. Collection abcd/Bruno Decharme © Estate of Eugen Gabritschevsky
speak from outside the mind, sometimes only
two or three, sometimes hundreds at a time.
One man diagnosed with schizophrenia told
me that his voices would peel off the cars that
drove past, as if the tumbling air had formed itself into a weapon. “I hear voices constantly,” he
said. “I hear voices in other rooms. I hear it from
down the street, down the stairs. Like God is
leading a chorale of voices.” The voices cursed
auditory hallucinations exist on what they call
the psychotic continuum. In other words,
voices heard by healthy people are simply less
severe manifestations of those heard by the
mentally ill. These scientists suggest that
hearing voices is like experiencing sadness.
Some people are clearly sadder than others,
and terrible sadness may require hospital care.
But there is nothing inherently abnormal
him and put him down and made him feel
trapped. “The world is watching you,” they said.
“We’re watching you.” People with psychosis often hate their voices and ind them terrifying.
And yet one of the new ideas in psychiatric research is that these two seemingly distinct types of voice hearing might be related.
A group of highly respected, mostly European scientists—among them Jim van Os in
Maastricht, the Netherlands, and Charles
Fer nyhough in Durham, England—have
started to argue for the maverick idea that all
about sadness itself. Van Os, Fernyhough,
and others have started to ask whether
healthy people who hear voices frequently,
like Sarah, somehow learned early on to
manage their unusual perceptions and so
never spiraled into mental illness. They believe that the voices of madness could be
softened, if we could only teach
people to harness them.
oices are remarkably hard to study in the
laboratory. Scientists have shown that areas of
An untitled drawing, c. 1910, by Barbara Suckfüll, who heard voices that ordered her to write
and to draw © Prinzhorn Collection, University Hospital Heidelberg, Inv. No. 1955recto
the brain associated with language are active
during an auditory hallucination, but the neuroscience of voice hearing remains poorly understood. We talk about such events as “voices,” but
even for someone with psychosis, the experience
is often more like having a thought that does
not feel like your own. Many people say that the
voice was not in their head but cannot be sure
that they heard it with their ears. These subtleties of human awareness are impossible to study
without talking to people and, as a result, getting mired in the swamp of subjective reporting
and the limits of language. And so for decades,
psychiatry has more or less ignored voices, even
though around 70 percent of those diagnosed
with schizophrenia hear them.
In the middle of the twentieth century, when
psychoanalysis dominated the ield of psychology, many clinicians believed that schizophrenia
arose from a child’s response to her mother’s
emotional conflict. The most famous illustration
of this dynamic, described by the English anthropologist and early cyberneticist Gregory
said things like “empty,” “hollow,” and “thud.”
Apart from their names and professions, they
were to change no details about their lives.
Each participant was admitted as an inpatient
to a psychiatric ward, and in every case but
one they were diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Doctors released them after, on average, nineteen days, but one was held for nearly two
months. “It is clear,” Rosenhan wrote, “that
we cannot distinguish the sane from the insane in psychiatric hospitals.”
By that point, psychoanalytic psychiatry was
already on its way out. Psychoanalysis seemed
to help people who functioned more or less
normally in society—they were soon called the
worried well—but it did little for patients with
serious disorders. The new diagnostic manual
that appeared in 1980 replaced language about
emotional conflict with speciic criteria that patients needed to meet, establishing a clear dividing line between health and illness. When
the writer Lauren Slater set out to replicate the
Rosenhan experiment thirty years later—
Bateson in 1956, was this: a mother comes to
the psychiatric ward to see her son; he reaches
out to hug her; she flinches; he withdraws; and
then she asks, “Don’t you love me?” The great
psychoanalyst Frieda Fromm-Reichmann labeled this mother schizophrenogenic: she drove
her son insane because he could not handle
the hostility she felt but refused to acknowledge. He went mad because he could not allow himself to know what was real. Psychoanalysts who wrote about schizophrenia puzzled
over family dynamics. Theodore Lidz, a professor of psychiatry famous for his work on
schizophrenia, once wrote grimly, “We now
know that the patient’s family of origin is always severely disturbed.”
During this period, psychologists were so focused on therapy—on the meaning behind the
symptoms, on the impact of being in a room
with an empathic listener—that few of them
paid attention to diagnosis, let alone to the
brain. In 1973, David Rosenhan, a professor of
psychology at Stanford, exposed those biases in
an article that hugely embarrassed the psychiatric community. Rosenhan persuaded seven
friends to join him in an experiment. He asked
them to make appointments at multiple psychiatric hospitals across the country and explain
to the doctors that they had heard voices that
presenting herself unkempt, unshowered, and
with unbrushed teeth at nine hospitals, where
she explained that she’d heard a voice saying
“thud”—not one doctor gave her a diagnosis of
schizophrenia. But they did give her medication for depression and psychosis.
In the intervening years, leadership in the
ield had shifted to scientists who sought to
make psychiatry a rigorous branch of medicine
by identifying the neural pathways responsible
for mental illness. Voices were imagined as
simple byproducts of brain disorder, no more
important than the scratched welt of a mosquito bite. By 1990, pharmaceutical companies had introduced more than forty medication s t hat tried to dampen t he major
symptoms of psychosis by blocking the reception of dopamine and other mood-changing
chemicals in the brain.
But the biomedical model has not fulilled
its promise. The medications work modestly
at best, and none is the miracle drug the fanfare once suggested. In 2005, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study in
which scientists tested a group of newer and
older antipsychotic medications on 1,493 people; they found that only a quarter of participants were suficiently helped by the drug they
had been given to inish the eighteen-month
trial. It also turned out that the new medications had unexpected side effects. Patients on
Zyprexa, one of the newer antipsychotics, can
put on a hundred pounds in a year.
The theory of the psychotic continuum has
emerged as psychiatric scientists have lost faith
that schizophrenia has distinctive markers—that
it is deined by a speciic set of symptoms or a single neurological deicit. As one group of researchers observed in 2009, “Virtually no two patients
present with the same constellation of symptoms.”
Decades of studies have shown that schizophrenia
is the complex result of many unrelated factors—
the genes you inherited, the health of your mother during pregnancy, whether you were beaten as
a child or stressed as an adolescent, even how
much time you spend in the sun.
With that has come an understanding that
voice hearing can shape the course and outcome of the illness. What voices say affects
what the person who hears them does. About a
told her, and she believed that she helped
them by allowing them to talk about things
they often kept hidden. She didn’t share everything she experienced with her husband,
and he didn’t quite know what to make of
what she did say. “I have enough troubles in
my life without having other voices in my
head,” he remarked wryly. He was a big man,
charming and chatty like his wife. He laughed
when I asked him what he made of Sarah’s
stories. But then he mentioned that he’d had
an odd experience of his own—his dead aunt
showed up in his armchair one evening and
told him not to be so upset about a spat in the
family—and it became clear that he treated
Sarah’s experiences with deference.
When I asked Sarah about her spirit guide,
the one who had played the board game with
her when she was four, she said that she had
tried to ignore his presence for years. “I
thought I was making it up,” she said. But in
third of people with schizophrenia try to commit suicide, and around 20 percent hear voices
that order them to do so. Scientists have begun
to take seriously that people with psychosis
sometimes say they went mad because their voices drove them crazy.
n June 2016, I drove from Stanford to Sarah’s home in the Santa Cruz Mountains, hoping to understand whether her voices were similar to those heard by people with psychosis
and how she had learned to manage them. Her
house was an old Craftsman, built by an early
Californian with a seafarer’s imagination—the
rooms were wood-paneled and intricate, with
nooks and built-in shelves. Sarah, a warm woman with short brown hair, greeted me at the
door and showed me into an elegant living
room. There was iced tea waiting on the table,
and family pictures hung on the walls. Her two
kids had started lives of their own. She now
lived with her husband, a contractor, and a cat
called Winston, who was busy pawing at a
scratching post in the corner.
Sarah told me that she thought of herself as
“intuitive.” She read books that treat hallucinations as special and spiritual—New Age
manuals by Native Americans, books on
death and dying, on portals and the other
side. She thought that people could tell she
had a gift. She would know things they hadn’t
her mid-thirties, her husband gave her a spiritual retreat as a birthday gift. She went off to
Sedona, Arizona, with her older sister to join
the members of the retreat at a small bed-andbreakfast in the desert. Around midnight on
the irst night, something ripped through the
wall of their bedroom with the metallic roar
of a jet engine. It was oblong and humanoid
and it glowed a brilliant red, so bright that
Sarah had to squint. There was a sucking
sound, and then a pop. She was terriied. (Her
sister, on the other hand, simply rolled over
and went back to sleep.) Sarah told herself
that she was imagining things and turned
away from the red shape. But then it spoke to
her. It reassured her, although she couldn’t remember much of what it said.
The next morning, Sarah reported what had
happened to the retreat leader. “She could see I
was deer-in-the-headlights,” Sarah told me. The
leader believed Sarah had a gift she had ignored, and that the being had come because
she needed something “to blow the barn doors
open.” She encouraged Sarah to work with her
gift and to ind a spirit guide.
It was then that Sarah decided to treat her invisible childhood friend as real. Many conversations later, she asked him to introduce himself.
He told her his name was Tom. “That’s not a
very good name,” she responded. And Tom, she
said, answered back: “What’s wrong with it?”
Sarah told me that talking with Tom helped
her make sense of the other voices she experienced, some of which were far less pleasant.
These voices came into her life later than Tom
did, not until after Sedona, when she was in her
forties. She called them the council. Sarah could
sometimes hear them talking to one another as
if they were in the next room, sometimes murmuring, sometimes speaking more clearly. She
had no dificulty distinguishing their voices from
her own thoughts. It wasn’t only the way they
voices than she did with Tom. He knew the
council; in some ways, she thought, he was one
of them. But when Tom spoke, he was animated. He sounded like a friend. The council’s
voices were monotone. Sarah did not seem to
like them as much. I asked her whether, when
she heard the council, she ever turned her head
to see who was speaking—the unambiguous
mark of an audible voice. She said she did.
Sometimes the council spoke to her for as long
as two hours a day.
spoke—they had a particular cadence—but
what they said. “They don’t mince words,” she
told me.
When the council really wanted to get her
attention, she said, they would become physical. They would throw fruit on the floor and
knock down picture frames. Sarah spoke as if
the council took action only in her best interest. She described one instance when they had
thrown a rock at her to draw her attention to
some loitering men, and she had known that
she should leave the area fast. But she clearly
had a more distant relationship with these
The voices of the council have many of the
formal features of psychotic voices: they talk
with one another; they murmur; they are sometimes negative and even downright mean; they
command; they are weirdly auditory. Sarah
cannot control them. Tom told her that everyone on the council was a teacher but that he
could be the spokesperson if it was easier for
her to respond to one voice at a time. “I think
he’s been there for me so that perhaps I didn’t
go crazy,” she said to me at one point, “to help
me make sense of this, and to kinda keep me
from being a danger to myself.” She said it was
An untitled double-sided painting, 1961, by Carlo Zinelli. Admitted to a psychiatric
institution and diagnosed with schizophrenia after World War II, Zinelli began drawing
in 1955. Courtesy Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne, Switzerland, Inv. No. cab-2128
akin to having an internal dial, like one on an
old radio—she could turn it so that the conversation was clear, or keep it static. Tom helped
her to feel in charge of the dial.
It seemed that, with the help of the retreat
leader, Sarah had decided to build a narrative
in which her experiences were not alien, and
she used Tom to help her manage the things
in her mind, but sometimes he speaks out loud.
Several times a year, often when Sarah is at the
edge of sleep, Tom appears in the room. At irst,
he showed up in clothes that looked like they
were cut in an earlier century—in an Edwardian
dinner jacket, say, sometimes with women wearing bustles in the background. These days he
mostly wears a blazer and slacks. Sarah told me
that she and Tom have known
each other a long time. How
long? I asked. She paused and
gave me a little smile. “He’s
saying, in the Sumerian period.”
that frightened her. It was as though she had
invented him as a protector. She said he would
show up when she needed him; she called him
a mentor. So the council couldn’t frighten her,
even when they were throwing fruit around.
These days, Sarah talks to Tom often. She says
that he tells her things she needs to know and
corrects her when she makes a mistake. “That’s
not the way it truly happened,” he might say. She
consults him when her cat gets sick and when she
has a strange dream. Most of the time he speaks
arah’s methods for managing her experiences are strikingly similar to two treatment
approaches that have recently
become popular in Europe,
both of them peculiar but also
promising. One is the Hearing
Voices movement, a grassroots,
patient-driven campaign whose
members often reject the
teachings of psychiatry. It
emerged in the late Eighties
through the leadership of Marius Romme, a Dutch psychiatrist, and his wife, Sandra
Escher. The movement is ardent, excited, and chaotic.
There are now hundreds of
Hearing Voices groups across
Europe and the United States.
Many different ideas about
voice hearing float around in
these groups—that everyone
hears voices, that voices always
carry a memory of sexual trauma, or that voices are “real.”
What people seem to mean
when they use the word “real”
is that they do not consider
their voices to be symptoms,
fragments, or mistaken perceptions but instead believe that
they belong to invisible people
in the world. When I attended
a Hearing Voices meeting in Maastricht, one of
the participants announced that her group had
seventeen members. “Three of them are human,”
she said.
Despite the range of views, the groups have
basic practices in common. Participants in a
Hearing Voices group are asked to name their
voices, to respect what the voices have to say,
and then to negotiate with them. The goal is to
turn your voice into something closer to a person with whom you can have a reasonable and
Request No. 2,345, The Mysterious Affairs of the Attempted Murders, by Johann Knopf, who claimed to understand
the voices of birds. Knopf was a patient at the Heidelberg psychiatric clinic and was included in Artistry of the Mentally Ill under the alias Johann Knüpfer. © Prinzhorn Collection, University Hospital Heidelberg, Inv. No. 1494/4
positive relationship. At a training in San Francisco in September 2013, I watched Ron Coleman, a burly movement leader, work with a
young man who hated his voices. “What’s the
name of your most important voice?” Coleman
asked. “I don’t know,” the man replied. “It
doesn’t have one.” “You don’t know?” Coleman
asked. “How does that make sense? If someone
came to the front door and wanted to
talk with you and didn’t tell you his
name, you’d shut the door in his face!”
A man I met in Maastricht told me that
he had been hearing voices for years by the
time he began attending a Hearing Voices
group. His voices would yell at him for
hours, cursing him, screaming that they
should drag him out to the forest and leave
him to die in the leaves. The members of
his group told him that he should learn
who was speaking and what the voices
wanted to tell him. They encouraged him
to respect his voices, even though he hated them, and helped him to practice what
he would say in response. It was hard because he was afraid. Once he got comfortable, the group insisted that he negotiate
with the voices. And then he and his
voices cut a deal: he would do what they
wanted for an hour a day, and then they
would leave him alone. As it happened, one
of the man’s voices was obsessed with Buddhism, so he agreed to read Buddhist texts
and offer prayers during the allotted hour.
By the time I met him, he hadn’t heard
voices in a year, and he had almost completely transitioned off his medication.
Slowly, researchers are studying the eficacy of these groups, despite the disdain
many members have for psychiatry and
science in general. Self-report measures ind
that they work. That is, the methods make
hearing voices less aggravating for most
people, and some ind that their voices
become kinder, softer, or even go away. In
the United Kingdom and the Netherlands,
Hearing Voices groups have become almost
mainstream, and many European clinicians
have abandoned the oversimpliied biomedical approach that treats voices as irrational byproducts of a disordered brain. In 2014,
the British Psychological Society published a basic
manual, Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia.
The introduction reads:
We hope that in future services will no longer insist that service users accept one particular view
of their problem, namely the traditional view that
they have an illness which needs to be treated
primarily by medication.
The society recommends Hearing Voices groups.
The second method, which is similar in approach, is avatar therapy. It was developed in
2008 by Julian Leff, a London researcher who
has studied schizophrenia for decades. Leff
asked patients to sit in front of a computer and
choose an avatar—a head and a vocal timbre—
to represent their most distressing voice. The
head is suspended on the screen like a character
in a video game, eerily robotic, hovering. From
another room, a therapist guides the experience,
like the Wizard of Oz behind the green curtain.
In one demonstration of the method, now posted on YouTube, the voice says, “You’re worthless. You’re a waste of space.” Then the therapist
coaches the patient on how to respond. “I want
you to talk back to the avatar as strongly as you
can.” You see the uneasy patient staring at the
screen, scared to reply. But he does. Over
time—usually six sessions, which can be as
An untitled painting, c. 1932–35, by Augustin Lesage, who was a miner until the
age of thirty-ive, when he heard voices that told him he would become a painter
Courtesy Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne, Switzerland, Inv. No. cab-1987
short as ten minutes each—the therapist makes
the computerized voice kinder and more respectful in response to what the patient says. In
January, a British paper in The Lancet Psychiatry
described a study that took 150 people whose
condition had not been suficiently helped by
medication and gave them a twelve-week course
of either avatar therapy or supportive counseling. Avatar therapy was shown to be signiicantly more effective, at least in the short run.
The central insight of these methods is that
the way people respond to their voices can
change the course of their lives. This way of
thinking is very different from treatment as
usual in biomedical psychiatry. Particularly in
America, the tainted history of the schizophrenogenic mother has made psychiatrists
hesitant to look for answers beyond brain chemistry. It runs against the grain to think of treating voices as people: naming them, interacting
with them. It seems dishonest, because voices
are not real people. But doing so may help patients make voices respond as if they were reasonable human beings. This is the new axiom of
the psychotic continuum theory: that voices are
not the problem. The problem is the way people
react to their voices.
Both of these approaches seem promising.
They offer hope. But serious psychotic disorder can be very difficult to treat. No one
method is likely to work for everyone, and developing a more positive relationship with
one’s voices does not guarantee a good outcome. In Pittsburgh in 2014, I met a woman
whose son had done more or less what Sarah
had. When he began hearing voices, he interpreted them as angels and demons. The woman’s sister was deeply religious, and she helped
her nephew exorcise the demons. Soon he
was able to make them go away for short periods of time. He liked the other voices, the
angels. But one of the angels did not like his
grandmother. The angel thought she was a
witch. One morning before breakfast, the angel told the son that the witch must die. He
grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed his
grandmother at the table. She bled
to death on the floor.
earing voices is possible because of the
nature of thought itself—our thoughts are
made by us and yet feel, at times, independent
of us. The ability to create an interior world
that can be experienced as real has long been
cultivated by religious believers, like the Charismatic Christians I studied, but also by writers.
Many novelists talk as if writing were like taking dictation. Charles Dickens once told a
friend that he distinctly heard his characters
speaking. “I don’t invent it,” Dickens remarked
in a letter, “really do not, but see it, and write it
down.” When Charles Fernyhough, one of the
advocates of the psychotic continuum theory,
asked writers at the Edinburgh International
Book Festival whether they heard the voices of
their characters, a quarter said that they heard
them as clearly as if they were in the room.
In the memoir Moments of Being, Virginia
Woolf writes that after her father died, she heard
birds singing in Greek. On the day she went to
the river, illed her pockets with stones, and
walked beneath the water, she left a note for
her husband, Leonard, that read: “I begin to
hear voices, and I can’t concentrate. So I am
doing what seems the best thing to do. You
have given me the greatest possible happiness.”
In Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf writes Clarissa’s
thoughts as though she overheard them, as if
she were Clarissa’s scribe.
Are these the same voices, the voices of madness and the voices of creativity? In some measure, it does not matter. Whatever led Dickens to
say that he heard his characters speak, he was
nevertheless able to edit and shape the story.
What Sarah seems to have done, and what these
methods teach, is to harness a writer’s
techniques—to coax and change menacing voices into characters that can be controlled.
There is much more research to do. My own
ieldwork has led me to doubt that the psychotic continuum theory can explain all
forms of voice hearing. Of the hundreds of
people I have spoken to over the years, Sarah
is one of a very few who seem to function normally while experiencing multiple voices every day. She is the exception, not the rule.
These conversations suggest to me that the
neural networks associated with psychosis are
distinct from those that lead to daydreaming,
absorption, and spirituality. For many people,
hearing voices may have more to do with the
activity of the brain when it’s on the edges of
sleep, with grief, with creativity, or with religious practice than with mental illness. Yet
whatever the fate of the psychotic continuum
theory, it seems clear that the techniques of the
Hearing Voices movement and avatar therapy
should be made more readily available to people with serious psychotic disorders.
At the end of our interview, Sarah and I
stood together for a moment on her porch,
which overlooked a ravine behind the house. I
envied the view. Sarah told me that she often
worried about kids who heard voices and assumed they were insane. “We come in blind to
the human condition,” she said. She meant
that humans are shaped by a culture duller and
dumber than it should be. She paused and
looked out at the hills. “I like my life. As crazy
as it is.”
