The venerable Harper's magazine, similar to the New Republic, keeps bouncing back from editorial turmoil and the decline of American literacy.
John R. MacArthur's Harper's, which like the Atlantic traces its history to the country's intellectual flowering of the 19th century, somehow with all of its feuds and controversies comes up with more interesting issues than the more stable and financially secure New Yorker, which has fallen into stasis under David Remnick.
After scoring a beat with an excerpt from Seymour Hersh's memoir about how Hersh tracked down My Lai figure William Calley, Harper's in its July issue offers Kevin Baker's in-depth examination of how New York City is turning into a private fiefdom of the wealthy and losing its cultural and economic vitality. Along the way, Baker skewers a few sacred cows venerated by New York's liberal corporate class.
Baker's "The Death of a Once Great City: the fall of New York and the urban crisis of affluence" takes a wider view of how New York's being turned into a giant shopping mall for the wealthy matches the enervation of other American cities.
Although not mentioned by Baker, the same move toward unaffordable housing and the demise of small, interesting businesses and stores is also devastating burgeoning smaller cities like Nashville and Austin.
Middle class workers who gave New York and other cities their diversity are being driven out, or made homeless. Baker indicts universities, sports teams and parks and museum conservancies as much as corporations.
New York was once a multi-hued quilt of unique businesses and cultural discoveries. Now, Duane Reade and Starbucks proliferate.
Baker cites the wasteland of empty storefronts in the midst of the city's prosperity. On my last visit to New York City, I was shocked by the number of vacant spaces on Broadway just north of the theater district.
Soaring rents force out long-established family-owned businesses. I was puzzled about why a landlord would prefer to receive nothing rather than reasonable monthly payments. Perhaps landlords receive tax breaks that allow them to wait for a chain store or restaurant to come in.
As Baker demonstrates, the decline of the city's pulsing diversity is matched by the diminishment of public spaces and services, such as the subway system.
Jane Jacobs' thrilling urban landscape is disappearing.