Harper’s Notes

The Harper Review’s weekly newsletter: speed, surrealism, South Korea, and more.

The editors

April 11, 2023

Disappearing act: We all know what Salvador Dalí looked like. Images of the iconic Spanish surrealist artist still circulate in popular culture: intense gaze, slicked-back hair, cartoonishly skinny handlebar mustache. But while Dalí pumped up his public image, his art, with its melting objects, sparse landscapes, and optical illusions, was obsessed with disappearing—or so says an exhibition currently at the Art Institute of Chicago. Salvador Dalí: The Image Disappears explores the artist’s work in terms of these opposing desires: visibility and vanishing. New technical analyses reveal unexpected Easter eggs in the artist’s work, and the provenance of one painting, “Visions of Eternity,” came into doubt and back into certainty during the curators’ research process. See the exhibition until June 12.

Demographic destiny: It is common knowledge that in highly developed countries, total fertility rates have fallen well below the replacement level of 2.1 births per woman. But in a recent piece for Palladium Magazine, educators and authors Malcolm and Simone Collins write that birth rates are falling even faster than mainstream narratives would have you believe. In South Korea, for example, a 0.7 fertility rate is predicted by 2024, amounting to 4.3 great-grandkids for every 100 great-grandparents. “It’s as if we knew a disease would kill 94 percent of South Koreans in the next century,” write the Collinses. It is certainly debatable whether this trend’s consequences are purely negative or if there could be upsides to population decline. But if the future belongs to those who show up, the Collinses suggest that we create new cultures that are both able to shape the future and durable enough to survive into it.

Salvaging liberalism: Four preeminent political thinkers sat down with Harper’s Magazine (no relation—until they send us a cease and desist) to discuss: Is liberalism worth saving? Bringing two liberal skeptics into conversation with two of liberalism’s ardent popular defenders makes for an interesting showdown. Patrick Deneen, the post-liberal religious conservative and author of Why Liberalism Failed, joins Cornel West, the Black Marxist icon and neoliberal arch-critic, in pointing out liberalism’s key failings—like its degradation of virtue and blind eye to imperial violence. The End of History and the Last Man author Francis Fukayama makes an ardent (and powerfully historical) case for a liberal future, even if his fellow liberal, economic historian Deirdre McCloskey, can’t help but reduce the ideology to a few simplistic catchphrases. While the four intellectuals occasionally talk past each other, the forum still makes for a strong read.

The white-girl speed party crashes: During the pandemic, prescriptions of the ADHD drug Adderall went up 35 percent, with pharmacies filling a record 41.4 million of them in 2021 alone. Now, some on Tiktok are complaining that the drugs aren’t working. Journalist Katherine Dee reports for Compact Magazine on the issue, questioning how prescriptions were given out like candy the past few years, exploring why many are latching onto the conspiracy that their Adderall is being replaced by other drugs, and discussing why this seems to overwhelmingly affect young, white women. Are pharmacists really switching women’s drugs at the counter, or is it all in their heads? Read Dee’s article to find out.