How a young journalist untangled the riddle of My Lai
By Seymour M. Hersh
n the fall of 1969, I was a freelance
journalist working out of a small,
cheap ofice I had rented on the
eighth floor of the National Press
Building in downtown Washington.
A few doors down was a young Ralph
Nader, also a loner, whose
exposé of the safety failures in American automobiles had changed the
industr y. T here wa s
nothing in those days
quite like a quick lunch at
the downstairs coffee
shop with Ralph. Once,
he grabbed a spoonful of
my tuna-fish salad, flattened it out on a plate,
and pointed out small
pieces of paper and even
tinier pieces of mouse shit
in it. He was marvelous,
if a bit hard to digest.
T he tip c a me on
Wednesday, October 22.
The caller was Geoffrey Cowan, a
young lawyer new to town who had
worked on the McCarthy campaign
and had been writing critically about
the Vietnam War for the Village Voice.
There was a story he wanted me to
know about. The Army, he told me,
was in the process of court-martialing
Seymour M. Hersh’s article “My Lai 4” appeared in the May 1970 issue of Harper’s
Magazine. His memoir, Reporter, from
which this essay has been adapted, will be
published this month by Knopf.
a GI at Fort Benning, in Georgia, for
the killing of seventy-ive civilians in
South Vietnam. Cowan did not have
to spell out why such a story, if true,
was important, but he refused to discuss the source for his information.
Having covered the Pentagon for
the Associated Press, I knew there was
a gap between what the men running
the war said and what was going on.
The lying seemed at times to be out of
control, and there were reasons to
believe the war was, too. Even those
who supported the war in Vietnam
were troubled by the reliance on body
counts in assessing progress; it was
clear that many of those claimed to be
enemy soldiers killed in combat were
civilians who may have been in the
Lieutenant William L. Calley Jr. arrives at a pretrial hearing before his court-martial for
his involvement in the My Lai massacre of March 16, 1968 © Bettmann/Getty Images
wrong place at the wrong time, or just
were there, living where their ancestors had lived for generations.
A question I’ve been asked again
and again by others, and have asked
myself, is why I pursued Cowan’s tip.
There was not much to
go on. I did not know
Cowan. I had not been to
South Vietnam. There
had been no public mention, not a hint, of a massacre on the scale cited by
Cowan. The answer
came from my days in the
Pentagon pressroom,
where such a rumor
would be dismissed by all,
so I believed, without a
second thought. My colleagues had scoffed at
Harrison Salisbury’s irsthand account of systematic American bombing
in North Vietnam, which
had been published in the New York
Times in late 1966. A few had gone
further, actively working with Robert
McNamara and Cyrus Vance to undercut Salisbury’s dispatches. I chased
Cowan’s vague tip because I was convinced they would not.
If Cowan was right, it was the US
Army itself that had iled the murder
charges. If so, there would have to be
some official report somewhere in
the military system. Finding it was
worth a few days of my time.
I had renewed my Pentagon press
credentials because I was writing a book
about military spending for Random
House, a project that required access to
the building. My irst step was to review
all the recent courts-martial that had
been initiated worldwide by the Judge
Advocate General’s Corps, the Army’s
lawyers. I hurriedly did so, and found no
case hinting of mass murder. I went
through the same process with criminal
investigations that had been made public by the military. Once again, no luck.
If Cowan was right, the prosecution he
knew about was taking place in secrecy.
I felt stymied and went back to collecting data for my book.
What happened next was, in a
sense, a one-in-a-million bank shot.
First, during a chance encounter at the
Pentagon, I got the alleged killer’s
name: Calley. Then I spent many
hours poring over newspapers on
microfilm until I found a threeparagraph clip from the New York
Times that had been published six
weeks earlier. The report quoted an
information oficer at Fort Benning
to the effect that a twenty-six-yearold infantry oficer named William
L. Calley Jr. had been charged with
murder “in the deaths of an unspeciied number of civilians in Vietnam.”
The incident took place in March
1968, and nobody in my profession
had asked any questions at the time,
because no reporter knew what I now
did about the enormity of the case.1
owed my next step to my days as
an AP reporter. I had become especially friendly with a senior
aide on the House Armed Services
Committee, then headed by L. Mendel Rivers, a Democrat from South
Carolina with a locked-in seat. Rivers
was an outspoken supporter of all
things military, including the war in
Vietnam, and I was conident that
the Pentagon would have given him a
private brieing about the mass murders in South Vietnam, if indeed they
had taken place.
I learned later that Charles Black, an experienced military-affairs reporter who had
gone to Vietnam ive times for the Columbus Enquirer, the local daily that covered
Fort Benning, had discovered significant
details of the case against Calley, but chose
not to publish anything until the Army
went public with its indings.
I managed to have a cup of coffee
with my friend on Rivers’s staff. Oficials with top-secret clearances were,
of course, bored to death by reporters
seeking to pry such information from
them. So instead of beginning our chat
with a question, I simply told my friend
everything I knew about Calley and
the charges against him. His response
was not to deny the story but to warn
me off it.
“It’s just a mess,” he said. “The kid
was just crazy. I hear he took a machine gun and shot them all himself.
Don’t write about this one. It would
just be doing nobody any good.”
I understood my friend’s concern as a
senior aide to the very conservative Rivers, but I was not about to stop my reporting. On the other hand, the story,
as I was piecing it together, still did not
make sense. One young oficer did all
the killing?
Clearly, I had to ind Calley’s lawyer.
In desperation, I turned once again to
Geoffrey Cowan. It was a cry for help,
a shot in the dark. Two days later, Cowan called with a name: Latimer. Nothing more. I did not waste time wondering what else Cowan could tell me, or
where he was getting his information.
I found a lawyer named Latimer in
the Washington telephone book. He
knew nothing about a murder case
involving the Vietnam War but
thought I might want to get in touch
with a George Latimer, a World War
II combat veteran who later served as
a judge on the US Court of Military
Appeals and was now practicing law.
Latimer, I learned, had joined a Salt
Lake City law irm, and I got him on
the phone. I told him I knew he was
representing Calley and added, with
some honesty, that I had a hunch his
client was being railroaded. (I did not
add that I thought he was a criminal.)
Latimer, speaking very deliberately, as
he always did, acknowledged that yes,
Calley was his client and it was a mis-
carriage of justice. Touchdown! I told
the judge I was flying to the West
Coast soon and asked whether he
would mind if I arranged a stopover in
Salt Lake City. We settled on a date
later in October, and I spent half a day
in the Pentagon library reading a
number of his decisions.
I took an early flight and arrived at
Latimer’s modest ofice by ten o’clock
on a weekday morning. I guessed the
judge, who was an elder in the Mormon Church, to be in his late ifties.
It was clear at irst glance that he was
not a man full of irony and whimsy. I
masked my acute anxiety by telling
Latimer that I had reviewed a number
of his appellate decisions, and asked
him to explain why he did what he did
in certain instances. He did so. It was
an extreme example of the Hersh
Rule: never begin an interview by
asking core questions.
We got to the case at hand, and
Latimer told me that he could not
discuss speciics. He did say that the
Army had offered his client a plea
bargain—one that involved jail
time—and he had told them, “Never.” The message was clear: Latimer
believed his client was a fall guy for
the mistakes, if any, of more senior
oficers during an intense ireight.
At this point, for reasons I still do
not understand, I told Latimer that I
understood Calley was being accused
of killing 150 civilians during the Army
assault on My Lai. The only number I
had actually heard cited, however
vaguely, was seventy-ive. But the Army
oficer and the congressional aide with
whom I had discussed the case spoke of
wild shootings and insanity, and I also
knew from my readings of other antiwar reportage that the senseless killing
of hundreds was commonplace in
American attacks on rural villages in
South Vietnam.
That ictional number got to Latimer. Visibly angered, he went to a ile
cabinet, snatched a folder, pulled a
few pages from it, walked back to his
desk—I was seated across from him—
and flung the pages in front of me. It
was an Army charge sheet accusing
First Lieutenant William L. Calley Jr.
of the premeditated murder of 109
“Oriental” human beings. Even in my
moment of exultation, it was stunning to see the number Calley was
accused of murdering and the description of the dead as “Orientals.” Did
the Army mean to suggest that one
“Oriental” life was somehow worth
less than that of a white American?
It was an ugly adjective.
Latimer quickly turned the charge
sheet around and pulled it closer to
him. I have very little memory of what
happened next in our chat, because I
spent that time—twenty minutes or
so—pretending to take notes as we
talked. What I was really doing was
reading the charge sheet upside down,
albeit very slowly, and copying it word
for word.
At some point Latimer broke off
the interview and refused to say where
Calley was or to help me get to him. I
was pretty sure the judge sensed he’d
gone too far with me, and I did not
dare ask him for a copy of the charge
sheet for fear that he would instruct
me that I could not use what I had
seen. At the door, I thanked him for
spending the morning with me and
said I assumed that Calley was still at
Fort Benning awaiting a courtmartial, and that I was going to hunt
him down.
ort Benning, like many Army
bases in the United States,
was an open facility, and I had
no trouble driving onto the main
post. I was stunned by its size. The
base is nearly the size of New York
City, some 285 square miles, with an
airield, a series of widely separated
training areas where live ammunition
was being ired, and scores of residential areas, known today as family villages. There were a hell of a lot of
places to hide Calley, as the Army
apparently had chosen to do. I was
undaunted; tracking down people
who did not want to be found was vital to what I did for a living, and I was
good at it.
He was being held on a murder
charge, and I assumed that meant he
was being kept under wraps at one of
the many stockades that were scattered around Fort Benning. I got a
good map of the base and began driving. The routine was the same at each
prison: I parked my rental car in the
spot reserved for the senior oficer in
charge, which was invariably empty,
walked into the prison in my suit and
Top to bottom: An American soldier stokes burning houses at My Lai; Vietnamese
children about to be shot by US soldiers; Vietnamese civilians killed by the US Army. All
photographs © Ronald Haeberle/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
tie, carrying a briefcase, and said to the
corporal or sergeant on duty, in a brassy
voice, “I’m looking for Bill Calley. Bring
him out right away.”
There was no Bill Calley anywhere.
It took hours and more than a hundred miles to navigate just a few of the
stockades scattered around the base,
and I was beginning to feel the pressure of time. It was just past noon by
the time I returned to the main post.
I found a pay phone and a base
telephone directory in a PX cafeteria
and began calling every club I could
ind: swimming, tennis, hunting, ishing, hiking. No member by the name
of Calley. None of the gas stations I
he was under orders that if anyone
asked about Calley, he was to call the
colonel right away. That was enough
for me. I told the sergeant not to
worry about it and began walking
away. The sergeant got frantic and
said I could not leave. With that I
ran out of the ofice and down the
street, going harder with each stride.
I did not want a colonel kicking me
off the base. The sergeant chased
after me for a few dozen yards and
then stopped. It was a scene out of a
Marx brothers movie.
I had a hamburger and a Coke at a
PX and wondered, as I chewed, what
the hell to do next. Then I remembered
man, and then quickly rattled off a
phone number and an address before
hanging up. I did not understand a
thing she said, between my jumpiness
and her thick Southern accent, and
wasted precious time reconnecting
with her. When I did, she spelled out,
letter by letter, Calley’s assignment at
the base.
He was attached to an engineering unit located in one of Fort Benning’s satellite training camps. The
building was only a few miles from
the main post, but it took me nearly
an hour, driving through a maze of
streets, to ind the goddamned place.
It was the living quarters for trainees
reached on the base serviced a car
owned by Calley. After a frustrating
few hours, I still had no clue as to his
whereabouts, nor did I know if he was
still at Benning. I was hungry, running
out of daylight, and more than a little
anxious. I decided to take a short walk
and a huge risk by stopping by the
main ofice of the JAG Corps, whose
lawyers would be prosecuting the case
against Calley.
It was long after lunch hour, but
the ofice was empty except for a lone
sergeant. He could not have been
more friendly as I introduced myself
as a journalist from Washington and
said I needed some help. His smile
disappeared when I said I was looking
for William Calley. He asked me to
wait a moment. I asked why. He said
that Latimer had told me that Calley,
then still on active duty in Vietnam,
had been ordered to fly back to Benning in the summer. I recalled from my
AP days that the military produced
updated telephone books every few
months. I dialed the operator and
requested the supervisor on duty,
and when she got on the phone, I
asked her to check the last batch of
new listings in the prior telephone
book for a Lieutenant William
L. Calley Jr. The lieutenant, when he
returned from overseas, had yet to be
prosecuted, and he would have been
parked somewhere on the base—and
duly listed as a late entry in the telephone book.
After a moment or so, the supervisor returned, told me she’d found my
and consisted of two three-story barracks linked by a one-story headquarters ofice. It was midafternoon,
a few hours before the workday
would end, and I had a premonition
that I would ind my quarry stashed
somewhere inside.
After a few moments of scuffling
about, I found a back door into the
nearest barracks and walked through
row after row of double bunk beds on
the irst floor, all empty and all neatly
made up. I raced through the upper
two floors, peering into each bed in
the hope of inding my man. Nothing.
I crossed to the second barracks,
avoiding the officer in charge by
scrambling past the door of his ofice.
The eureka moment, or so I thought,
came on the second floor, in the form
Left: Paul Meadlo (detail), a soldier in Calley’s platoon who confessed to killing civilians at My Lai © Bettmann/Getty
Images. Right: Captain Ernest Medina (detail), Calley’s commanding oficer © Underwood Archives/Getty Images
of a young man, in uniform, with
young second lieutenants dressed in
tousled blond hair, dead asleep in a
camouflage fatigues climbed out. I
top bunk.
parked behind them, got out of the
I raised a leg, kicked the side of the
car, and explained that I was a jourbunk, and said, “Wake up, Calley.”
nalist in search of Bill Calley. Didn’t
The soldier, not yet twenty years old,
he live here? Not anymore, I was told.
yawned and said, “What the hell,
They invited me in for a drink and
man?” I do not remember what the
explained that they were June graduname tag on his blouse said, but it
ates from West Point, inishing up comwas now clear that I did not have
bat training before heading off to VietCalley. I sat down in disappointment
nam as infantry platoon leaders. They
on a bed facing the GI, and a queswere polite, articulate, and very likable.
tion popped out: “What the fuck are
We had another bourbon or two.
you doing sleeping in the middle of
Calley, I learned, stopped by occasionthe day?”
ally to get his mail. Of course they knew
It was an absurd story. He had been
where he was living now, but they volscheduled to be released months earunteered nothing—until one inally
lier from active duty, but the Army
broke ranks as I was leaving. Calley, he
had lost his papers and he was still
told me, had been tucked away in the
waiting for them. He was from a farmsenior quarters for ield-grade oficers,
ing family in Ottumwa, Iowa, and it
including colonels and generals on
was harvest season, and his dad and
temporary assignment to Benning. I
others were doing his share of the
work. Meanwhile, he was getting in
a lot of sleep. I asked the sad sack
whether he had been assigned anyBUT INSTEAD I FOUND A FRIGHTENED
thing to do during the day. “I sort
the mail,” he said. For everyone?
Yes. Did he ever get mail for someone named Calley? “You mean that
guy that killed all those people?”
Yes, that guy.
The farmer-to-be told me that he
was stunned: A suspected mass murhad never met Calley but had been
derer hidden away in quarters for the
ordered to collect the lieutenant’s mail
Army’s most elite? I never would
and deliver it every so often to his pal
have looked there. It would have
Smitty, the mail clerk at battalion
been like inding Calley in a neonaheadquarters. The unhappy GI then
tal intensive care unit.
led me to Smitty, who in turn offered
I drove off to the complex of twoto show me Calley’s 201 ile: the perstory buildings with a large parking
sonnel folder that the military keeps
lot. I began knocking on doors, calling
for both enlisted men and oficers.
out as I did, “Bill? Bill Calley?” Over
Trying to stay cool, I opened the
the next few hours, I got through two of
folder, and the irst page that I encounthe three buildings, with no luck and
tered was the same charge sheet I had
much exhaustion. I’d gotten up at ive
seen days earlier in George Latimer’s
o’clock that morning in Washington
ofice. There was more: an address, in
and had little to eat and more than I
nearby Columbus, Georgia, where Calneeded to drink. It was time to check
ley was living. I took the time to careinto a motel, get an hour or two of sleep,
fully copy the charge sheet, making sure
and start knocking on doors again.
I got every phrase right, and returned
It was dark as I walked across the
the ile to Smitty. He was glad to help,
nearly empty parking lot. I noticed
he said—fuck the Army. Then he left,
two guys working underneath a car
and I headed for Calley’s new home.
a few hundred feet away with the aid
of a floodlight. I vividly remember
t was nearly ive o’clock by the
thinking to myself: let it go, you’ve
time I got to Calley’s condo in
done enough for today. But I didn’t.
what seemed to be a new housing
As I got close to the car, I apologized
development. A car pulled into the
for bothering the two guys but said I
driveway ahead of me, and three
was looking for Bill Calley. One of
the men, perhaps in his late forties,
crawled out and asked what I wanted
with him. I explained that I was a
journalist from Washington and that
Calley was in a lot of trouble, and
the man invited me to wait for him
at his place.
His place turned out to be on the
irst floor of one of the units, and Calley
lived above him. I was warned that it
might be hours before Calley showed
up; he had gone motorboating at a lake
miles away. Yes, said my new friend, a
senior warrant oficer who flew helicopters in heavy combat, he knew Calley
was in a lot of trouble.
Drinks were offered as we waited;
the US Army clearly was running on
bourbon. He understood where I was
coming from, he said, and acknowledged, sadly, that Vietnam was a murderous, unwinnable war that was taxing his love for the military. Calley
was worried, the pilot said, as he
should be. His story of a firefight
would not hold up. I liked the pilot
and admired his honesty, but after
an hour or so of pretending to sip a
drink, I was done. I had to get some
sleep. I said goodbye—I can still see
the mosquitoes buzzing around a
naked bulb outside his door—and
began walking to my car.
“Hersh!” the pilot yelled. “Come
back! Rusty is here.”
It was Calley. We shook hands. I told
him who I was and that I was there to
get his side of the story. He said, as if
my tracking him down had been a
piece of cake, that yes, his lawyer had
told him to expect a visit from me.
We went upstairs. I had another
drink—this time a beer—and we began to talk. I had wanted to hate him,
to see him as a child-killing monster,
but instead I found a frightened young
man, short and so pale that the bluish
veins on his neck and shoulders were
visible. His initial account was impossible to believe, full of heroic one-onone warfare with bullets, grenades,
and artillery shells exchanged with the
evil commies.
Sometime after three in the morning, Calley took me to a PX, where he
bought a bottle of bourbon and some
wine. The next stop was an all-night
store on the base, where he purchased
a steak. Then we picked up his girlfriend, who was a nurse on night duty
at the main hospital at the base. She
was enraged at Calley upon learning
that he was introducing her to a journalist, but she drove back to his
apartment with us and made dinner.
There was more drinking, and as daylight broke, Calley was talking about
going bowling.
The nurse had fled by then, and I
had compiled a notebook full of
quotes, many of them full of danger for
him: his account of the assault at My
Lai had become more and more riddled with contradictions. As I got up
to leave, Calley insisted that I have a
brief phone conversation with his captain, Ernest Medina, who had been in
charge of the assault at My Lai.
Medina, who would be found not
guilty of premeditated murder, involuntary manslaughter, and assault after a court-martial two years later,
picked up the telephone after a ring
or two. He also was at Fort Benning,
presumably going through the same
process as Calley, who was sharing
the phone with me. Calley explained
that he had been talking to me about
My Lai, and he asked Medina to conirm that anything that took place
was done under his direct orders. “I
don’t know what you’re talking
about,” Medina said, and then he
hung up. Calley looked stricken. At
that moment, he inally grasped what
I am sure he had already suspected:
he was going to be the fall guy for the
murders at My Lai.
’d been a reporter for a decade by
the fall of 1969 and somehow had
igured out that the best way to
tell a story, no matter how signiicant
or complicated, was to get the hell
out of the way and just tell it. My irst
My Lai dispatch thus began:
Lt. William L. Calley, Jr., 26, is a mildmannered, boyish-looking Vietnam
combat veteran with the nickname of
“Rusty.” The Army says he deliberately murdered at least 109 Vietnamese
civilians during a search-and-destroy
mission in March 1968 in a Viet Cong
stronghold known as “Pinkville.”
I wrote the story to the best of my
ability and then telephoned an editor
friend at Life and said it was all theirs,
if the weekly moved quickly. The editor called back within a few hours and
said no. He had pushed for it, he said,
but there was little enthusiasm for
such a story on the part of senior
management. I had also been in
touch earlier with Look, and now
called the editor there and illed him in
on the Calley interview. He, too, passed.
