Harper’s Notes

The Harper Review’s weekly newsletter: friendship, fascism, French art, and more.

The editors

October 13, 2023

Should friends share your values?: Kicking off this quarter’s missive debate is a letter from The Harper Review’s own Michael Butler discussing the possibility of friendship despite disagreements. Butler lands on the image of an impossible Venn diagram—to only pick friends whose values overlap with yours, he argues, is preposterous, and misunderstands the essence of friendship itself. His letter, to be sure, embodies the spirit of the Review’s letters section—in which writers debate a contentious proposition by the editors—by beginning this quarter’s dialogue with a genuine appreciation of difference and disagreement.

Anti-capitalist conservatives: While we typically hear critiques of capitalism from those on the political left, increasing numbers on the right are expressing discontent with the economic system, as well. On a recent episode of the podcast “Capitalisn’t,” one of these conservative critics of capitalism, Patrick Deneen, lays out economic policies he’d like to see implemented as part of a proposed “regime change.” The hosts, University of Chicago finance professor Luigi Zingales and Vanity Fair editor Bethany McLean, inquire about the Notre Dame political philosophy professor’s new book Regime Change: Toward a Postliberal Future, as well as his populist economic positions. Can Deneen’s right-wing alternative to free market capitalism take hold without veering into authoritarianism? Zingales and McLean remain skeptical, but the three’s discussion of Christianity, industrial policy, Viktor Orbán, and more is certainly worth a listen.

Idyll worship: The trope of “returning to nature” has existed long before our time, in which artificial intelligence is ripping off pop artists and some seek virtual-reality girlfriends. In the mid-nineteenth century, French artists such as Camille Corot and Jean-François Millet fled the burgeoning technological advancement of Paris, opting instead for a sylvan retreat in the forests of Fontainebleau. At the Morgan Library & Museum in Manhattan, the exhibition Into the Woods: French Drawings and Photographs from the Karen B. Cohen Gift features a rewarding selection of works by major Barbizon School artists and their contemporaries, as well as watercolors by author George Sand and a smattering of Dutch Golden Age artworks. Whether or not you are able to visit the exhibition, read our coeditor in chief Suzanna Murawski’s review of the show at the link.

An embodied conversation: Kyle Abraham, a 2013 MacArthur Fellow and the artistic director of the celebrated dance company A.I.M, will be speaking this Tuesday at the University of Chicago about his approach to contemporary choreography and its relationship with black culture and history. Abraham’s practice combines music, text, video, and visual art to create a new kind of dance rooted in gesture, improvisation, and history. His work is hard to describe adequately with words, but videos and testimonies will attest to its originality and strength. Abraham recently became the first guest editor of Dance Magazine and serves on the advisory board of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, a contemporary dance company based in the city. His lecture will take place at Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

An odd history: Bradley Cooper’s nose made the rounds on Twitter last month. Not his normal nose, mind, but his prosthetic nose, put on for his turn as legendary composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein in the upcoming film Maestro. Cooper’s nose was the latest instance of Jewface, critics said, which sees goyish actors don prosthetics and work up heavy accents to impersonate Jews on screen. Intrigued by the Twitter debate, journalist Jody Rosen dives into the history of “Hebrew-comedy,” which he characterizes as a close cousin of minstrelsy. But as Rosen explains in his essay for The New Yorker, many of the great Hebrew-comedy performers were Jews; they often performed for Jewish audiences; and their influence has been taken up by a century of Jewish performers (and Cohen himself collects Hebrew-comedy ephemera). In the grand scheme of things, Cohen concludes, Cooper’s prodigious proboscis hardly fits the mold of Hebrew-comedy and isn’t worth the digital dust-up.