I was devastated, and frightened by
the extent of self-censorship I was
encountering in my profession. I
feared I would have no choice but to
take the My Lai story to a newspaper
and run the risk of having editors turn
over my information to their reporting
staff: in other words, of being treated
like a tipster.
I had stayed in touch with the
fa med Wa shi ng ton muck r a ker
I. F. Stone through my recent travails, and he responded to my desperation by assuring me that Bob
Silvers, the editor of The New York
Review of Books, would publish the
piece immediately. I called Silvers
and he had me dictate the story to
someone there. When he and I talked, Silvers told me how excited he
was about the story. He had only one
signiicant editing request. Would I
add a paragraph up high in the piece
to explain the meaning of the massacre, putting it in the context of a
brutal, unwinnable war?
I was familiar with editors wanting
to put their fingerprints on a good
story, and laughed him off, saying
there was no need to spell out for readers the political importance of the
case against Calley. Surely the facts
spoke for themselves. Silvers insisted.
I refused. He said he would not run the
story without adding the words he
wanted me to write. I said goodbye,
and that was that.
I was adamant because I knew
from my years of being immersed in
the war, and in the racism and fear
that drove it, that the mass murder
of civilians was far more common
than most people suspected—and
that it was very seldom prosecuted.
We now had a case where the Army
itself was drawing a line and saying,
in essence, that there were some actions that could not be overlooked.
There was no way I would let even
one paragraph that smacked of antiwar dicta pollute the straightforward
report of a mass murder I had written, even if it was to be published in
a magazine that was conspicuously
against the war.
The flap with Silvers, someone who
was on my side, proved to me that I
wasn’t going to get the My Lai story
published the way I wanted, not unless
I somehow put it out there myself. I
called up my friend David Obst, who
ran the Washington-based Dispatch
News Service, an antiwar agency
formed just a year earlier. I told him
that he could have the goddamned
story and that he’d better not screw it
up. I also told him that Dispatch News
Service was going to copyright the My
Lai story and take full responsibility
for publishing it. The newspapers who
chose to print what we wrote would
pay a ixed fee for doing so, and we
settled on a hundred bucks per paper,
regardless of circulation. I somehow
had faith that Obst, a twenty-threeyear-old who was able to talk himself
in and out of trouble with great charm
and pizzazz, would pull it off.
In its own way, what Obst accomplished was as unlikely as my running
down Calley at Fort Benning. In his
1998 memoir Too Good to Be Forgotten, he recalled how he went about
selling the story, starting early in the
morning on November 12, 1969:
I got a copy of a book called The Literary Marketplace, which listed the
names and phone numbers of all of
the newspapers in America. I opened
to A and began calling. It wasn’t until
I got to the Cs that I got a hit. The
Hartford Current [sic] in Connecticut
said they were interested and requested a copy of the story.
My only effort to sell the story on
that same day ended in something of
a iasco. I was a good friend of Larry
Stern, a star reporter on the national
staff of the Washington Post, and he
invited me to meet with Ben Bradlee, the paper’s magnetic executive
editor. I showed up there just after
noon with Michael Nussbaum, my
lawyer and also an old friend, and we
met in the tiny ofice of Phil Foisie,
the foreign editor. Four or ive editors
and reporters gathered around as I
distributed copies of the Calley story.
There was quiet as all began to read.
It was broken by the effervescent
Bradlee, who literally tossed the pages he was reading at Foisie and said,
“Goddamn it! I’ve got hundreds of
reporters working for me and this
has to come from the outside. Publish it. It smells right.”
Despite Bradlee’s drama-queen
performance, the Post totally rewrote
my story, adding denials from the
Pentagon and other caveats. At least
they put the article on the front
page. The early edition hit the street
well before midnight. It was an ignoble beginning, made worse when Peter Braestrup, who had been assigned
to rewrite my Calley story, woke me
up a few hours before dawn to tell
me that I was a lying son of a bitch:
no single soldier could be responsible
for the murder of 109 civilians. It was
just impossible, he insisted.
I thought Braestrup was drunk,
but he may not have been. In any
case, I had a lot of trouble going
back to sleep. As he reminded me, I
had reported a mass murder without
having seen a shred of video or photographic evidence.
I would soon learn that the My
Lai story made a lot of people irrational. My telephone at home remained
listed, as it still is, and for months after the story broke I got calls from
angry oficers and enlisted men, usually drunk, telling me what they
were going to do to my private parts.
Braestrup’s was far and away the
most stressful case, especially when I
learned of his expertise. He was a
former Marine oficer who had been
seriously wounded in the Korean
War, and was soon to be the Saigon
bureau chief for the Post. I had obviously anticipated pushback from
many in the government and the
military, but Braestrup alerted me to
the possibility that my fellow reporters would be equally resentful.
bst and I had no idea whether the ifty or so newspaper
editors around the country
who bought the story would actually
choose to publish it until the middle
of the next afternoon, when out-oftown papers arrived at the newsstand in the National Press Building.
Obst, it turned out, had created a
miracle: dozens of major newspapers,
including the Chicago Sun-Times,
the Philadelphia Bulletin, and the St.
Louis Post-Dispatch, prominently dis-
played the Calley story; a few even
made it the banner headline. The
New York Times did not buy the story, but the New York Post did, and
gave it dominant play.
The major television networks did
nothing with the story, in part because the Pentagon shrewdly refused
to make any comment. And there
was widespread skepticism elsewhere
in the media about my report, with
many newspapers—including the
Washington Post—noting the hardships US soldiers were undergoing in
ighting a guerrilla war against enemy troops who posed as farmers during the day. The subliminal message
was clear: American soldiers were often in a position where they had to
shoot irst or become victims. Who
was I to make such a harsh judgment
about the war? 2
Within weeks I wrote a follow-up
piece, which Obst sold to scores of
papers in America and abroad. (The
New York Times declined once
again.) I kept on going. By now I
As it happened, a former soldier and aspiring journalist named Ronald Ridenhour had already encountered precisely
this sort of resistance to the My Lai story. Serving with a reconnaissance unit in
1968, he had not been a witness to the massacre but had overlown the burned-out village a few weeks afterward, and, horriied
by the desolation, quietly began collecting
details of the atrocity from members of Calley’s platoon. When his tour of duty ended
in November, Ridenhour compiled a
2,000-word account of the massacre and
sent it to several dozen oficials in Washington. Most of the recipients, who included
President Richard Nixon, some twenty
members of Congress, and high-ranking oficers in the Department of the Army,
claimed that the memo had never shown
up. The magazines and newspapers that
Ridenhour approached with his account
were similarly skeptical— only one of
them even bothered to respond. But it
was Ridenhour’s memo that inally impelled the Army to open its investigation,
which makes him the real hero of this story. I saw a reference to him in a brief article right after I published the irst of my
My Lai dispatches and immediately lew
out to California, where he was a student
at Claremont Men’s College. We talked
for ive hours, and he gave me the names
and addresses of other witnesses, as well
a s st ray bit s of document at ion th at
proved invaluable. Ridenhour did eventually become a journ alist, winning a
George Polk Award in 1987 for his investigation of a tax scandal in New Orleans,
his hometown. He died, much too young,
of a heart attack in 1998.
Darwin Panama
A warm weather hat with Australian
styling, handwoven in Ecuador from
toquilla iber. Water resistant coating,
braided kangaroo leather band.
Reinforced 4½" crown, 3" brim.
Finished in USA.
S (6¾-6⅞) M (7-7⅛) L (7¼-7⅜)
XL (7½-7⅝) XXL (7¾)
#1649 Darwin Panama $130
Panama Fedora
Classic sun protection handwoven in
Ecuador from toquilla iber. Water
resistant coating, grosgrain ribbon band.
Reinforced 4½" crown, 2½" brim.
Finished in USA.
S (6¾-6⅞) M (7-7⅛) L (7¼-7⅜)
XL (7½-7⅝) XXL (7¾)
#1648 Panama Fedora $105
Add $9 handling per order.
Satisfaction guaranteed.
or request our catalog
Tilley® Hats from Canada
Northwest Jewelry Designs
Akubra® Hats from Australia
11812 N Creek Pkwy N, Ste 103•Bothell, WA 98011
knew there was yet another story
that, so I thought, would end any resistance to the obvious truth of My
Lai. I had spoken to other members
of Calley’s platoon, and they told me
about a soldier named Paul Meadlo,
a farm kid from somewhere in Indiana, who had mechanically ired clip
after clip of bullets, on Calley’s orders, into groups of women and children who had been rounded up amid
the massacre.
I traced Meadlo’s family to the
tiny village of New Goshen, about
eighty-ive miles west of Indianapolis, and pulled up in front of the
ramshackle farm at midday. Paul’s
mother, Myrtle, in her fifties but
looking much older, came out to
greet me. When I explained my mission, she pointed to a second, smaller
frame house on the property.
I knocked on the door and Meadlo waved me inside. The day after
the My Lai massacre, he had stepped
on a land mine, which blew off his
right foot. I began the conversation
by asking him to show me his stump.
He took off his boot and prosthetic
device and talked openly and with
animation about the treatment he
had received in the ield, in Vietnam,
and the long recuperation he went
through at an Army hospital in Japan. We then turned to the day of
the massacre. Meadlo told the story
to me in great detail, and with little
emotion, especially given the events
he was recounting: Calley first ordered him to guard the survivors of
the initial carnage, who had been
gathered in a ditch, and then told
him to kill them all. There were other soldiers present, but Meadlo did
the bulk of the job, iring four or ive
seventeen-bullet clips into the ditch
until it grew silent.
I called Obst late in the afternoon
and told him to let editors know we
had done it again and now had a
front-page story for the world: a irsthand account of the massacre, on
the record, from a shooter. Paul
Meadlo’s confessional did change
America, as I hoped it would. Before
his account was published in papers
around the world, he was taped for
CBS television as well, and his appearance was broadcast on November 24: the same day that the Penta-
gon formally announced that Calley
would be court-martialed for the
murder of 109 Vietnamese civilians.
he harrowing Meadlo story
ended the debate about what
had happened at My Lai, and
it also spawned a wave of Sunday feature stories by journalists about massacres they had witnessed in Vietnam. The one that troubled me the
most was iled by an experienced AP
correspondent, who described how a
few Marines had gone on a rampage
in 1965 and killed a cluster of civilians who had taken refuge in a cave.
My irst angry thought: Why hadn’t
such stories been published at the
time? But I soon took a more charitable tack: My controversial pieces
had been written in an ofice far from
Vietnam, and in a climate at least
slightly more welcoming to antiwar
sentiment. Publishing such an onthe-scene account in 1965 would
have been seen by many as disloyalty,
and it would have been vigorously (if
shakily) debunked, with prominent
newspapers leading the pack.
As for me, I continued to race
around America well into December,
tracking down My Lai participants
and witnesses. I produced ive articles
in all on the massacre and its aftermath for Dispatch News Service. But
I have yet to sort out the ethical complexities of what I was writing about,
and perhaps I never will. In a letter I
sent to Bob Loomis, who was then my
editor at Random House, I wrote:
Both the killer and the killed are victims in Vietnam; the peasant who is
shot down for no reason and the GI
who is taught, or comes to believe,
that a Vietnamese life somehow has
less meaning than his wife’s, or his sister’s, or his mother’s.
I believed those words then, and
still do, but it was a hard-earned belief. One GI who shot himself in the
foot to get the hell out of My Lai told
me of the special savagery some of
his colleagues—or was it himself?—
had shown toward young children.
One GI used his bayonet repeatedly
on a little boy, at one point tossing
the child, perhaps still alive, in the
air and spearing him as if he were a
papier-mâché piñata. I had a two-
year-old son at home, and there were
times, after talking to my wife and
then my child on the telephone,
when I would suddenly burst into
tears, sobbing uncontrollably. For
them? For the victims of American
slaughter? For me, because of what I
was learning?
My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and Its Aftermath, my second
book, was published in June 1970. Its
publication, to the dismay of many
at Random House, was overshadowed by Harper’s Magazine, which
published a 30,000-word excerpt of
my book, on a different grade of paper from the rest of the magazine, in
its May issue, which appeared weeks
before the book was available in
stores. My shock was tempered by
the fact that there were literally
lines of buyers outside drugstores
and bookstores on the morning the
magazine was released. This coup by
Willie Morris, the magazine’s editor,
certainly put a dent in Random
House’s sales, but his instinct about
the importance of the story was a
boon for the antiwar movement.
The My Lai story undoubtedly
hastened America’s withdrawal from
Vietnam. On a more personal note,
it won me a Pulitzer Prize, some measure of fame, and enough money to
make a down payment on a small
house in Washington. To this day,
however, I feel a certain moral uneasiness about Calley’s role as a fall
guy when so many others were
equally culpable. Did his conviction
somehow let other guilty parties—
and even ourselves—off the hook?
That was certainly the fear I expressed to Loomis in that letter. It
has never entirely gone away:
Calley is really no more at fault than
anyone else there: he shouldn’t have
been an oficer, he shouldn’t have been
sent to ight a war he could not comprehend, he shouldn’t have known the
body count as the only standard of success, and he shouldn’t be on trial any
more than the higher-ranking oficers
who did nothing about the slaughter
afterwards, thus inducing that many
more killings. Perhaps there is even
less reason to try Calley than the top
brass at the Pentagon, or maybe an
American president or two, or three.
Perhaps you and me should be on trial
for not doing more to stop the war. Q
There are more than 100 uncontacted
tribes around the world.
There are more than 100 uncontacted tribes around the world.
They are the guardians of the most biodiverse places on Earth
and a vitally important part of humankind’s diversity.
But many are being wiped out as their forests are invaded
and destroyed. Since 1969, Survival has led the global
campaign for uncontacted tribes’ rights. We won’t give up
until their lands are protected.
We need YOU to help us give the most vulnerable peoples
on the planet a chance to survive and thrive.
Watch our new film with Mark Rylance & Gillian Anderson
and join the movement today.
Artiicial intelligence and the
By Ava
Surveillance tapes, like the daily life they capture, are dull. For the most part,
nothing happens in the world’s empty parking lots, hallways, and alleys. Time
passes slowly—and there’s far too much of it. Each week, some 60 million
surveillance cameras in the United States generate billions of hours of footage.
Humans watch only a small percentage of these CCTV feeds, although “watch”
may be too generous a word. One study found that after twenty minutes of
sustained attention, security guards lose 95 percent of their ability to accurately identify signiicant events. Even the most attentive personnel would be
stymied by the time and effort required to monitor America’s millions of
screens in real time. There just aren’t enough eyeballs.
Artiicial intelligence is beginning to change this. Police departments in several US cities have signed contracts with vendors whose software can automatically monitor a video feed
and notify human oficers as soon as something unexpected
happens. According to the law, police must have a “reasonable suspicion” that someone is engaged in criminal activity
in order to justify a stop, but “smart” cameras will flag any
behavior that is slightly out of the ordinary, though it may
be completely legal, and prompt a response. It’s an unprecedented expansion of policing power, and many legal scholars
ind it troubling: “We are at the beginning of a game-changing
shift,” said Andrew Ferguson, an expert in big-data surveillance. “These new technologies will not only alert police to
things they can’t see but also collect a lot of information to go
back in time.”
Until recently, much of this software has tried to categorize human behavior by following strict instructions: the system is programmed to send oficers an alert if it detects someone carrying a gun, entering a speciic area,
wearing a mask, and so on. But these rule-based systems have been known
to miss many suspicious interactions for which they have not been explicitly prepared. That’s why a handful of companies, including iCetana, an
AI irm with headquarters in Los Angeles and Australia, have created
software that can learn what constitutes suspicious behavior all on its own.
In this novel approach, known as “deep learning,” the camera builds an
ever-evolving understanding of the environment it is watching. Whereas a
rules-based system might be taught that bicycles are allowed only in the
street, iCetana’s system can learn to “normalize” complex patterns of
behavior—such as children riding their bikes on the sidewalk. iCetana’s
cameras improve as they ingest data, allowing them to spot “unknown
unknowns.” “We’re not literally looking for a dog or a cat or a truck,” explained Andy McMahon, a senior vice president at iCetana. “We’re just
looking for the abnormal movement—anything that is picked out as a one
percent statistical difference.”
expanding reach of the police
iCetana’s cameras do not recognize dogs, cats, or trucks as such. Rather, they
understand the world at a more fundamental level—people and objects
become collections of pixels with a particular size, speed, reflectivity, color,
and arrangement. A shape lingering at the edge of a railing might mean a
jumper; shapes tangled on the ground, a ight. Operators using iCetana’s
system are stationed in front of a screen known as the LiveWall, whose
video tiles remain blank until triggered by an event that merits further inspection. At Curtin University in Australia, where iCetana’s technology was
developed, security cameras recently captured two people moving at high
speed against the flow of pedestrian trafic. (The stream of blue pixels has
been artiicially enhanced to highlight what the computer interpreted as a
deviant pattern of action.) When security guards responded, they discovered
that a man had stolen a backpack, and its owner was chasing after him. But
even if an alert turns out to be nothing, McMahon contends that iCetana’s
program can never be “wrong,” since its role is merely to flag statistically
veriiable deviations and bring them to the LiveWall. Ultimately, it is humans
who decide how to assess alerts and what to do about them.
That may be little consolation. Decisions made by US law enforcement about
where to install cameras have been shown to disproportionately target neighborhoods where black, Hispanic, and Muslim people live. Civil rights advocates
are concerned that oficers might become even more aggressive in areas that are
already heavily policed if a supposedly neutral computer prompts them to
investigate—a phenomenon psychologists call automation bias. The impact of that
bias could be exacerbated by pairing a system like iCetana’s with facial recognition
technology that links people to their criminal histories and outstanding warrants,
both of which are artifacts of earlier biased decisions about where to focus police
resources. In Ferguson, Missouri, for example, where an estimated 70 percent of
the black population has an outstanding arrest warrant, such a pairing would
essentially give police the ability to stop and arrest most of the city’s black residents
at will.
Ava Kofman lives in Brooklyn,
New York.
Video stills courtesy iCetana
This nightmare scenario is already a reality in China. Cloud Walk, a smart-CCTV
vendor, collects footage of people’s daily habits and uses it to rate how likely they
are to engage in criminal activity. “If someone buys a kitchen knife, that’s okay,”
a Cloud Walk spokesman told the Financial Times, “but if the person also buys a
sack and a hammer later, that person is becoming suspicious.” Police in China
may use these risk scores to determine which individuals to pursue. The legal
scholar Michael Rich argues that it would not be dificult to envision a world in
which everyone might seem like a potential criminal if you let the machines look
at them long enough. Algorithms that automate suspicion, he writes, “could
permit the police to stop anyone and later ind a prediction of crime to justify the
intrusion.” In the United States, the courts have yet to determine whether it is
legal for the police to frisk, search, or arrest people because a computer tells them
to. Absent such guidance, the use of automated suspicion algorithms is becoming
ever more common. Millions of curious eyes have blinked into existence and,
unlike security guards, they never fall asleep.
Featuring dozens of
compelling biographical
accounts, this book
illuminates the profound
impact Jewishness and
second-wave feminism had
on each other
A visual exploration that follows
centuries of New York activism to reveal
the city as a globally influential machine
for social change
A copublication with
The Museum of the City of New York
The captivating story of how a
diverse group of women,
including Janet Reno and Ruth
Bader Ginsburg, broke the
glass ceiling and changed the
modern legal profession
“The world has a great writer
in Erich Maria Remarque. He
is a craftsman of unquestionably first rank, a man who can
bend language to his will.
Whether he writes of men or
of inanimate nature, his touch
is sensitive, firm, and sure.”
From political cartoons to
immigrant case files to
novels, this book connects
Asian immigration, European
immigration, and internal,
black migration for a
complete history of domestic
labor markets in 19th century
"An astounding and
essential qualitative study
that collects heartfelt, honest
anecdotes from a variety of
transgender children and
their parents."
—The New York Times Book
Notes from a purveyor
By Rabih Alameddine
efore he
died, my fat her reminded me that
when I was four
and he asked what
I wanted to be
when I grew up, I
said I wanted to be
a writer. Of course,
what I meant by
“writer” then was a
writer of Superman comics. In
part I was infatua t e d w it h t h e
practically invulnerable Man of
Steel, his blue eyes
and his spit curl. I
wanted both to be
him and to marry
him—to be his
Robin, so to speak.
But more importantly, I wanted to
write his story, the adventures of the
man who fought for truth, justice,
and the American Way—if only I
could igure out what the fuck the
American Way was.
Rabih Alameddine’s most recent novel is
The Angel of History (Atlantic Monthly
Press). He delivered a version of this essay
as a lecture at Northwestern University in
May 2016.
How could I tell the story with
such glaring holes in my knowledge?
I was terribly bothered that I did not
know what the American Way was,
and became even more so when I began to wonder whether there was
such a thing as the Lebanese Way
and whether I would recognize it.
My parents were Lebanese, but I was
born in Jordan, raised in Kuwait.
Alhamd Bird, by Mahmood Sabzi. Courtesy the artist and Janet Rady Fine Art, London
Could my way be
Kuwaiti and not
Lebanese? Since
most of my classmates were Palestinians, I had a
Ram allah accent.
Did that mean I’d
lost my way?
I wanted to tell
stories that belonged to me. Superman would be
my friend, his world
mine. In a single
bound, he would
leap the tallest
buildings, basically
my house and my
cousins’ across the
street. My Superman would be more
powerful than a locomotive, stronger
than my father’s red
Rambler. I wished
to share my story with the world, and it
did not occur to me at that age to ask
whether the world had any interest.
ho gets to tell stories? Let
me answer this quickly: for
the most part—and the exceptions are relatively recent—the writers who are allowed to talk are those
who prop up the dominant culture, who
reflect it with a gilded mirror. But
Conrad of “thoroughgoing” racism
wait: writers have been critical of the
and adds:
dominant culture for quite a while,
That this simple truth is glossed
you may say. Look at James Baldwin,
over in criticisms of his work is due
look at Margaret Atwood and The
to the fact that white racism against
Handmaid’s Tale. Well, ine, but critAfrica is such a normal way of
icism of the culture is not necessarthinking that its manifestations go
ily a threat to it. When the story is
completely unremarked.
truly threatening, the writer is marIn other words, Conrad not only
ginalized, either deemed a “political”
shares the dominant point of view
writer or put in a box to be safely
but makes it stronger. He might prick
celebrated as some sort of “minority”
it with a pin every now and then, but
writer. In his day Baldwin was conhe is by no means threatening the
sidered more a black writer than a
culture. In fact, he is glorifying it.
writer, and so he still is. If he is inchAchebe uses a phrase that I will reing his way into the canon, it is beturn to: Conrad is a purveyor of
cause the culture has shifted. Overt
comforting myths.
racism is a bad thing now, so a libWhere I disagree with Achebe is
eral American can read Another
that, because of the racism in Heart
Country and think, sure, there were
a few bad apples back then, but
this is not about me or how I live.
It is easier now to tell ourselves
that Baldwin is not talking about
us, that he is criticizing people we
no longer are.
When I bring this up in conversation, people stop me in my tracks
because, you know, Conrad, Heart
of Darkness and all that. Didn’t he
of Darkness, he refuses to consider it
criticize empire?
a masterwork. Like all books, ConHe didn’t. A story about a bickerrad’s novel is limited by his vision,
ing couple does not threaten the
his biases, his worldview. There is
institution of marriage. Heart of
no writer with limitless vision, no
Darkness might disapprove of colowriter whose worldview is shared by
nialism, but it’s not an attack on
everyone. The problem is not that
empire itself. The book deals in
people read Heart of Darkness as a
strict dualities and reinforces the
masterpiece—it is one—it’s that few
superiority of Western culture and
read books unsanctioned by empire,
ideas. Africa, its jungle, is what
and even if you wanted to, there
blackens Kurtz’s heart, and just in
aren’t that many available. Today’s
case you start to feel uncomfortable
imperial cen sorship is usually
because you ind yourself identifying
masked as the publisher’s bottom
with him, the supposed bad apple—
line. “This won’t sell” is the widest
the Lynndie England of nineteenthmoat in the castle’s defenses.
century Europe—Marlow, the novel’s cordon sanitaire, is there to make
eart of Darkness echoes evyou feel better. If that’s not enough,
erywhere today. Take the
it’s actually some other shadowy narAmerican war novels about
rator telling you what he heard when
Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq. They
listening to Marlow’s story, so you,
are often considered critical of war,
imperial citizen, are at least two
hence you might think of them as
steps removed from the apple and its
dangerous to the institution of war.
African rot. No need for you to feel
But most of them deal with the sufyourself in jeopardy. Your world
fering of the American soldiers, the
might not be perfect, but that other
Marines who were forced to massaworld, that world of the other, is just
cre a village, the pilots who dropped
simply horrid.
barrel bombs and came home sufferIn Chinua Achebe’s 1977 essay
ing from PTSD. If anything, this is
on Heart of Darkness, he accuses
helpful to the cannibalistic war machine. Such war novels make us feel
bad and at the same time allow us to
see ourselves as the good guys. We
are not all terrible, for we suffer, too.
In one of the most gorgeous passages at the end of Heart of Darkness,
Conrad describes at length the suffering of a mass murderer’s widow, though
he glossed over that of the murderer’s
victims. Conrad did not create the
original mold for this kind of writing—
from Homer to Shakespeare to
Kipling, everyone has done it—but he
became the standard because he was
so good. We invade your countries,
destroy your economies, demolish your
infrastructures, murder hundreds of
thousands of your citizens, and a decade or so later we write beautifully
restrained novels about how killing
you made us cry.
mong the many writers
who have responded to
Heart of Darkness, my favorite is Tayeb Salih in Season of
Migration to the North. This short
novel, published in Arabic in 1966
(the irst English translation came
out in 1969), refers to a number of
classic works of Western literature—
Othello, The Tempest—but primarily it
engages with Conrad. Where Conrad
wrote of colonialism as a misadventure
that forced enlightened man to encounter his opposite in the heart of
darkness that is Africa, Salih, who is
Sudanese, calls the entire enterprise
of empire a “deadly disease” that began
“a thousand years ago,” a contagion
that began with the earliest contact,
the Crusades. Conrad’s Kurtz is mirrored in Salih’s Mustapha Saeed, who
leaves his small Sudanese village and
moves to his heart of darkness, London. Once enmeshed in the city’s
web, Saeed decides he will “liberate
Africa with his penis.” Like Kurtz’s
time in Africa, Saeed’s stay in London results in a trail of dead bodies—
his lovers who commit suicide, the
wife he murders.
Salih’s novel simultaneously emphasizes and breaks down the dualities between self and other, between white and black. Saeed is
shown as both the other and the
double of the unnamed narrator, a
man from the same village. The
line demarcating the dualities is
not clea r-cut. Compa red wit h
Heart of Darkness, Season of Migration to the North is a study in subtlety. Whereas the denizens of
Conrad’s Africa are “just limbs or
rolling eyes” who grunt and snort
or are cannibals who want to “eat
’im,” Salih’s Africans think, act,
and speak—an amazing concept.
And Salih is more generous than
Conrad: he allows the denizens of
his heart of darkness to be human
as well. Even these imperial interlopers are allowed to talk, if only to
act on ridiculously sexist and racist
sentiments, as with a woman who
says to Saeed, “Ravish me, you African demon. Burn me in the ire of
your temple, you black god. Let me
twist and turn in your wild and impassioned rites.” (There are prejudices and there are prejudices, of
course, and suffering under someone else’s does not inoculate you
from subjecting others to your own.
In Salih’s book, in other words,
sexism “is such a normal way of
thinking that its manifestations go
completely unremarked.”)
The gravitas in Salih’s novel is in the
return home. Conrad’s Kurtz dies, Marlow returns to England a tad traumatized. In Season of Migration, both
Saeed and the narrator return to Sudan
after a stint in London, and they ind
that they no longer it where they belong. The narrator says:
By the standards of the European industrial world, we are poor peasants,
but when I embrace my grandfather I
experience a sense of richness as
though I am a note in the heartbeats
of the very universe.
Neither man can be that note any
longer; neither can recover the experience of being part of the village.
They are caught in countercurrents.
The novel ends with the narrator
in the river, not the Thames or the
Congo but the Nile, struggling to
stay afloat:
Turning to left and right, I found I
was halfway between north and
south. I was unable to continue, unable to return. . . . Like a comic actor shouting on a stage, I screamed
with all my remaining strength,
“Help! Help!”
Think “The horror! The horror!”
Colonialism dislocates you in your
own home.
don’t have to tell you that Tayeb
Salih is not widely read in our
dominant culture; or, to put it
in the terms I’m using, he isn’t allowed to talk here. He isn’t a purveyor of our comforting myths. He
is, however, read among Arabs, at
least among the intelligentsia. The
book was published to great acclaim
and is now recognized as one of the
masterpieces of Arabic literature.
So: Is Salih the purveyor of comforting myths in that world? His
novel might not subscribe to the
American Way or the Colonialist
Way, but does it subscribe to the
Arab or the African Way? One has
to wonder if it its into a dominant
Arab culture that blames all its ills
on colonialism.
The question is important for me,
so let me take it a little further: even
though Salih wrote the book in Arabic, he was still a Western-educated
man who spent most of his life in
London. To the Sudanese, he may
be closer than an Englishman, but
he isn’t exactly one of them, and of
course few actual Englishmen would
consider him one of their own. He is
seen by both sides as the other. Even
though his work might sound foreign to most Western readers, his
foreignness is the tip of the iceberg,
that humongous iceberg of the other.
Or, if there is such a thing as an
otherness scale, then Salih falls at a
point along this scale, but not at the
far end, and maybe a lot closer than
you think.
o matter how bleak things
look these days, what with
Trump and other racists yelling on the airwaves and committing
overt acts of violence, we are living
in a time of greater inclusivity than
any other. More people are being allowed into the dominant culture,
more people are being allowed to
talk, maybe not all at the same volume, and there are still not enough
voices, but things are quite a bit better than when Salih and Baldwin
wrote their novels, and that is reflected in our literature. Every year,
Peggy's Cove
Cabot Trail
Explore the Canadian Maritimes with
Caravan—Call Now for Choice Dates
Nova Scotia
and Prince Edward Island
10-Day Tour $1495
Enjoy Canada's Atlantic Coast
and the Canadian Maritimes on
a fully guided Caravan Tour!
With Caravan, you'll explore
Nova Scotia, New Brunswick,
and Prince Edward Island.
Your Caravan tour includes all
hotels, and all activities with a
great itinerary.
Itinerary details at
Call now for choice dates.
Join the smart shoppers and
experienced travelers who have
chosen Caravan since 1952.
Fully Guided Tours + tax & fees
10 days $1395
Costa Rica
9 days $1295
Panama Canal
8 days $1295
Nova Scotia
10 days $1495
Canadian Rockies 9 days $1795
Grand Canyon
8 days $1495
California Coast 8 days $1595
Mt. Rushmore
8 days $1395
New England
8 days $1395
“Brilliant, Affordable Pricing ”
—Arthur Frommer, Travel Editor
FREE Tour Catalog
Call Now 800-CARAVAN
Caravan. com
Distributed by
Midpoint Trade Books
novels by women, African Americans, Latinos, queers, by all kinds of
“others,” are released alongside the
white-male-authored books. We have
novels by Somalis, Filipinos, Chinese,
Indians, Peruvians, Nepalis, you
name it.
World literature is now a genre.
And as you might have guessed, I
have a problem with this.
Let’s take an example: Which
Chinese writer gets to talk? Amy
Tan was born and raised in California and still lives there, so at times
she’s a Chinese-American writer.
Yiyun Li lives in the United States
and received her graduate education
here, but she was born in China;
she’s dei nitely classiied as a Chinese writer. They both write in English. Ma Jian lives in London but
writes in Chinese. Mo Yan is Chinese, lives in China. He has been accused by the West of not being suficiently anti-government, which
basically means he does not get to
speak for the Chinese. Liu Xiaobo
was born and raised and jailed in
China, but he was a critic and academic, and who reads that?
It might be fun to play Who Is
More Chinese, but that’s not the
point here. This isn’t about good or
bad. I love the work of all the writers
I mentioned above. What I’m interested in is who gets to talk. Arguably, Tan and Li are the only “Chinese” who are allowed to talk, who
are allowed to tell the story in the
United States. There might be one
or two others. This is still very limiting, not just in terms of how few are
permitted to speak but how the writers are perceived. We’re adding another modifier, creating another
box—black writer, queer writer, and
now the world-literature writer.
On the back cover of one of my
novels I am called “one of world literature’s most celebrated voices.” (I have a
voice, I get to talk, though I often have
the impression that I’m supposed to
do it sotto voce.) If we look at the
impressive list of writers who are
part of this world-literature thing,
we see Tan and Li, Aleksandar Hemon representing Bosnia, Junot
Díaz representing the Dominican
Republic, Chim a m a nda Ngozi
Adichie and Teju Cole representing
Nigeria, Hisham Matar for Libya,
Daniel Alarcón for Peru, Salman
Rushdie for India or is it Pakistan,
oh, what the hell, let’s give him the
entire subcontinent. I get Lebanon.
The thing is that we are all Westerners, if not exclusively American.
We have all been indoctrinated with
a Western education. We can cite
Shakespeare with the best of them.
A number of years ago I was a juror for the Neustadt International
Prize for Literature, an award sponsored by the University of Oklahoma
and the magazine World Literature
Today. Since this is an international
prize, the jury is always composed of
international writers. There were jurors representing Lebanon, Mexico,
Egypt, Nepal, Palestine, South Africa, Ukraine, the Philippines, and
Italy. Only the Italian actually
lived in Italy. The rest of us were
primarily Americans, living in the
United States, almost all associated
with American universities. The
Mexican was a Texan, the Egyptian
a New Yorker; the Nepali taught at
Ohio State. Every interview I did as
a juror included questions about
peace in the Middle East a nd
whether we can achieve it in my
lifetime, what it is like in Beirut,
and whether I found the trip to
Oklahoma tiring. Norman is a fourhour f light from San Francisco.
(And while we’re talking about
universities: MFA programs are a
kind of indoctrination, too. Certain stories, certain types of stories
and certain ways of telling stories,
are made more valid than others,
and this can be dangerous. From
the Congo to the Punjab, if you go
to Iowa, you will be learning the
Iowa Way. You risk becoming a
purveyor of comforting myths.)
This is not a discussion of authenticity. I’m not sure I believe in
the concept, particularly in literature. Think of Michael Ondaatje’s
The En glish Patient, a fully imagined novel with four “other” characters set in “other” locations.
Nabokov did not have to be a pedophile to write Lolita. After all,
art and artiice are related. What
I’m talking about, in my roundabout way, is representation—how
those of us who fall outside the
dominant culture are allowed to
speak as the other, and more importantly, for the other.
his is not to say that we were
not, or are not, “world literature.” We might be different from what passes for regular
American lit, or as I like to call it,
common literature. What I’m saying is that there is more other, scarier other, translated other, untranslatable other, the utterly strange
other, the other who can’t stand
you. Those of us allowed to speak
are the tip of the iceberg. We are
the cute other.
I use the term jokingly, but also
deliberately. All of us on that
world-literature list are basically
sa fe, domesticated, just exotic
enough to make our readers feel
that they are liberal, not parochial
or biased. That is, we are purveyors
of comforting myths for a small
segment of the dominant culture
that would like to see itself as
open-minded. I don’t mean that as
an insult—I love to be read; we all
do—but we are serving a purpose
that we might not be thinking
much about.
In a New York Times review, one of
my novels was called a “bridge to the
Arab soul.” I ind this phrase discomiting, mostly because of the words
“Arab” and “soul.” Is the Arab soul
like the American Way? Do Arabs
have just one soul, and if so, can
someone please tell me how to ind
it? “Bridge” I understood. You see, my
novel was seen not as American but
as representing the Arab world. My
novel is a bridge to this world of otherness. I get to talk because I am the
bridge. No one on the other side of
the bridge gets to. And truly, who
would want to cross that bridge and
touch the heart of darkness, be
soiled by that dark other?
We get to talk because we are
seen as the nice tour guides. We
can hold the hands of readers of
the empire as we travel a short distance onto the bridge and get a
glimpse of what’s across it, maybe
even wave at the poor sods on the
other side. We make readers feel
good about themselves for delving
into our books because they believe
Perfect for stowing your favorite magazine along with your books and groceries, this large and sturdy
canvas bag has extra-long, reinforced handles. One side features an illustration from the Harper’s
Magazine archive, and the other side sports the magazine’s logo.
Color: natural • Dimensions: 20”w x 14-½”h x 4-½”d • Handle drop: 10” • Made in the USA • 100% cotton • $25.00
Illustration by Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc, from “Pussy,” Harper’s Magazine, March 1870.
A contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine for eleven years before his death,
Walter Karp was a journalist and political historian whose writing is characterized by incisive commentary on
government and a fierce love of democracy. Buried Alive includes the best of
Karp’s essays scrutinizing American
political and social issues (the presidency, politics, the press, censorship,
education, and the lessons of liberty)
with force, eloquence, and independent
thinking. Preface by Lewis H. Lapham.
Order today through
Published by Franklin Square Press
- ÊÇn£nÇxÇä{ÈÊUÊ-vÌVÛiÀÊf£{°x
Distributed through Midpoint Trade Books
Enjoying the issue?
Check out our weekly
take on the news,
delivered to your inbox
FREE every Tuesday.
they are open-minded about the
other. We are purveyors of comforting myths.
Now, again, I want to be read. I
love holding hands. If there is such
a bridge, I’d love to take readers for
a stroll along it. I doubt any writer feels
differently. What I want is to allow
other writers to talk, all kinds of
writers, or should I say, more others,
more-other others.
he problem today is that this
culture we live in is lovely
and insidious, able, unlike
any that has come before it, to integrate criticism of itself and turn it
around faster than Klee’s Angelus
Novus can blink. The culture coopts others, co-opts their culture,
makes us cute and cuddly and lovable, but we never integrate fully.
Every group needs to have an
other. I don’t know how a society
can exist without classifying another as the other. The question
for the writers who are getting to
talk is where we stand. Inside, outside, in the middle? For so-called
world-literature writers, it’s a troubling question.
You might think this is diversity,
but it seems more like homogenization. Sometimes, not always, when I
read a novel presented or marketed
as “foreign,” I feel that I’m reading
that common thing, a generic novel
hidden behind an alluring facade,
comfortable and familiar book with
a sprinkling of exoticness. The
names of foods are italicized. Instead
of visiting Beijing, I end up at its airport with the same bright Prada and
Starbucks stores, maybe one dumpling stand in the corner.
And sometimes even that little
stand is troublesome. When I wrote
a novel about a reclusive woman
who bucks society’s rules by having
a rich inner life filled with books
and art, I was surprised by how
many readers identified with her,
and more so that many considered
her a tragic igure because she lived
in a country that had no respect for
women. You know: we live in an exceptional country, it’s only over
there where they ostracize women
who refuse to conform. (Our world
might not be perfect, but that other
world, that world of the other is just
simply horrid.)
How to get out of this cycle? I
don’t know. I’m a writer; answers are
not my forte. Complaining certainly
is. Moreover, as I said above, I’m a
writer with a limited view. Like
many writers, when I begin a novel,
almost all I worry about is making
the damn thing work. I move from
one sentence to the next, from one
section to another, wondering how
and whether everything will fit. I
try, however, to write in opposition;
by that I mean that whenever a
consensus is reached about what
constitutes good writing, I instinctively wish to oppose it. When I
started writing my first novel, a
friend suggested I read John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction, which allegedly explained the principles of
good writing. I hated it, not because
it was bad advice but because it felt
so limiting. Writers are supposed to
show, not tell? I wrote a novel where
the protagonist does nothing but
tell. A short story should lead to an
epiphany? Who needs that? When
I’m told I should write a certain
way, I bristle. I even attempt to
write in opposition to the most recent book I inished. If my previous
novel was expansive, I begin to
write microscopically; if quiet, I
write loudly. It is my nature. I don’t
know whether this childish rebelliousness helps keep my work “foreign.” Most days, I doubt it. I write a
book thinking it is subversive, that
it might not be a comforting myth,
and if it gets read, if I’m lucky, the
dominant culture co-opts it like
Goya’s Saturn devouring his son.
I might think of myself as living in
opposition to empire, or I might insist that I write differently from everyone else, but I recognize that I believe this to make myself feel better.
Whenever I read reviews of my work,
I notice that I am still the tour guide.
“Look at those cute Arabs. See, not
all of them are bad. And the homosexuals are nice, too.” Which is to
say that opposing the dominant culture is like trying to whittle down a
mountain by rubbing it with a silk
scarf. Yet a writer must. I may not be
able to move mountains like Superman, but I have lovely scarves.
Co N
nt o
on N rac
th o
Breakthrough technology converts phone calls to captions.
New amplified phone lets you
hear AND see the conversation.
The Hamilton® CapTel® Captioned Telephone converts phone conversations
to easy-to-read captions for individuals with hearing loss.
A simple idea… made possible
with sophisticated technology.
If you have trouble understanding
a call, captioned telephone can
change your life. During a phone
call the words spoken to you
appear on the phone’s screen –
similar to closed captioning on
TV. So when you make or receive
a call, the words spoken to you
are not only amplified by the
phone, but scroll across the
phone so you can listen while
reading everything that’s
said to you. Each call is
routed through a call center,
where computer technology –
aided by a live representative
– generates voice-to-text
translations. The captioning
is real-time, accurate and
readable. Your conversation is
private and the captioning service
doesn’t cost you a penny. Internet
Protocol Captioned Telephone
Service (IP CTS) is regulated
and funded by the Federal
Communications Commission
(FCC) and is designed exclusively
for individuals with hearing loss.
To learn more, visit
The Hamilton CapTel phone
requires telephone service
and high-speed Internet access.
WiFi Capable. Callers do not
need special equipment or a
captioned telephone in order
to speak with you.
Finally… a phone
you can use again.
The Hamilton
CapTel phone is
also packed
with features
to help
make phone
calls easier.
The keypad
has large, easy
to use buttons.
You get adjustable
volume amplification
along with the ability to save
captions for review later. It even
has an answering machine that
provides you with the captions
of each message.
SEE what
you’ve been
“For years I avoided phone
calls because I couldn’t
understand the caller…
now I don’t miss a thing!”
See for yourself with our
exclusive home trial. Try a
captioned telephone in your
own home and if you are not
completely amazed, simply
return it within 60-days for a
refund of the product purchase
price. It even comes with a
5-year warranty.
Call now for our special
introductory price!
Call now Toll-Free
Please mention promotion code 109255.
The Captioning Telephone is intended for use by people with hearing loss. In purchasing a Captioning Telephone, you
acknowledge that it will be used by someone who cannot hear well over a traditional phone. Hamilton is a registered
trademark of Nedelco, Inc. d/b/a Hamilton Telecommunications. CapTel is a registered trademark of Ultratec, Inc.
Do you get discouraged when
you hear your telephone ring?
Do you avoid using your phone
because hearing difficulties make
it hard to understand the person
on the other end of the line? For
many Americans the telephone
conversation – once an important
part of everyday life – has become
a thing of the past. Because they
can’t understand what is said
to them on the phone, they’re
often cut off from friends, family,
doctors and caregivers. Now,
thanks to innovative technology
there is finally a better way.
H é c tor Ab a d
The Farm
translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean
Translated from the Norwegian by Martin Aitken
a rc h i pel a go
arc hi p elago b o o k s
book s
Love can change everything. And it does in
this edgy, elegiac, and beautifully written
novel . . . What you think will happen
doesn’t—and what does breaks your heart.
Kerri Arsenault,
Angot unmasks with frightening precision the
roiling heart and the sharp edges of lust, loathing,
and scorn lodged within love’s fossil record. This
is a book that points you toward the subterranean
roots of your own emotions, the intricacies and
murk we cover up in the name of normal daily
Alexandra Kleeman
I store up what I have read by Héctor Abad like
spherical, polished, luminous little balls of
bread, ready for when I have to walk through a
vast forest in the nighttime.
Manuel Rivas
antonio tabucchi
Oral Tales
Fo r I s a b e l
a mandala
Translated from the Italian by Elizabeth Harris
Najla Jraissaty Khoury
A wonderfully strange journey of self-discovery . . .
archipelago books
Ponti’s illustrations—equally rich in warm feeling
and surreal, precisely drawn figures and details—
The author’s final love letter to Portugal, a
These tales are radiant with sunlight and give the tale wings . . . Itzabyuti thruenthru.
flowers, jinns and spirits, palaces and sultans
Kirkus Reviews (starred review) nation he loved as much as his own. It is
. . . the themes will resonate with anyone who
an idyll for obsessives, a love song for the
loves fairy tales and folklore . . . An absolute
long ago and a poem for people and places
delight for readers young and old.
that live in our hearts forever.
Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
Jim Ruland, San Diego City Beat
Translated from the Arabic by Inea Bushnaq
a rc h i p e l a go
b o o k s
archipelago books •
Distributed to the trade by Penguin Random House
By Mary Gordon
oday I did something and I
have no idea why I did it. I
followed someone, two people
actually, but it was the woman I was
really following, the man just happened to be accompanying her.
It started on an airplane. I had
awakened at four to catch a six-forty
flight, so perhaps there is some explanation in the fact that I was very, very
tired. It was a six-hour trip and I had
slept for only two of the hours. I always
wait to be one of the last to leave the
plane if I have a bag in the overhead
compartment because I’m afraid I’ll
fumble the bag and injure a fellow pas-
Mary Gordon is the author of eighteen
books. Her latest novel, There Your Heart
Lies, was published last year by Pantheon
Books. She teaches at Barnard College.
Photograph © Robert Holmgren
senger and have to endure the lifelong
consequences, or at least the temporary
embarrassment. So I was standing, literally at the edge of my seat, when I saw
her. I paid attention because she was
almost brained by a young man carelessly flinging his bag from the overhead compartment. It was the look on
her face that got me: she expected him
to apologize, she believed she had a
right to an apology, and he did not
make even the slightest gesture toward
apology. She was surprised, really surprised, and I understood that she was
used to being apologized to, that she
believed it was her right that her life go
smoothly. I noticed that her posture
was very good for a woman her age—
she was at least in her seventies, though
it’s getting harder and harder to judge:
nonagenarians are becoming increasingly sprightly. She was dressed much
too warmly for that July day, and I
couldn’t imagine why she was wearing
that hat, a softened squashed-down
version of a top hat. I had seen hats like
that for sale on Broadway, laid out on
rickety tables beside pashminas and
fake Louis Vuitton fanny packs.
I could never imagine why anyone
would buy those hats: their fabric so
proudly inorganic, the colors acidic or
muddy. This one was cerise or fuchsia,
and the words are much prettier than
the color of the hat deserved. Here was
this woman, who had not been apologized to, whose carriage suggested only
two possible words—“well bred”—
wearing this hat, which would have
been a mistake in December but in July
was nothing short of a calamity. I noticed a inely wrought leather purse
strapped across her body like a bandolier. Her hands were extravagantly free,
and she swung her arms much more
vigorously than the narrow aisle warranted. I have never seen hands so free.
The freedom of her hands made her
companion’s burdens seem more extreme than perhaps they were. She
was all in black, her pantsuit soft wool,
and the abovementioned hat. He was
wearing a short-sleeved shirt with a
print of parrots. He was pushing one
suitcase on wheels; in the other hand
he carried a plastic bag that was obviously lunch, and looped over his wrist
was a cloth bag with a print of three
more loud parrots, each monochrome:
one red, one yellow, the green one the
color of an industrial-strength cleaner.
They were heading toward a connecting flight. I had a car waiting at
curbside to take me home. I should
have headed straight for the exit; my
phone said the driver would leave after four minutes. Instead I followed
them. They stopped for a moment to
watch a plane take off. I stopped a
few feet in front of them, then
walked a few more feet so I could
turn around and get a good look at
them from the front. She walked
several steps ahead of him. I’m not
sure whether to call her handsome or
hatchet-faced; he could only be
called a schlub. His hair was stringy
and much too long; his shirt didn’t
quite close over his potbelly.
I let them pass me. All I knew was
that I had to follow them. I needed
to know where they were going.
They stopped at the gate that was
marked for a flight to Manchester,
New Hampshire. I sat across from
them. They were entirely silent. My
phone pinged, warning me that I was
going to have to pay a hefty penalty
for standing my driver up. I sat, pretending to read something on my
phone, until they rose to board their
flight. They disappeared through the
door and they were gone, gone completely, as if I had never seen them,
as if they had never been.
took the train home to the city in
penance for my folly. It was crowded and took more than an hour
and a half. I had to stand, I couldn’t
Distributed by Midpoint Trade Books
read or sleep or do anything but let my
mind wander. I tried to understand
why I had followed the people in the
airport. And I could come up with
nothing. I tried to remember other
things that I had done for which I
could provide no explanation.
I remembered something that had
happened the summer between irst
and second grade. A new girl had
moved next door. Her name enchanted me: it was Leonie. I had
never heard of anyone named Leonie. And I was riveted by the fact
that her mother seemed to pronounce her name two different ways:
sometimes she would call out Lay-ohknee and sometimes Lee-own-ee. I
knew it wasn’t that she had two
names, but I was jealous that she
could appear to have two—it seemed
a largesse to which I would never
have access. She had tight, brasscolored curls; her sandals always
looked immaculate.
This is all I remember about her.
She knew more children in our
class than I did, that is knew them
well enough to invite them to play,
and this day she had collected four
or ive, six perhaps, on her screenedin back porch. Then we moved into
the garage, but she, the unquestioned leader, grew tired of that
very quickly. Why did I go back into
the garage? Had I left something
there? I don’t remember. I went back
in, and there, lying on the lower
rungs of a ladder that was propped
up against the edge of some kind of
storage loft, was one of my classmates, whom I will call W in case
he reads this and will be embarrassed, though I can’t imagine he
would read it and I don’t actually
know why it would embarrass him.
He was lying like an odalisque,
one hand behind his head, his legs
crossed, one foot making small circles in the air. His head was turned
to one side, as if he were studying
something on the opposite garage
wall. I thought he might be asleep,
but no, he was making those small
circles in the air. He was wearing
black-and-white basketball sneakers.
I walked over to the small window
that was on the wall opposite the one
at which W was staring. I stood there,
still, silent. The light came through
America’s Longest Running Catalog
the window in straight thick bands.
A beam of light fell on his neck,
which was exposed, as he had turned
his head away. I thought his neck, exposed, the light falling on it, was the
most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I
tiptoed over to him and kissed his
neck where the light fell on it. Then,
slowly, I walked out of the garage.
Soon Leonie moved away. W was
in my class for another seven years,
but we never spoke. I remember once
all the boys made fun of him because
he came to school with a tie too long
for him; it hung below his belt. He
was close to tears. He said he
couldn’t ind his tie, and had taken
one of his father’s because he knew
he’d get in trouble for not wearing a
tie. I did not come to his defense. I
wasn’t even tempted.
was eleven when I did the other
thing. It was the end of August
and in a few weeks I would be
entering seventh grade. I hadn’t yet
gotten my period and I was longing
for the event. I remember that I was
wearing orange-and-yellow-check
Bermuda shorts. I knew they were
hideous, but I had chosen them so I
was stuck. It was the last evening of
my mother’s and my vacation. We
were visiting old friends of hers in
Elmira, New York. My mother was
forty-one when I was born, old
enough to be my grandmother, and
the people we were visiting had a
granddaughter a year younger than
me. It was assumed we would like
each other; but I had crossed some
line into preadolescence and she was
moored in late childhood. Because of
this she looked up to me, and because
I had never been looked up to, only
looked down on, I naturally became
sadistic. For the irst time I had a real
friend at school, a best friend, and I
resented being separated from her
even for a week, having to spend my
time with a “child” or listening to the
reminiscences of my mother and her
friends. I wrote long self-pitying letters to my best friend, a new one every day. I reported that the child
didn’t even read, that her mother
packed a suitcase full of books for her
and she never even opened one. Every
day after lunch, the adults left the
child and me alone at the town swim-
ming pool, where I left her to her own
devices at poolside while I swam laps.
My mother’s friends took us all for
a farewell dinner at an outdoor restaurant at the foot of a mountain. At
the top of the mountain was a blinking light, perhaps a television tower. I
was seized with an urge to climb the
mountain to get to the flashing light.
I was reading a lot of biographies of
heroic women at the time, and it
seemed to be the time for me to climb
a mountain. The adults were lingering over coffee. I grabbed the child’s
hand and told her we were going to
climb the mountain. The late-August
sun was setting earlier than it had a
week before.
There was nothing lovely about the
climb. The terrain was all scrub: rough
weeds and thorny branches covered
with burrs that stuck to our shorts. It
was starting to get dark. The child
held on to my hand. She didn’t say a
word. Up and up we went, and there
was no joy in it. If I had imagined exhilaration, there was none. But I kept
my eye on the winking light. And
then, suddenly, it was dark, and I was
frightened but I couldn’t admit it. The
child started to cry. I pretended to be
annoyed at her pusillanimity and
agreed to head back down to where
the adults were waiting at the table.
We hadn’t even made it halfway.
The adults, even my mother, were
so relieved to see us that they forgot
to scold. At no time did my mother
even bring the matter up, although I
knew I had shamed her. Both of us
feared the strangeness in me that
could inspire such ardor.
he train entered a long tunnel.
The darkness was complete.
Always when I am in complete
darkness I have the sense that it is
possible that I am not alive: everything has the clarity that could only
be open to the recently dead. It came
to me then. Some things are not understandable. No understanding is
possible. I will never understand.
And then the tunnel ended. The
train pulled into the station. I could
see people—porters, conductors,
passengers—standing on the platform, none of them too near the edge.
We all seemed real, alive, and living
lives beyond our understanding.
Offering the Best, the Only and the
Unexpected for 170 years.
The Neck and Shoulder
Heat Wrap
This is the
heated wrap that
soothes sore
muscles in
the neck and
Unlike typical rectangular heating
pads that do not provide ideal
coverage or contact, this wrap
reaches from the front of the
shoulders to the middle of
the back. A tethered controller
adjusts the temperature and the
wrap’s polyester microplush is
soft against skin. Magnetic front
closure. Plugs into AC.
Use code #601041
by 7/31/18.
Available at Barnes & Noble
what would have happened had my
body and my self-description not
matched, he paused and—switching
pronouns in a manner so delicate as to
seem almost considerate—said that he
would have had to talk to such a patient “about what they thought they
were doing.”
Those words came back to me as I
By Lidija Haas
IDENTITY (Pantheon, $27.95), a por-
he strangest part of acquiring
my green card was the medical
exam, which culminated in an
inspection of my breasts and “external
genitalia.” Underwear lowered to my
knees, I stood behind a curtain as the
doctor glanced down for a second before nodding his approval. A nurse
who’d come in just for this moment,
apparently as a chaperone, told me that
they weren’t looking for signs of illhealth but only trying to ensure that I
hadn’t suffered genital mutilation and,
more to the point, that having said I
was a woman, I was in possession of the
requisite parts. When I asked the doctor
“Ely,” by Jess T. Dugan © The artist. Courtesy Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago. To Survive on
This Shore, a book by Dugan and Vanessa Fabbre, will be published in September by Kehrer Verlag.
trait by Arlene Stein of several people
who, on a single day at a clinic in southern Florida, underwent top surgery to
masculinize their chests. Though the
book is by no means a memoir, it does
chart the development of Stein’s thinking alongside that of her subjects, and
her willingness to explore her own
limitations makes it a livelier and more
moving study than it might otherwise
have been. As a lesbian feminist of a
certain age, Stein, a sociologist at Rutgers, insists on questioning anything in
the discourse on gender and transition
that smacks of essentialism—yet she
frequently realizes (and has the grace to
say) that much of the rigid thinking she
encounters is her own.
It’s true that some trans people may
have been forced to embrace simplistic
“man trapped in woman’s body” narratives in order to access medical treatment, or to choose one gender box to
protect themselves from violence and
discrimination. Stein also comes to
understand herself as part of a movement that, though keen to throw off
many of the trappings of conventional
femininity, remained suspicious of anyone who took that too far. She admits
to a selish “sense of loss” at the rise of
transmasculinity, a fear of losing potential political comrades and objects of
sexual desire to another team as she
watched “handsome women transforming themselves into dudes with stubby
beards, thick necks, and deep voices.”
What’s more, she has to come to terms
with having “regarded women—who
don’t start wars and rarely beat their
spouses, who have smooth skin and
tend to smell nice—as the superior sex
in many respects,” a combination of
fuzzy politics and visceral disgust that
made her initially wary of anyone who
seemed, in considering a move like top
surgery, too eager to “embrace maleness.” Yet what drives her subjects and
what they seek from their transition
is, she discovers, almost always far
more ambiguous.
Stein acknowledges up front some
other potential pitfalls: her sample is
limited to a few individuals who
want and can afford this high-end
surgery; one of them, Nadia, who
binds her breasts and wants to get rid
of them but feels secure in her identity as a woman, is technically not
trans at all, raising the issue of where
transmasculinity and butchness
might or might not overlap; Stein
herself, like me, is cisgender, and so
must address the age-old problem of
the outsider anthropologist. Still, by
allowing her subjects to speak for
themselves as those selves are reinvented in various ways, Stein leaves
room for productive contradictions
to appear.
She notes that very few people
who transition medically regret doing
so—and, crucially, that isn’t the same
as saying that gender confirmation
surgery is a matter of neatly and at
long last moving into the category
that correctly corresponds to your
one true self. It’s striking that Stein’s
subjects, self-questioning throughout,
tend to become only more openminded after modifying their bodies.
Parker, a trans man who starts out
channeling Fight Club’s Tyler Durden
and dreads aging into a “little old
granny,” mercifully opts to cool it on
the machismo after his surgery. “I
don’t say ‘bitches’ anymore,” he tells
Stein. “I can relate to women more
now than when I was a woman.”
The subjects of this book readily
discuss their experiences of newfound
male privilege—one of them, favored
over a female colleague for expressing
the same idea, observes that “if a guy
says it . . . it must be true.” They also
note the complexities of that privilege:
people of color who transition acquire
new problems that no “white dude”
need worry about; in some neighborhoods it may be safer to walk around
looking like a butch woman than like
an effeminate man. Parker moves from
a single-minded focus on joining the
boys’ club to fears of “betraying my
feminist roots” by implying that it’s less
desirable to be a woman. He makes
thoughtful videos of his changing body
and posts them online.
Stein’s choice of Florida, where, the
humorist Dave Barry has joked, plastic
surgery might as well be the “oficial
state hobby,” seems apt. (She reports
that only New York and Los Angeles do
a more booming trade in cosmetic surgery.) It’s a place where the less controversial form of boob job signiicantly
outnumbers these masculinization
surgeries—breast augmentation is the
most common cosmetic surgery in the
United States, routinely bringing in a
billion dollars a year, and needless to say,
you don’t need to work nearly as hard to
justify having it. Presumably that’s because, as one psychologist tells Stein,
breasts are “so sanctiied” in American
culture that it’s well-nigh impossible for
the powers that be to conceive of anyone
not wanting them.
tein quips that, “with my unvarnished middle-aged face, unshaven
legs that peek out from under my
khaki shorts, and upper arms that are
beginning to sag,” she feels like “a ish
out of water” in Fort Lauderdale, with its
“svelte receptionists” sporting “full lips,
ample bosoms, and no discernible wrinkles.” In FLORIDA (Riverhead Books,
$27), the much-garlanded, best-selling
novelist Lauren Groff’s new collection
of thematically—or perhaps I should
say atmospherically—linked stories,
the “low, flat, and wet” region where
Stein’s subjects go to remake their bodies begins to emerge as a character in
its own right.
Though Groff moves adroitly
through an impressive range of lives,
times, and places, the stories often
seem propelled more by a supercharged pathetic fallacy than by action and character. The storming,
punching, chasing rain alone displays
a frightening autonomy, while the
landscape and fauna seem to make
metaphor on a monumental scale. At
moments it’s as if all Florida has been
invented just to liven up the kitchen
sink—what better image of sneaking
marital discord than a snake in the
toilet bowl?
Borders between lives and physical
spaces seem unpredictably porous.
Children are left alone in houses
overrun by other creatures; adults slip
into sickness or homelessness; the
weather scatters objects and people,
throwing them together to witness
the debris of one another’s lives from
unexpected angles. After a storm, the
narrator of “Eyewall” sees “towns flattened as if a ist had come from the
sun and twisted”; she hears that
“someone found a novel with my
bookplate in it sunning itself on top
“Singed Palms,” by Lisa Elmaleh, from her monograph Everglades, published by Zatara Press
of a car in Georgia” and also that the
high school basketball team “crossed
a bridge and was swallowed up by the
Gulf.” The book stages an intriguing
relationship between the individual
and the collective, so that a house or
campsite or town can resemble a
shared bad dream. Climate change,
though explicitly addressed only in
glances, is a palpable threat, given a
force still unusual in iction by a treatment that makes it hard to distinguish
from interior phenomena.
Like the past, Florida follows Groff’s
characters wherever they go. The pages
are full of cascade, swamp, and drift;
everything and everyone seems on the
slide. In the inal story, a woman takes
her two sons, aged six and four, to
France, where she intends to work on an
ill-deined project about Guy de Maupassant. But the days slip by in a threatening, hungover haze. And no sooner
do they arrive than she realizes that
Paris has become somehow Floridian,
all humidity and pink stucco and cellulite rippling under the hems of
shorts. It is ten degrees warmer than it
should be, much brighter and louder
than the Paris that lives in her memory. She had always thought this would
be the place to be during the climate
wars that she sees looming in the future. A city of water, surrounded by
ields, temperate and contained.
Instead, the reader senses that the
refuge of the mind has been invaded,
and is beginning to flood.
ven in its more temperate days,
France could be a hothouse of
gender experimentation, as Rupert Thomson’s eleventh novel, NEVER
A NYONE BUT YOU (Other Press,
$25.95), reminds its readers. Thomson
tells the story of Claude Cahun (née
Lucie Schwob), the photographer, writer,
and pioneer of self-invention, and Marcel Moore (aka Suzanne Malherbe), her
lover and collaborator, from Moore’s
perspective, rendering it a sleek, lush
romance. The effect is often uncanny—
it’s a deftly conventional treatment of a
stubbornly unconventional subject.
Cahun and Moore fell in love in
their teens and were able to remain in
proximity after the marriage of Cahun’s father to Moore’s mother. They
consorted with the likes of André
Breton and Salvador Dalí; they worked
together on fascinating portraits in
which Cahun appears in many guises,
shaving her head and eyebrows, scattering limbs and endlessly rearranging
herself (an artful precursor to the
shape-shifting transition videos posted
by Arlene Stein’s subjects); and they
put equal amounts of playful ingenuity
and striking physical courage into
their resistance campaign against the
Nazi occupation of their adopted
home, Jersey, for which they were
condemned to death in 1944. Thomson’s Moore describes how they
wrong-foot their guards and interrogators: the more matter-of-factly they
tell the truth (they’d worked alone and
had no ties to the organized Resistance), the more irmly their captors
believe that it must be an elaborate lie;
the more hostility they endure, the
Self-portrait by Claude Cahun © Jersey Heritage Trust, UK/Bridgeman Images
greater their affectation of good cheer.
(“My room is extremely comfortable,”
Cahun says when the two are at last
allowed a brief glimpse of each other.
“And the view is wonderful,” Moore
agrees. “The staff are very helpful,
aren’t they,” Cahun chimes back in.)
Both survived, in what it seems only
slightly whimsical to call a triumph of
performance art.
Thomson’s is an extraordinary and
rollicking tale, occasionally slowed
down by his need to make sure that
readers are getting the message. Cahun
must patiently explain “the concept of
the scapegoat, and about hypocrisy
and prejudice” as she lists the villains
in the Dreyfus Affair. (Stein’s book
faces a similar challenge, trying to
speak both to those knowledgeable
about and invested in the lives of trans
people, and to those for whom the
terminology and central questions may
still seem foreign.) “In the world in
which we lived,” Moore observes,
“women didn’t exist except in relation to
men. If a woman stepped outside the
conines of the behavior assigned to
her gender, it could be seen as a symptom of madness.” Cahun praises the
poet Robert Desnos for his understanding that identity “can be consciously assembled, like a jigsaw” and
for showing that “the two genders are
contingent, and interchangeable,”
making it possible to “loiter in the
twilight territory between the two.”
This is, of course, exactly what Cahun was known for doing. Many of
her self-portraits—as aviator, conjoined
twins, alien with extended skull—
remain irreducibly eerie despite their
playfulness. The novel’s imagery, too,
feels vivid, heightened, though a bit less
surprising: a woman naked but for a
headscarf and slippers at the typewriter,
her “brown skin gleam[ing] in the lamplight” like the barrel of the gun beside
her; a man holding a lit cigarette as he
coughs blood down his military uniform, making “red holes in the snow”;
lovers at daybreak “like a photograph
developing”; a missing breast replaced by
an imaginary apricot.
Cahun and Moore’s is a beautiful
love story that deserves to be better
known, but it’s a little jarring to encounter it via the kind of linear narrative that makes and relies on stable
meanings. “I refuse to allow myself to
be deined by a few biological characteristics,” Thomson’s Cahun announces. “When I stand in a room by myself,
I’m not standing there as a woman. I’m
a consciousness. An intelligence.” It’s
an appealing sentiment, and yet, said
that way, it doesn’t quite convey the
force that some of her own writings can
have. There she can be both more direct and less pinned down: “Moi-Même
(faute de mieux): La sirène succombe à sa
propre voix”—“Myself (for want of anything better): The siren succumbs to her
own voice.” The question of what they
thought they were doing never loses its
fascination, but it inevitably grows a
little less compelling when they must
spell it out for readers than when, as
in Cahun’s self-portraits, you get to
watch it happen—with all its feints
and tricks and disavowals, and without
explanation—before your eyes.
The uses and abuses of psychedelics
By Nick Richardson
Discussed in this essay:
How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us
About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, by
Michael Pollan. Penguin Press. 480 pages. $28.
Trip: Psychedelics, Alienation, and Change, by Tao Lin. Vintage. 320 pages. $16.
took LSD for the irst time in
1999, when I was ifteen, with
half a dozen friends at a rave in
a disused warehouse in West London.
I was expecting something like a synesthetically enhanced Hendrix solo,
melting clocks, waves of pineappletasting color—but it wasn’t like that.
When the acid kicked in I was on the
dance floor (bobbing to a hard-techno
remix of “Storm,” by Storm, I remember clearly). Suddenly I heard a whisper in the music addressing me as
“Chapalski” and instructing me to
follow it outside. On leaving the
warehouse, which now resembled a
giant, pulsing washing machine, I
found myself in a different world with
no recollection of how I’d gotten
there. Everything moved frame by
frame, like ilm projected too slowly,
and the irst two bars of the “Itchy
and Scratchy” theme from The Simpsons played on a loop. On a hill behind the warehouse (actually more of
a mound, but I thought of it as a hill),
I danced with gnomes and was
anointed Chapalski, their king. The
gnomes were not little men with conical hats but cackling knots of static.
On the other side of the hill was
the motorway. I wondered, as I
walked into the road and saw cars
swerving to avoid me, whether I
would die in the real world if I died
in this one. Fortunately I didn’t die
in either. I walked along the road
until I came to Hoo Hing, a Chinese
superstore with frontage styled like a
red pagoda. Believing it to be the
palace of the Imperial Lord, I knelt
down at the entrance, prayed for a
sign, and was instructed to ind my
destiny. From Hoo Hing I turned
onto a residential street and walked
up and down, bellowing through
people’s mail slots: “Is my destiny in
there?” No one answered me, though
it was now daylight. As I walked
back toward the motorway, I remembered something important, which
was that I used to have “ambition”
and had once believed that “ambition” would lead me to my “destiny.”
I felt I had it igured out now: following “ambition” would take me out
of Chapalskiland and back to reality.
I saw a phone box and realized I could
call my parents to ind out whether I
had returned to their world yet. My
mum picked up the phone. “Am I
real?” I asked her. “Yes,” she replied,
“where are you?” She told me that my
dad was going to look for me in the
car. I said okay, put the phone down,
and walked out of the booth, immediately forgetting that the conversation had taken place. I hailed a taxi
and told the driver my address, but I
didn’t have any money to pay him, so
when we got to my house I offered
him my hat instead. As he didn’t accept hats we rang the doorbell and
asked my mum to pay him money.
She was very concerned and gave me
soup and a blanket, but my soup
looked alive, my dad’s hair kept turning into snakes, and I couldn’t stop
laughing. I spent the next few hours
watching the wall of my bedroom,
onto which my mind projected a ilm
of the Battle of Waterloo. How clever
modern drugs are, I thought, to come
preloaded with documentary ilms to
watch at the tail end of a trip. Eventually I went to sleep.
as this a “mystical experience”? In the view of Michael Pollan and many of
the researchers he interviewed for his
new book, How to Change Your Mind,
psychedelics’ ability to induce mystical experiences is what makes them
such potent medicine. The book was
inspired by the renaissance of
psychedelic-drug research that began
after Roland Grifiths, a professor of
psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University, published a paper titled “Psilocybin Can Occasion Mystical-Type Experiences Having Substantial and
Sustained Personal Meaning and
Spiritual Signiicance.” The paper
documented the results of what Pollan describes as the irst rigorous
double-blind clinical study of psychedelics in decades. Volunteers were
given psilocybin (the psychoactive
chemical in magic mushrooms) along
with eye masks and headphones playing relaxing music; two thirds of
them reported having one of the
“most spiritually signiicant” experiences of their lives.
Since Griffiths’s paper appeared,
in 2006, various research projects investigating the medical applications
of psychedelics have been approved.
Experimental treatments for depression, addiction, and anxiety have
been tested, with fairly high success
rates. What’s unusual about these
experiments is that the cure is
caused by the side effects the drugs
have on the mind, rather than by
the direct healing action they have
on the body. “The universe was so
great and there were so many things
you could do and see in it that killing yourself seemed like a dumb
idea,” says one volunteer, who was
Psychedelicatessen Owner, by Bruce Conner © Conner Family Trust, San
Francisco, and ARS, New York City. Courtesy Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles
persuaded to quit smoking by a psilocybin trip.
Mystical experience, as Pollan—the
food writer, environmental activist,
and former Harper’s Magazine editor—
deines it, involves the dissolution of
the sense of self, a merging of the ego
with the universe. This feeling is one
of the central characteristics of mystical experience noted by William James
in The Varieties of Religious Experience,
though he calls it “passivity.” Pollan
follows James in deining mystical experience further as “ineffable” (impossible to fully explain in words) and
“noetic” (you feel as though you’ve
learned something, even if you can’t
fully explain it). One scientist working
on psychedelic treatment for cocaine
addicts tells Pollan, “We now have a
pharmacological intervention that
can occasion truly profound experiences of awe.” Having a mystical experience breaks you out of habits of
thought that place yourself at the center of the universe. It can make terminally ill people less afraid of death by
showing them that everything is interconnected, that life does not stop
when you die. Like many advocates for
psychedelics, Pollan believes they can
help healthy individuals too, by making them less selish, more empathetic,
and better able to see the validity of
worldviews different from their own.
“Mysticism is the antidote to fundamentalism,” in the words of Rick Doblin, a pro-psychedelics campaigner.
Pollan begins the book “staunchly
materialist,” an atheist who believes
that consciousness is something that
happens in the brain, not some pandimensional creative force. At one
point he gives a neurological account
of what occurs in the brain during a
trip: the activity of its default mode
network—the “orchestra conductor,”
responsible for organizing all the
other parts—diminishes. The network, which is most active when
we’re not concentrating (hence “default”), is thought to be responsible
for our sense of self. But Pollan also
admits that his desire to have his
materialist worldview challenged is
one reason why he set out to examine psychedelic drugs in the first
place, and he gamely takes LSD,
mushrooms, and DMT with that aim
in mind. Toward the end of the book
he declares himself more agnostic
about mystical matters than he was
before he experimented on himself,
though it’s not clear that the drugs
have really given him grounds for
changing his convictions. The great
claims he makes for the beneits of
mystical experience seem to be based
more on the testimony of others
than on his own peregrinations.
Pollan’s most powerful experience comes on psilocybin, under
the direction of a professional psychedelic guide. Some way into the
trip he instructs her to turn off her
New Age music and put on a Bach
cello suite instead:
I became irst the strings, could feel
on my skin the exquisite friction of
the horsehair rubbing over me, and
then the breeze of sound flowing past
as it crossed the lips of the instrument. . . . Then I passed down into the
resonant black well of space inside the
cello, the vibrating envelope of air
formed by the curves of its spruce roof
and maple walls.
This is a kind of ego death, insofar
as Pollan doesn’t usually conceive of
himself as a cello—but it’s not a
fundamentalism-dislodging union
with the cosmos. His experiences on
5-MeO-DMT, an extremely powerful
psychedelic extracted from the poison
glands of the Sonoran Desert toad,
certainly meet the criteria of ego death
and ineffability (“ ‘I’ was no more,
blasted to a confetti cloud by an explosive force I could no longer locate
in my head”), but they fail on the
count of noesis. The trip is simply too
alien, too inexplicable, and doesn’t last
long enough—only twenty minutes or
so—to have an enduring effect on
Pollan’s weltanschauung. “Its mindbending velocity made it dificult to
extract much information or knowledge from the journey, except for the
(classic) psychedelic platitude about
the importance of being.”
ollan gives a lively account of
the rise, fall, and rise again of
psychedelic research. LSD was
irst produced in 1938 by Albert Hofmann, a Swiss chemist who was attempting to synthesize a molecule
from the alkaloids produced by ergot,
a fungus that infects grain. Midwives
Untitled (detail), by Gean Moreno © The artist
used ergot to induce labor and stanch
bleeding, and the company that Hofmann worked for, Sandoz Laboratories, was hoping to get a marketable
drug out of it. But LSD-25 (it was the
twenty-ifth molecule in the series)
didn’t appear to do much when tested
on animals. It sat on the shelf until
1943, when Hofmann had a “peculiar
presentiment” that it might be worth
a second look. As he concocted another batch, he accidentally spilled
some on his skin. Hofmann was lying
on his sofa when he realized the
chemical was beginning to make him
feel strange and watched “an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures,
extraordinary shapes with intense,
kaleidoscopic play of colors.” But a
few days later he took some more and
had a bad experience: his furniture
and other objects “assumed grotesque,
threatening forms.” He believed that
he had been possessed by a demon
and was going to die. “My ego was
suspended somewhere in space and I
saw my body lying dead on the sofa.”
Sandoz offered to supply researchers with as much LSD as they needed
for their experiments, free of charge.
Initially, LSD was conceptualized as
a psychotomimetic, a drug whose effects mimicked psychosis. Volunteers
who took it reported symptoms of
schizophrenia, including depersonalization, synesthesia, hallucinations,
and paranoid delusions. One journalist, in a 1953 piece for Maclean’s
titled “My 12 Hours as a Madman,”
described seeing his friends’ faces
“turn into fleshless skulls and the
heads of menacing witches, pigs and
weasels.” But researchers soon conirmed that the effect of the drug depended on the environment in
which it was taken. With the right
music, a comfy chair, perhaps a little
incense, tripping could be highly
pleasurable. Sidney Cohen, an influential psychiatrist in Los Angeles,
found that on LSD “the problems
and strivings, the worries and frustrations of everyday life vanished; in
their place was a majestic, sunlit,
heavenly inner quietude.”
Cohen was one of the pioneers of
the “psycholytic” approach, which
used LSD to loosen up the mind as
an aid to talk therapy. His practice
became popular in the late Fifties
among LA’s elite, including Anaïs
Nin, Jack Nicholson, Stanley Kubrick, and Cary Grant, who declared
that LSD made him more attractive
to women than ever before. Later,
Cohen would admit that analysts
who put their patients on LSD merely conirmed their own “fondest theories”: Jungians got Jungian results,
Freudians Freudian ones.
The discovery that LSD makes
people highly sug gestible led
Humphry Osmond, an English psychiatrist practicing in Canada, to
discard the psychotomimetic label.
“It will give that elixir a bad name,”
his friend Aldous Huxley told him,
“if it continues to be associated, in
the public mind, with schizophrenia
symptoms.” (It was Osmond who
gave Huxley the mescaline that inspired The Doors of Perception.) People, he worried, “will think they’re
going mad when in fact they are beginning, when they take it, to go
sane.” Huxley and Osmond suggested new names for the drug in an
exchange of couplets. “To make
this mundane world sublime / Just
half a gram of phanerothyme” was
Huxley’s. “To fall in hell or soar
Angelic / You’ll need a pinch of psychedelic,” Osmond wrote back,
“psychedelic” being a compound
from Greek meaning “mind manifesting.” (Huxley’s version also meant
“mind manifesting,” using different
Greek words: phaneros/thumos rather
than psyche/delos.)
LSD’s transformation from pharmaceutical into something more like a
sacrament was hastened by Al Hubbard, widely known as the Johnny
Appleseed of LSD, who is thought to
have given the drug to around six
thousand people between 1951 and
1966. Hubbard was an independently
wealthy former spy—he said he was
“former,” at any rate—who considered
it his mission to get the world high on
acid. As Pollan puts it, Hubbard believed that LSD could be used “for
breaking destructive patterns of
thought and proposing new perspectives in their place.” He became the
exclusive distributor of Sandoz LSD
to researchers in Canada and obtained a permit from the FDA allowing him to perform his own LSD
“research” in the United States. This
consisted of feeding people acid, playing them music, presenting them with
flowers, and showing them Salvador
Dalí paintings. Hubbard wanted to
change the world by expanding the
minds of the elite, including business
leaders and politicians, as well as the
denizens of what would become Silicon
Valley. Companies there held regular
therapy sessions at which employees
took LSD, believing the enlarged perspective it gave them assisted in problemsolving. One veteran engineer told Pollan, “I have no doubt that all that
Hubbard LSD all of us had taken had a
big effect on the birth of Silicon Valley.”
Some tech workers apparently still swear
by weekly “microdosing,” taking a small
amount of LSD to boost their creativity.
In 1957, fourteen years after Hofmann discovered he’d discovered acid,
magic mushrooms were introduced to
the West by, of all people, the vice
president of J. P. Morgan’s bank,
R. Gordon Wasson. He had become
interested in mushrooms, so he said,
after noting the contrast between the
attitudes of mycophobic Western Europeans like himself and mycophilic
Eastern ones like his Russian wife. He
concluded that the extremes of aversion or affection toward mushrooms
were signs of the high regard in which
they had once been held, and he began spending less time banking and
more on mycology, eventually coming
to believe that “our ancestors worshipped a divine mushroom.” In the
early Fifties he learned about a psychoactive mushroom that had been used
medicinally by indigenous Mesoamericans but suppressed by the conquistadors, and he traveled to the mountains of Oaxaca, in Mexico, where
he persuaded a local curandera, or
healer, named María Sabina to conduct a mushroom ceremony for him.
The mushrooms gave Wasson visions
of “harmonious” geometric patterns,
which evolved into “palaces with
courts, arcades, gardens—resplendent
palaces all laid over with semiprecious
stone.” The experience backed up Wasson’s sacred-mushroom theory—“One
is emboldened to the point of asking
whether they may not have planted in
primitive man the very idea of a
God”—and when he got home he
wrote it up for Life magazine, which at
the time had a circulation of 5.7 mil-
lion. Hundreds of hippies and beatniks
read Wasson’s article and began to
show up in Oaxaca. “From the moment the foreigners arrived,” an indignant María Sabina told a visitor,
“the saint children lost their purity.
They lost their force; the foreigners
spoiled them.”
One of those who discovered psychedelics through the Life article was
Timothy Leary, a young psychologist
who would soon become a lecturer at
Harvard and whom many blame for
the implosion of research on psychedelics. In 1960 Leary took mushrooms in Cuernavaca, Mexico, an
episode he recounts in his autobiography, Flashbacks:
I learned that the brain is an underutilized biocomputer. . . . I learned that
normal consciousness is one drop in
an ocean of intelligence. That consciousness and intelligence can be systematically expanded. That the brain
can be reprogrammed.
He rushed back to Harvard to set up
a psilocybin research project, recruited Richard Alpert, another young
psychologist, and managed to persuade the university to let them work
out of the Department of Social Relations. His course, Experimental Expansion of Consciousness, promised
that the “basic elements of mystical
experience” would be studied, and
that “members of the seminar will
participate in experience with consciousness expanding methods.” It
turned out to be extremely popular.
Like Hubbard, Leary wanted to
use psychedelics to save society. As
Pollan puts it, “It was as though the
chemicals themselves had hit upon a
brilliant scheme for their own proliferation, by colonizing the brains of a
certain type of charismatic and messianic human.” Leary fed psilocybin
to Allen Ginsberg, who tried to run
naked through the streets, believing
himself to be God. Ginsberg told everyone he knew to take mushrooms,
and they told their friends. But colleagues at Harvard worried about
Leary’s methods. The faculty had a
meeting at which they aired their
concerns that the psilocybin project
had turned into a cult. A student
journalist who sneaked into the
meeting reported on it for the Crim-
son, and his story appeared the following day. From there it went to the
Boston Herald, where it was given
the headline hallucination drug
fought at harvard—350 students take pills. Soon afterward,
Leary was forced to leave Harvard.
He continued to spread the gospel of
psychedelics through his International Federation for Internal Freedom, joining 25,000 hippies at the
first San Francisco “be-in” and instructing them to “turn on, tune in,
drop out,” until he was sent to prison
for marijuana possession in 1966. A
couple of years later, LSD and psilocybin were criminalized.
t this point in Pollan’s account, the psychedelic subculture disappears from view,
though low-key research into psychedelic treatments for mental illness
persisted through the Seventies. Its
most articulate ambassador during
this period was Terence McKenna,
the igure at the center of Trip, a new
book by Tao Lin. Lin credits both
psychedelics and McKenna with lifting him out of the depressive funk in
which he seemed to have been stuck
since high school, teaching him that
the world is “awe-inspiring and excitingly bizarre and complicatedly magical” and ending his addiction to—or
at least compulsive use of—other,
nonpsychedelic drugs.
Lin’s book is very different in tone
from Pollan’s. Lin, a novelist in his
thirties known for downbeat semiautobiographical iction, tells us more
about his past and his inner life, and
affects an occasionally irritating but
more often endearing naïveté. But
both writers mix memoir and journalism, both conclude that psychedelic
drugs are a net good and have been
banned for nefarious reasons, and
both enact a version of psychedelic
therapy on themselves.
In the epilogue to Trip, Lin confesses to Kathleen Harrison, McKenna’s
ex-wife, that one of the main reasons
he wrote his book was to try and convert New York literary types to the
psychedelic lifestyle. But the experiences that he recounts—like Pollan’s—
are not great advertisements for the
drugs. On mushrooms he irst enjoys
imagining that he is an alien temporar-
ily inhabiting Tao Lin’s body, but later
gets depressed, tweets that he is “leaving behind all this lit game shit,” deletes his website, and throws away his
MacBook. He’s unable to remember
any of his DMT trip and in its aftermath comes to believe that his friend
is trying to frame him for a variety of
crimes. On salvia—an herb in the same
family as sage—he feels like rubble being scooped up by a bulldozer. These
episodes are not nearly as exciting as
his material on McKenna, the picaresque psychedelic adventurer without
whose mediating influence it’s hard to
imagine Lin would ever have become
as keen on psychedelics as he is.
McKenna’s interest in psychedelics,
like Leary’s, was initially piqued by
Wasson’s article on magic mushrooms,
which he read in 1957, when he was
ten. In 1965 he went to the Tussman
Experimental College at UC Berkeley,
where students could set their own
curricula and weren’t graded. He read
widely in ecology, resource conservation, and shamanism; amassed an extensive library; and got high, turning
his student digs into a psychedelic
salon in which he would hold court for
hours, ranting to an appreciative audience of highbrow stoners. He traveled
widely, at irst for fun, then to elude
US Customs, which had intercepted a
package of hash he’d attempted to ship
from Bombay to Aspen, Colorado. In
1971, he and his brother traveled to La
Chorrera, in the Colombian Amazon,
with the aim of finding a DMTcontaining plant. They found mushrooms instead—Psilocybe cubensis—
a nd c ondu cte d a n a mbit io u s
psychological “experiment” in which
they consumed the mushrooms and
used chanting, body movement, and
“the principles of superconductivity
and harmonic resonance” to “intercalate psychoactive compounds into the
rungs of neural DNA in order to create
the philosopher’s stone” (Lin’s words).
The experiment is documented in
McKenna’s book, The Invisible Landscape, which is characterized by Kathleen Harrison in Trip as “unreadable.”
It’s not that, but it does mirror the
freewheeling, syncretic logic of an
intense psychedelic experience in the
way it joins the dots between technology, shamanism, and the I Ching to
arrive at an abstruse theory of time:
read high, it makes perfect sense.
McKenna revisited the ideas raised by
the La Chorrera experiment throughout his career, giving hundreds of
talks, many of which are freely available on the internet. They are invariably entertaining, erudite in a puckish,
unbuttoned sort of way, and often
prophetic: another of his recurring
themes was the power of the internet
(long before it became obvious) and of
the dissemination of memes to influence politics. He was always skeptical
of the New Age movement, and of
religion in general; Lin quotes
McKenna’s view of himself as a “hardheaded rationalist.” McKenna’s skepticism extended to science, which had
provided a theory of the universe he
found absurd—the “limit case of credulity” was how he described the Big
Bang theory—and stated that, despite
his professed commitment to rationalism, he preferred to trust in the “felt
presence of immediate experience.” As
a result, he came to believe that mushrooms were, as a 1993 profile of
McKenna put it, “the megaphone used
by an alien, intergalactic Other to
communicate with mankind.”
’m wary of placing too much trust
in psychedelic revelations. I worry that the woman Pollan mentions who decided to divorce her husband while tripping may come to
regret it. Keen psychedelic hobbyists
have adopted a phrase borrowed from
the ifteenth-century writer Thomas
Malory by the cult novelist Robert
Anton Wilson, “Chapel Perilous,” to
refer to the period immediately after a
strong trip in which your mind, having been confronted by a quantity of
sensory data that directly contradicts
normal lived reality, tries to make
sense of what has happened. Trips are
high-intensity presentations of the
eighteenth-century philosopher Bishop Berkeley’s argument for not trusting your senses: If changing your
brain chemistry can replace the usual
world with a different one, then how
can you trust what you usually see?
Am I real? Who is Chapalski? For
months after my trip I worried that an
alien was fabricating my thoughts and
projecting them into my mind. My
ego was dissolved, but for an uncomfortably long period and not helpfully.
From Our
to Yours!
“New and Noteworthy Fiction”
Hardcover Selection
Each month you
receive a curated book
from one of nine
different subscription
options gift-wrapped,
and delivered with a
handwritten letter
about the book from a
“New and Noteworthy Non-Fiction”
Harcover Selection
Featuring essays by
M.F.K. Fisher,
Upton Sinclair,
Ford Madox Ford,
Tanya Gold,
Wendell Berry,
David Foster Wallace,
and Michael Pollan.
Introduction by
Nick Oferman
Wilson said you come out of Chapel
Perilous “paranoid” or “agnostic”
about most things, which is what
happened to me; the other possibility
is that you don’t come out at all,
which is what happened to my friend
Tom. He became convinced that he
could travel through time using just
the power of his mind. The ability to
eject oneself from linear time, as
McKenna explains in The Invisible
Landscape, is one of the hallmarks of
the shaman—but being unable to integrate this ability into ordinary life is
a hallmark of the schizophrenic. Tom
would stare at walls for hours, coursing through time, often—he told
me—revisiting episodes from his
childhood. He stopped going to
school, began entertaining wilder and
wilder conspiracy theories, and was
eventually committed to a psychiatric
hospital, where he remains.
Both Pollan and Lin follow Leary
and McKenna in believing that the
dangers of psychedelics are almost
nonexistent, and that the drugs were
banned because they were “catalysts of
intellectual dissent” (McKenna again).
But the dangers are real. It’s also not
clear that psychedelics weren’t a boon
to the establishment. Both writers
mention the CIA’s MK-Ultra experiments using psychedelic drugs for mind
control but gloss over the possible connections between the early psychedelic pioneers and the intelligence
agencies. Pollan suggests that Hubbard
was linked to the CIA. Some have
speculated that R. Gordon Wasson was
not only a senior banker at J. P. Morgan but also a chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations; he acknowledged in his Life report that his trip to
Mexico was supported by the Geschickter Fund for Medical Research,
which reportedly received funds from
the CIA. Many people, including William S. Burroughs and Ken Kesey, reportedly believed that Timothy Leary
was involved in a CIA plot to defang
the radical left. Even McKenna may
have been connected: in one of his
talks he seems to say he was approached by the FBI after getting
busted for hash smuggling, and that he
has been performing “public relations”
services for them ever since. It’d be
going too far to claim, though some do,
that the psychedelic movement was
part of CIA psyops. But it might as
well have been: the proto-hippies had
promulgated radical anti-government
and environmentalist politics; psychedelic drugs introverted the movement, making it focus on altering
consciousness rather than policies
and power structures.
Pollan and Lin both write about
the suggestibility of psychedelic
experience—the importance of the
environment you’re in when you take
psychedelics, your state of mind, your
expectations. Pollan proposes that all
Western psychedelic experiences
have been influenced by Huxley:
“Eastern” artistic motifs and metaphysical ideas are such common
tropes because they’re how Huxley
used them to characterize his trip in
The Doors of Perception. But neither
Pollan nor Lin really explores the
ramiications of this suggestibility: It’s
true, as Pollan says, that if you’re told
you’re going to have a “mystical experience,” you probably will. But this
logic applies to whatever you’re told,
and experimenting with setting a goal
before you take psychedelics—an object to ind, a map to follow, an entity
to encounter—is one of the most entertaining things you can do with
them. The tripping individual’s receptivity, combined with the enhanced sensory awareness the chemicals provide, could make refined
psychedelic drugs a powerful accessory to immersive theater or roleplaying games. Psychedelic therapy,
on the other hand, I find a little
creepy. The default mode network
can be disarmed less riskily through
meditation and exercise; “fundamentalisms” can be challenged more effectively by reading books or articles
written by intelligent people who
oppose them; and the impressionability of the psychedelic experience
can be readily abused. The CIA’s
experiments with psychedelic drugs
as a tool for mind control were not
misguided. As McKenna once said,
“‘They open you up to the possibility that everything you know is
wrong”; they also, as Hubbard knew,
make it easier for someone else to
impose his view of what’s right.
Changing your mind is one thing,
but trusting someone else to change
it for you is quite another.
Rachel Cusk’s unforgiving eye
By Merve Emre
Discussed in this essay:
Kudos, by Rachel Cusk. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 240 pages. $26.
Transit, by Rachel Cusk. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 272 pages. $16.
Outline, by Rachel Cusk. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 256 pages. $16.
ean Genet, the
French novelist
who spent his
early years as a thief
and a prostitute, once
confessed to feeling a
little throb of joy when
he gazed on the faces
of t he p eople he
robbed. The ugliness
he saw there, an ugliness he had caused,
aroused in him a “cruel pleasure”—a cutti ng, u n repent a nt
thrill that was “bound
to transigure my own
face, to make me resplendent,” he wrote
in his autobiographical novel The Thief’s
Journal. It was an unexpectedly aesthetic
delight, and for Genet,
as for Nietzsche and
Henry James, Adorno
and Nabokov—the
great male theorists
of aesthetic bliss—
aestheticism’s seductiveness was not just
its appeal to beauty
but its exaltation of
cruelty as the essence
of art. “In aesthetic forms, cruelty becomes imagination,” proclaimed
Adorno. “Something is excised from
Merve Emre is the author of Paraliterary:
The Making of Bad Readers in Postwar
America (University of Chicago Press) and
The Personality Brokers, which will be published in September by Doubleday. In August, she will be an associate professor of
English at Oxford University.
Illustration by Romy Blümel
the living, from the body of language,
from tones, from visual experience.”
Good art was imitation; great art was
highway robbery.
Genet’s novel makes a conspicuous
appearance midway through Rachel
Cusk’s Transit, the second novel in a
trilogy that began in 2014 with Outline and concludes with Kudos, which
will be published this month. At a
literary festival outside London, an
angelic-looking gay man tells Cusk’s
narrator, a novelist named Faye, about
reading The Thief’s Journal for the irst
time on a darkening beach in Nice,
France, surrounded by girls with “shy
bodies and tentative ingers.” He recalls feeling shocked by the novel’s
“brutal aestheticism”: its decadent
style and unbridled self-expression, but
most of all the “violent betrayal and
robbery of the feminine” he saw in
Genet’s representations of drag queens.
“He felt guilty even reading it in the
company of these
tentative girls, who
would never, he felt
certain, plunder the
masculine in that
way.” If in Genet’s
world the masculine
is the source of cruelty and art, the feminine is inferior and
object of hostility and
caricature, forbidden
from sharing in the
rareied spoils of aesthetic authority.
Are women capable of such cruelty?
Are they capable of
making great art? For
Cusk, perhaps the
cruelest novelist at
work today, these
questions invite a distinctly feminized variety of aestheticism,
which in the service
of ecstasy and power
plunders the masculine tradition of cruelty. Unlike in Gen e t ’s s t o r i e s o f
thievery and lust,
there is nothing especially cruel about
Cusk’s trilogy on the
level of plot; indeed, as many critics
have observed, the novels are largely
plotless exercises in characterization
and consciousness. All three follow the
same structure: Faye meets a person and
describes him; he begins to tell a story
but his story is hijacked by Faye’s narration, its vividness and precision
quickly crowding out her interlocutor’s
voice. Most of her encounters take
“One helluva team of
writers has produced a
book you’ll be dipping
into for years.”
— Jim Bouton, author of Ball Four
Preface by Roy Blount Jr.
Rules of the Game: The
Best Sports Writing from
Harper’s Magazine uncovers funny, touching, exciting, intriguing stories of the
sporting life, both professional and amateur. These
essays show that how we
play and write about sports
reflects and celebrates our
nation’s character.
This collection includes
some of the most well-known
and respected writers of
the past century, including
Mark Twain, Tom Wolfe,
Shirley Jackson, Lewis H.
Lapham, Gary Cartwright,
A. Bartlett Giamatti, Pete
Axthelm, George Plimpton,
and Rich Cohen.
Edited by Matthew Stevenson
and Michael Martin
Order today through
Published by Franklin Square Press
ISBN 978-1-879957-58-9
Softcover $14.95
place at literary events—a writing
workshop, a reading, a festival—in a
world that seems unusually overpopulated with writers, most of them, by
their own admission, quite bad. Presiding over this unimpressive ield is Faye,
a narrator who is both curious and cold,
a mother as attentive as she is unsentimental, a writer only selectively interested in the lives of others.
ow often people betrayed
themselves by what they noticed in others,” thinks Faye,
who has a gift for noticing others
and describing what she has noticed
in marvelously alert and intricate
detail. Early in Outline, she sits on a
plane and looks at a father walking
up and down the aisle, rocking his
infant. With an appreciative eye—
she has two young boys of her own—
she notes “the tender wrinkled feet
of the baby on his shoulder, the little
hunched back, the soft head with its
primitive whorl of hair.” These beatiic details are, Faye suggests, merely products of the plane’s electric
light. All they betray is her attentiveness, her acute receptivity to the
“unmediated, so impersonal, so ininite” world of appearances.
The baby is cute, but don’t let him
fool you. There is nothing unmediated or impersonal or ininite about noticing. To notice (from the Latin notitia, “intimacy with a person or idea”)
is always to discriminate. The roving
eye stops, discerns one or two details,
and gropes for the right words to enshrine them so that, in their newfound splendor and richness, these
details might reveal some essential
truth. “It was as though everything
that had been inside was moved outside, piece by piece, like furniture being taken out of a house and put on
the pavement,” Faye observes in Outline, describing how the violent quarrels of children and lovers often turn
on who notices what.
The intangible became solid, the visionary was embodied, the private became public: when peace becomes
war, when love turns to hatred, something is born into the world, a force of
pure mortality.
Cusk wants us to notice Faye noticing, and she wants us to see it as
Distributed through Midpoint Trade Books
an act of volition and power, a supremely human act of creation that
deies what critics have written about
her novels—almost all of it complimentary, much of it wrongheaded.
Cusk is not “objective” or “modest”
or “passive” or any of the other humble words reviewers have used to describe her prose. Nor does she “disappear” when she relinquishes the
autobiographical mode cultivated in
her startlingly candid memoirs of
motherhood (A Life’s Work) and divorce (Aftermath). The writer who
notices is after a different kind of intimacy with her reader, an intimacy
born not of confession—this is my
husband, these are my children, this
is my confused, unhappy life—but of
sensibility and taste. She is not a realist in the impersonal, Flaubertian
sense. She commandeers reality,
bending colors, sounds, incidents,
and people to her subjective truth,
seeking the strange beauty in ordinary, even ugly, things.
Cusk can often be gentle, but she
can also be merciless, and that is
where things get interesting. Consider
her description of Marielle, a student
in Faye’s creative writing workshop in
Athens, Greece:
The bones of her face were so impressively structured as to verge on the
grotesque, an impression she had chosen to accentuate—in a way that
struck me as distinctly and intentionally humorous—by surrounding her
already enormous blue eyes in oceans
of exotic blue and green shadow and
then drawing, not carefully, around
the lids with an even brighter blue;
her sharp cheekbones wore slashes of
pink blusher, and her mouth, which
was unusually fleshy and pouting, was
richly and inaccurately slathered in
red lipstick.
The overflow of line and shadow
strikes Faye as funny in its purposeful carelessness, like that of a child
who, thinking herself very grown up,
begins to apply her mother’s lipstick
only to realize that the real fun lies
in tracing ever-widening circles
around her mouth. In appearance
and thought, Marielle is childlike:
guileless, melodramatic, misguided.
Many of the characters in Cusk’s
novels are babies, iguratively if not
literally. There is the contractor Faye
hires to renovate her home, a boorish, wheezy man whose face wears “a
curious look of torment, like a baby’s
face in the moments before it begins
to cry.” There is Sophia, a sexy and
insecure feminist writer who holds
her head up very high to speak, “like
a child standing on tiptoe and
straining to see over the adults.” Faye
is the adult in the room, the hard,
formal voice of authority and, frequently, of ridicule. She is mother
and master of her universe.
Just as she can transform selfdoubting men and women into wobbly children, Faye can reverse the
spell, aging those whose greatest
fear is their own physical deterioration. Consider Amanda, who worries that she is now too old to work
in fashion:
First published in Harper’s Monthly Magazine in 1906
New York Revisited
Amanda had a youthful appearance on
which the patina of age was clumsily
applied, as if, rather than growing older, she had merely been carelessly handled, like a crumpled photograph of a
child. Her short, fleshy body seemed to
exist in a state of constant animation
through which an oceanic weariness
could occasionally be glimpsed. Today
the grey tint of fatigue lay just beneath
her made-up skin.
Any one of the sentences above
would be enough to communicate
the desperation of Amanda’s efforts
to stay the f light of youth and
beauty. Her aesthetic contrivances,
like Marielle’s, cannot deceive
Faye’s eye, wh ich apprehend s
Amanda’s tired face and her plump,
agitated body and enhances them
with cosmetic inishes of a different
kind: the “patina of age,” the “tint
of fatigue.”
The effect is at once unkind and
beautiful. Like Amanda’s and Marielle’s made-up faces, Cusk’s language
is layered thick. It is decadent, exaggerated, repetitive. “Fleshy” is among
her favorite modiiers, yet the flesh
at hand almost always appears hard
and artiicial. So much is written on
the body that it begins to crowd out
the soul. We sense the truth of Marielle’s character before she starts speaking (she is exceedingly wealthy, indolent, and frivolous), just as we sense
Amanda’s (she is lonely, unhappy,
sleeping with the wrong man).
Introduction by Lewis H. Lapham
Order online at
The nine extra entries are names of
snakes, found in the diagram starting at
the given initial location and traveling
in a “serpentine” route that will ultimately provide letters to ill the twelve
shaded squares. They are, in order,
and VIPER. Their routes can be traced
by color.
Note: * indicates an anagram.
ACROSS: 12. *; 13. gala-tea; 15. *; 16. stea(M) irons*; 17. *; 19. *; 21. a-gar; 25. co(MM-and)ed;
29. *; 30. homophone; 31. rev.; 34. two mngs.; 35. so(yo[u])b, rev.; 36. por-poise;
40. s(ch)wa*; 44. R(het*)t; 45. two mngs.; 47. *; 49. two mngs.; 51. *; 52. chais[e]; 54. b[ra]-edarken*;
55. two mngs.; 56. homophone; 57. e(L)ver.
DOWN: 1. hidden; 2. Swi[f]t; 3. [s]eat; 4. [I]rish(I); 6. ey(rev.)-elid*; 7. hidden; 8. [ban]tams;
9. hidden; 10. rev.; 11. *; 12. base(homophone) C-amps; 14. *; 18. come[t]; 20. [f]inch; 23. *;
24. hidden; 26. rev.; 27. a-[ina]l-so; 28. deba*-table; 33. co(E)rces*; 37. P(ay)D(ay); 38. two mngs.;
39. hidden; 41. CA-sh; 42. wa(VI)er; 43. *; 45. F-a-B; 46. *; 48. lieu[tenant]; 53. a-PE.
But their truth hardly matters: we
forget about them as soon as the
next character appears, ushered in by
another magniicent, pitiless act of
noticing. We behold “a very large
and soft-looking young girl who wore
glasses with thick black frames” eating an “enormous savory pastry whose
meaty smell was quite overpowering”;
a preening editor with “a small, handsome, slightly furtive face and bright
bead-like eyes,” his hair “thick and
clipped very short, so that it looked
almost like an animal’s fur”; an “attenuated, whey-faced, corkscrewhaired person” with “an unusually
long neck and a rather small head,
like that of a goose.” To read Outline,
Transit, and Kudos in succession is to
wander through a gallery of metamorphosed characters (the old have
been made young, the young old;
humans have become animals, animals human), never lingering on
one long enough to feel attachment
or sympathy, revulsion or contempt,
only a disinterested appreciation for
how they look. This is beauty in
the purest and the cruelest sense of
the word.
hat are we to make of these
violent transformations?
Kudos, the brilliant if
somewhat self-satisied conclusion of
Cusk’s trilogy, insists that we celebrate
them as the highest aesthetic and ethical form to which the contemporary
novel can aspire. (The title is Greek
for “glory, fame, renown.”) “Stories
need cruelty in order for them to
work,” suggests a writer Faye meets at a
dinner. Perhaps, she continues, cruelty
is inseparable from literature’s “burden
of perception,” the objectifying authority with which the writer must
confront her “mush” of feelings and
cast it into a hard, gleaming image for
her readers to admire. By transmuting
feeling into form, Faye suggests, brutal
aestheticism promises nothing less
than the revival of “our own instinct
for beauty,” a thorough refurbishing of
the old house of iction with modern
conveniences. And it arrives not a
moment too soon. In Kudos the house
is in danger of total collapse, rotted by
commerce and bad taste.
More explicitly than Outline or
Transit, Kudos shows Cusk surveying
the contemporary literary field and
assigning its players—writers, agents,
editors, critics—to their proper places. The irst half of the novel is set at
a literary festival in Cologne, Germany, where the chatter concerns advances, sales, parties, and prizes.
Faye’s publisher is the mouthpiece of
the market. What all publishers want,
he tells her, are
those writers who performed well in
the marketplace while maintaining a
connection to the values of literature;
in other words, who wrote books that
people could actually enjoy without
feeling in the least demeaned by being seen reading them.
For him, a book is a product like any
other, and how one judges the arrangement of the words inside it—
pure art or “complete shit”—is less
important than its place in the
pecking order of cultural consumption. Faye runs into Ryan, first
glimpsed in Outline as a struggling,
overweight novelist, who has now
found commercial success: six
months on the New York Times bestseller list for a pseudonymous work
of historical iction that he co-wrote
with a woman, a former student of
hi s who encou r aged him— he
insists—to take public credit for the
book. Money has changed him; he
exercises, owns a Fitbit. Now his
skin “hung so loosely on his face
that it formed clownlike folds that
accentuated his changes of expression, and the room’s harsh light gave
it a ghastly, almost ghoulish cast.”
The description is striking for its
violence and farce, casting Ryan as
the droopy, decaying Harlequin. It
gives us reason to wonder whether
Cusk’s exteriors are more than just
decorative projections of individual
truths, whether what lies beneath the
folds of flesh is a barbed cultural critique of male writers like Ryan
(“Writers need to hide in bourgeois
life like ticks need to hide in an animal’s fur,” he claims in Outline) and
the marketplace that sustains their
exploitative success. “It was a position
of weakness,” Faye’s publisher asserts,
“to see literature as something fragile
that needed defending,” which is true
insofar as one doesn’t care what
counts as literature: banal multi-plot
family dramas, gimmicky metafictions, stupid historical thrillers. In
Kudos, it is Faye’s lot to defend literature, or at least the kind of selfconsciously aesthetic literature Cusk
has produced in Outline and Transit.
And what a defense it is: an object
lesson in rigor, elegance, and fury delivered by a narrative voice that is alternately humble and boastful, cajoling and bullying.
Her defense, like that of many
teachers, takes the form of strict pedagogy. Throughout the trilogy, a
strong undercurrent of self-reflexivity,
neither playful nor paranoid but didactic, propels all the characters in
Cusk’s ictional cosmos—Faye’s students, fellow writers, literary critics—
closer to her point of view. Her clearest lesson in aestheticism and cruelty
involves animals. In the writing
workshop she teaches in Outline, Faye
asks her students to write a story involving an animal. Many do not
complete the task, and those who do
manage it clumsily. A mammoth
snake tempts a venal bishop; a songbird flutters about a wistful singer; a
lonely boy loses his hamster. In case
we don’t grasp the signiicance of the
exercise, Cusk has a suspiciously
bright student explain how it mirrors
Outline’s own aesthetic principles.
“We use animals as pure reflections of
human consciousness,” he says. Animals cannot speak for themselves;
like Cusk’s characters, they need a
more sentient being to speak for
them, to impose narrative on sensual
impulse. Like slaves or servants, the
student continues, they exert
a sort of moral force by which human
beings feel objectiied and therefore
safely contained. . . . They watch us
living; they prove that we are real;
through them, we access the story of
The exercise appears random and
self-contained, the student just one
of many discarded spokespeople for
Cusk’s ideas—that is, until one reads
Transit and notices animals everywhere, nestled into characters’ lives
and stories of mimetic virtuosity.
Faye’s London neighbors Paula and
John are a racist couple whose
“shrivelled, hobbling dog” habitually
urinates on their back steps. At an-
other writing class, a student tries to
tell a story about his dog but doesn’t
know what to say. “She’s just beautiful,” he insists apologetically, his capacity to write blocked by his feelings. When Faye coaxes him, the
dog’s beauty starts to take on solid
form. Her name is Sheba, we learn,
and she is a magniicent, hedonistic
saluki, “languid almost to the point
of stupefaction”:
She was forever lying on their laps or
across their beds draping her large,
silky body over them and resting her
narrow face against theirs with what
was either neediness or sheer ennui—
she was, as he had said, almost human.
In Kudos, the mirroring exercise of
the animal emerges as an inside
joke—not just a brutal aestheticism
but a brute aestheticism—flattering to
readers whom Cusk has trained to notice her habitual metamorphoses.
Cusk’s menagerie, painstakingly
groomed and arranged, emerges as a
model for all writers, so relentlessly
does she insist that everyone admire it,
learn from it, imitate it. The lost hamster from Outline returns, bundled into
a story told by a novelist who, at a
writing retreat, is instructed to imagine a hamster to help evoke her relationships with her husband and daughter. “The problem, she now saw, was
that she had been trying to describe
her husband and daughter using
materials—her feelings—that no one
else could see,” Faye explains. “The
solid fact of the hamster made all the
difference.” By the time we reach Kudos, Faye is no longer a teacher gently
guiding her students’ craft; she has become Cusk’s propagandist, loudly extolling the author’s own art as the universal standard of novelistic beauty.
Kudos is full of references to Outline and Transit, knowing winks at
Cusk’s devoted readers and ripostes
to her critics (most of them projections or straw men). A bald, bespectacled newspaper reviewer who resembles an “oversized baby” talks at
Faye about his distaste for the kind
of formally ambitious, dificult literature that is premised on the negation
of the self (the very deinition of cruelty, according to Maurice Blanchot
and the Marquis de Sade). He prefers
literature that draws “its lifeblood
from social and material constructs,”
and in his opinion, “the writer could
do no more than stay within those
constructs, buried in bourgeois life—
as he had recently read it described
somewhere—like a tick in an animal’s fur.” In Outline, Faye asks her
students to tell a story about what
they noticed on their way to class;
the exercise reappears in Kudos as
part of an interview conducted by
another old, bald male critic who believes himself ingenious for treating
Faye the way she treats her characters. “The question he liked the
most,” she observes,
concerned what I had noticed on my
way here, and if his—or rather my—
theory was correct, by asking me that
question, the question of what I had
noticed on my way here, he would enable me to write the whole interview
for him.
Sometimes Cusk’s cleverness feels
strained. Sometimes it feels claustrophobic, as if in her inal act Cusk has
decided to seal up her ictional world,
securing it from outside interference
by making the agents of literary
judgment her ventriloquist dummies.
Yet in spite of these weaknesses, the
trilogy stands as an extraordinarily
successful exercise in mythopoesis,
creating an autonomous universe
that operates according to Cusk’s
rules, her voice a cosmological constant throughout.
t is a universe where women writers come off much better than
their big, babyish male critics.
The second half of Kudos takes place
at a conference in a suburb by the
sea, where much of the talk concerns
the burden of femininity. Should a
woman write about “the private history of the female body, its suppression and exploitation and transmogriications, its terrible malleability as
a form and its capacity to create other forms”? Or, if she chooses to ignore
or repress her femininity, is she ensuring that the rules of art are always
set by men? “It might simply be the
case that female truth—if such a
thing can even be said to exist—is so
interior and involuted that a common
version of it can never be agreed on,”
says Sophia, the insecure feminist,
A collection of Walter Karp’s essays
on American politics, the presidency,
the press, censorship, education, and
the lessons of liberty. Many were originally published in Harper’s Magazine.
Preface by Lewis H. Lapham.
Order online at
Search the
Chance that an
American would
rather be mugged
than audited :
1 in 2
Order online at
DISCLAIMER: Harper’s Magazine assumes no
liability for the content of or reply to any personal
advertisement. The advertiser assumes complete
liability for the content of and all replies to any
advertisement and for any claims made against
Harper’s Magazine as a result thereof. The
advertiser agrees to indemnify and hold Harper’s
Magazine and its employees harmless from all
costs, expenses (including reasonable attorney
fees), liabilities, and damages resulting from or
caused by the publication placed by the advertiser
or any reply to any such advertisement.
Created by
Winnifred Cutler,
Ph.D. in biology from
U. of Penn, post-doc
Co-discovered human
pheromones in 1986
(Time 12/1/86; and
Newsweek 1/12/87)
Effective for 74% in
two 8-week studies
Athena Pheromones increase
your attractiveness. Worn daily
lasts 4-6 mos, or use it straight.
Athena 10X tm For Men $99.50
10:13 tm For Women $98.50
Fragrance Additives Cosmetics Free U.S. Shipping
♥ Rita (CA) 9 orders “I love this 10:13 pheromone!
I have been using it for years and it helped
me get married. People react to me,
especially men. Everything is easier. I told
my friends.”
Rec’d 3/7/18
♥ Gary (VA) 5 orders “I love your 10X product. I
put it in my cologne and there seems to be a
noticeable difference in my wife’s attitude.
Friskiness, I would say.”
Rec’d 2/7/18
Not in stores
Athena Institute, 1211 Braefield Rd., Chester Spgs, PA 19425
Natalie C. Holly
(212) 420-5760
TEXT ADS: Minimum ten words.
COST per word: 1X rate $4.50; 3X rate
$4.40; 6X rate $4.30; 9X rate $4.10;
12X rate $4.00.
Telephone numbers, box numbers, URLs,
and email addresses count as two words.
ZIP codes count as one word.
SPACE: One-inch, $270; Two-inch, $530;
1/12, $650; 1/9, $765. Frequency
discounts available.
CLOSING DATES: 1st of the 2nd preceding
month. For example: August 1st for the
October issue.
PAYMENT: Prepayment for all text ads and
first-time display advertisers is required.
Make checks payable to Harper’s Magazine,
666 Broadway, New York, NY 10012,
or charge your ad to MasterCard, Visa,
or American Express. Include telephone
number on all correspondence.
PERSONAL ADS: Minimum ten words.
COST per word: $4.50. Check, MasterCard,
Visa, or American Express only.
TO RESPOND TO AN AD: Harper’s Magazine
Personals, 666 Broadway, New York,
NY 10012.
and after so many pages spent absorbing Cusk’s sharp, relentlessly exteriorizing voice, we chafe at the ease
with which words like “interior” and
“involuted” are naturalized as features of women’s writing.
In a literary culture insistent that
a woman’s truth is too disordered to
express with precision, self-exposure
is held equal to style; a woman’s
confession of her experience is often
lauded for its bravery, its honesty,
but is rarely scrutinized for its forms
of expression. Women writers are
held to the lowest standards of aesthetic judgment, with the unfortunate consequence that many critics
have confused this condescension
for permissiveness, or, worse, for political progress. All the while they
have overlooked how style can serve
as a source of power. “The power of
beauty is a useful weapon that too
often women disparage or misuse,”
says the only unequivocally beautiful person Faye encounters in Kudos, a reporter whose “long thick
pale-gold hair was drawn smoothly
back in a ponytail like a studious
princess.” The description is enough
to know that we should listen to
her; in Cusk’s cosmos, the beautiful
is also the true.
How can a woman use beauty
against a culture made by and for
men? In Kudos’s final scene, Faye
walks along a beach at sunset,
much like the beach at Nice where
the young man read The Thief ’s
Journal. The sky is dark, the waves
are angry, and she is thronged by
naked men; naked without explanation, which makes the scene feel
remarkably primeval. Estranged
from time, space, and reason, Faye
seems to be standing at the precipice of some new world order.
When she takes her clothes off and
begins to swim, one of the men approaches the water.
He came to a halt just where the waves
broke and he stood there in his nakedness like a deity, resplendent and grinning. Then he grasped his thick penis
and began to urinate into the water.
The flow came out so abundantly that
it made a fat, glittering jet, like a rope
of gold he was casting into the sea. He
looked at me with black eyes full of
malevolent delight while the golden jet
poured unceasingly forth from him until it seemed impossible that he could
contain any more. The water bore me
up, heaving, as if I lay on the breast of
some sighing creature while the man
emptied himself into its depths. I
looked into his cruel, merry eyes, and
I waited for him to stop.
It’s a splendid passage. A man’s
aggressive act of self-exposure is
made insolent, erotic, funny, and
mythological, transformed into a
seaborne golden shower, like Zeus’
visitation of Danaë. Faye meets the
man’s gaze; she does not demur, does
not look down or away in shame. At
once she takes up the burden of perception as well as the burden of femininity; the “malevolent delight” of
the male gaze is first neutralized,
then reciprocated by her silent, ecstatic act of noticing. And in the
moment that his cruel, merry eyes
meet her cruel, merry vision, something is born into the world—the
force of art made by a woman.
Harper’s Magazine is owned and published monthly by the Harper’s Magazine Foundation, 666 Broadway,
New York, N.Y. 10012. Tel: 212-420-5720. Andrew J. Bacevich, Chairman; John R. MacArthur, President;
Rosa Brooks, Eric Foner, and Robert Volante, Board Members. Copyright © 2018 by the Harper’s Magazine
Foundation. All rights reserved. The trademark Harper’s is used by the Harper’s Magazine Foundation under license and is a registered trademark owned by HarperCollins. The trademark Harper’s Index is a registered trademark owned by the Harper’s Magazine Foundation. Printed in the United States. Periodicals postage paid at
New York, N.Y., and additional mailing ofices. In Canada, second-class postage paid at Windsor, Ont. In Canada, International Publications Mail Agreement #40013802. Canadian GST 12477 4167 RT. Return undeliverable
Canadian addresses to Harper’s Magazine, P.O. Box 885, Markham Station Main, Markham, Ont. L3P8M9.
POSTMASTER: Send all address changes to Harper’s, P.O. Box 6237, Harlan, Iowa 51593-1737. ISSN0017-789X.
CHANGE OF ADDRESS: Please provide both address from last issue and new address. Allow six weeks’ advance notice. SUBSCRIPTIONS: $30 one year. Canada and United States possessions, add $3; other foreign,
add $20 per year. Send orders to Harper’s Magazine, P.O. Box 6237, Harlan, Iowa 51593-1737. SUBSCRIPTION
PROBLEMS: Write Harper’s Magazine, P.O. Box 6237, Harlan, Iowa 51593-1737, or call 800-444-4653,
M–F, 8 A.M.–midnight, S&S, 9 A.M.–7 P.M., EST. All requests for PERMISSIONS and REPRINTS must be
made in writing to Harper’s Magazine, 666 Broadway, New York, N.Y. 10012. The Readings in Harper’s Magazine
every month include texts and documents found in the public domain, most of them abridged for reasons of
space and not all of them reprinted with permission. Harper’s Magazine will not consider or return unsolicited
non-iction manuscripts that have not been preceded by a written query, but will consider unsolicited iction.
Unsolicited poetry will not be considered or returned. No queries or manuscripts will be considered unless they
are accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Visit our website at
By Richard E. Maltby Jr.
(with acknowledgments to Zander of The Listener)
he clues to words of six, seven, and
twelve letters are grouped separately. Solvers
must determine where each answer belongs in
the diagram, using answers to the numbered
clues as a guide.
Answers include three proper nouns and two
foreign words. Among the seven-letter words,
the last is somewhat uncommon. As always,
mental repunctuation of a clue is the key to its
solution. The solution to last month’s puzzle appears on page 91.
Article seen in private: “A Titanic Presence” (4)
Most of dirigible, except the nose, is flaccid (4)
“Napoleon’s God!” (Fade out; the end of Richelieu) (4)
Fume coming back from old liquor lovers (4)
Corny place for pirate (4)
It’s as odd as a taxi in Rome (5)
Expedition he sat out (5)
Mobilized so we’d do something well connected (5)
Is an agent for tart on board? (5)
Turn up, look for sexual harasser—rock and roll (4)
six-letter words
a. Tesla tears through drifts
b. South Carolina takes on Los Angeles in football, hits
the road
c. Supreme being: love, given to mongrel mutts
d. Figures in transit rob him
e. Trains outside, etc., exercising places in an ofice
f. Mysterious record company caught in an outcome of
g. Air tax
h. Announcement of SA’s 23 Across, etc.
i. Turning around, we keep it in short messages
Smooth-talking—the primal curse?
Chants coming from Shanghai, in a way? Quite
the opposite!
Dog heading off Big Bird
seven-letter words
a. Feeling bad, following the lead of Roger Bannister
b. National manufacturer of zincite
c. Something an undertaker does? Opening, not
opening? Sure!
d. Israeli composer?
e. Washes out when it’s washed out
f. Hemingway and others show tenderness no end
in rewriting
g. Highest elements?
h. One packing a rod is even more heavenly
i. Mocha student perhaps trained to become barista
j. Roots for a salad to be tossed in a prom
twelve-letter words
a. Paper I’d returned to stationers when reordering
b. Crazy inventor ran a story? Not in any way!
c. Germ almost obliterated, we’re really disheartened—only small beer here!
d. Put forth an opinion that’s confused—I realized
it is full of love
Contest Rules: Send completed diagram with name and address to “Sixes and Sevens (and Twelves),” Harper’s Magazine, 666 Broadway, New
York, N.Y. 10012. If you already subscribe to Harper’s, please include a copy of your latest mailing label. Entries must be received by June 8. The
sender of the irst correct solution opened at random will receive a one-year subscription to Harper’s Magazine (limit one winner per household
per year). The winner’s name will be printed in the August issue. The winner of the April puzzle, “Mix ’N’ Match,” is Al Backiel, Ridgewood, N.J.
earfully neurotic regions of the United States and
the United Kingdom were likelier to vote for Donald
Trump and Brexit. Americans have been displaying
high levels of OCD-like thought about politics since
November 2016. Libertarians were conirmed to be the
most analytical of Americans, and moderates the least.
In the Bible Belt, the negative correlation between
intelligence and religiosity is weaker. A massive medieval lava flow may have hastened Iceland’s conversion
to Christianity. The Maya traded dogs for ceremonial
purposes. The demise of cousin marriage lagged the
advent of modern transportation by half a century.
Wealth has very rarely translated to greater reproductive
success for women, whereas for men that effect has
persisted even in advanced industrial societies. An Irish
philosopher considered whether human morality, having evolved during the Stone Age, has now devolved.
A study of Vietnam veterans with penetrating brain
injuries identiied lesions that encourage altruism. A
researcher suggested that René Descartes experienced
Exploding Head Syndrome.
ongooses living in large groups will adopt highly
speciic diets to limit conflict arising from food competition. Chimpanzees who join new groups with inferior
nut-cracking techniques will abandon their superior
techniques in order to it in. The irst same-sex penile–
anal intromission among New World primates was observed during several bouts of grappling between wild
spider monkeys living in Otoch Ma’ax Yetel Kooh,
though the penetrative grappler was always the same
monkey. The macaques of Jigokudani soak in hot
springs for stress relief. Great apes, whether or not they
use sign language, have senses of humor that tend toward the scatological. The Bystander Effect was observed in marmosets. Two thirds of adults tasked with
searching aerial landscapes for artiicial structures failed
to detect a man in a gorilla suit, which may suggest a
Cosmic Gorilla Effect of inattentional blindness in the
search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Macaques who
receive a reward for making a good choice will risk that
reward just to know how things would have turned out
had they chosen differently. FOMO increases as the
evening goes on. Nightmare Disorder may affect nearly
one in three US military personnel. Spanish neuroscientists accused sleep researchers of neglecting to characterize sleep as a pleasure.
n interdisciplinary team created a fog harp. With
the exception of Irishwomen who offer outcalls, a survey of advertisements in several countries found that
female prostitutes charge signiicantly more if they are
young. Treating koalas’ chlamydia with antibiotics
compromises their ability to digest eucalyptus leaves.
Molecular biologists discovered the protein that gives
antibiotic properties to platypus milk. Australian police were stalked by a great white shark. A rogue otter
in Florida’s Manatee County was boarding kayaks and
biting people, and was injured in a ight with an alligator. “Zombie” raccoons were reported in Ohio. An Indian teenager was killed by an assassin bug. Swedish
mother bears may be caring for their cubs longer in order to take advantage of a law against shooting mother
bears with cubs. Overfishing was encouraging dolphins to attack ishing nets. Ship noise was causing
vigorous fluking and reduced feeding in porpoises. A
solar-powered robot wolf with glowing red eyes improved the chestnut harvest in a Japanese forest. Herpetologists reported having had a faceless toad hop
across their path in a Connecticut forest. A twoheaded boa constrictor was found to be Siamese twins
with two hearts.
“Sand Dune, Desert Dome” and “Tethered Saguaros and Netted Magpie, Desert Dome,” photographs by Dana Fritz of Omaha’s
Henry Doorly Zoo, in Nebraska. From Terraria Gigantica: The World Under Glass, published last year by University of
New Mexico Press. Courtesy the artist and University of New Mexico Press
Журналы и газеты
Размер файла
12 285 Кб
Harper's Magazine, journal
Пожаловаться на содержимое документа