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Lewis Lapham
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Born January 8, 1935, in San Francisco, California; educated at the Hotchkiss School, Yale University (B.A., 1956) and Cambridge University; newspaper reporter for The San Francisco Examiner (1957-1959) and for The New York Herald Tribune (1960-1962); managing editor of Harper's Magazine (1971-1975); editor of Harper's Magazine (1976-1981 and 1983-present). Syndicated newspaper columnist (1981-1987).


Mr. Lapham is the author of several books of essays (Fortune's Child, Money and Class in America, Imperial Masquerade, Hotel America, Waiting for the Barbarians and Theater of War) which have prompted the New York Times to liken him to H. L. Mencken, Vanity Fair to suggest a strong resemblance to Mark Twain, and Tom Wolfe to compare him to Montaigne. His most recent book, Gag Rule: On the Suppression of Dissent and the Stifling of Democracy, was published by The Penguin Press in 2004.


Lapham writes a monthly essay for Harper's Magazine called "Notebook." He won a 1995 National Magazine Award for three of those essays, in which the judges discovered "an exhilarating point of view in an age of conformity." He has also written for Life, Commentary, National Review, The Yale Literary Magazine, Elle, Fortune, Forbes, The American Spectator, Vanity Fair, Travel and Leisure Golf, Golf Digest, Parade, Channels, Maclean's, The London Observer, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.


Mr. Lapham has lectured at many of the nation's leading universities, among them Yale, Princeton, Stanford and the Universities of Michigan, Virginia and Oregon. He is a frequent guest on television and radio talk shows both in the United States and in England, France, Canada, Germany and Australia. He was the host and author of the six-part documentary series "America's Century," broadcast on public television in the United States and in England on Channel Four in the autumn of 1989. Between 1989 and 1991 he was the host and Executive Editor of "Bookmark," a weekly public television series seen on over 150 stations nationwide. Lapham is a member of The Council on Foreign Relations, The Century Club, the Advisory Council to the New School University and Chair of the Board for The Americans for Libraries Council. He lives in New York City.

Entries by Lewis Lapham

Crowd Control

(16) Comments | Posted March 16, 2014 | 9:12 PM

Political Revolt and the Accumulation of More

Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com

[This essay will appear in "Revolution," the Spring 2014 issue of Lapham's Quarterly. This slightly adapted version is posted at TomDispatch.com with the kind permission of that magazine.]

In case of rain, the revolution will...

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The Solid Nonpareil

(6) Comments | Posted December 19, 2013 | 8:33 AM

Why No Mark Twain for Our Second Gilded Age?

Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com

[This essay will appear in "Comedy," the Winter 2014 issue of Lapham's Quarterly. This slightly adapted version is posted at TomDispatch.com with the kind permission of that magazine.]

Well, humor is...

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Selling Death

(78) Comments | Posted September 24, 2013 | 10:37 AM

The Death of American Exceptionalism -- and of Me

[This essay will appear in "Death," the Fall 2013 issue of Lapham's Quarterly. This slightly adapted version is posted at TomDispatch.com with the kind permission of that magazine.]

It’s not that I’m afraid to die, I just...

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The (Less Than) Eternal Sea

(35) Comments | Posted June 2, 2013 | 7:46 PM

The Poet's Metaphor and the Styrofoaming of the Waters

Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com

[This essay will appear in "The Sea," the Summer 2013 issue of Lapham's Quarterly. This slightly adapted version is posted at TomDispatch.com with the kind permission of that magazine.]

In heavy fog on the...

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The Conquest of Nature

(137) Comments | Posted March 12, 2013 | 10:10 AM

And What We’ve Lost

Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com

[This essay will appear in "Animals," the Spring 2013 issue of Lapham's Quarterly. This slightly adapted version is posted at TomDispatch.com with the kind permission of that magazine.]

London housewife Barbara Carter won a “grant a wish”...

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Raiding Consciousness

(12) Comments | Posted December 10, 2012 | 8:45 AM

Why the War on Drugs Is a War on Human Nature

Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com

[This essay will appear in "Intoxication," the Winter 2012 issue of Lapham's Quarterly. This slightly adapted version is posted at TomDispatch.com with the kind permission of that magazine.]

The question that...

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Feast of Fools: How American Democracy Became the Property of a Commercial Oligarchy

(337) Comments | Posted September 20, 2012 | 11:05 AM

How American Democracy Became the Property of a Commercial Oligarchy

Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com

[A longer version of this essay appears in "Politics," the Fall 2012 issue of Lapham's Quarterly; this slightly shortened version is posted at TomDispatch.com with the kind permission of that magazine.]

All...

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Living in an American Age of Techno-Wonder and Unreason

(116) Comments | Posted June 25, 2012 | 10:22 AM

Magic and the Machine
Living in an American Age of Techno-Wonder and Unreason

Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com

[A longer version of this essay appears in "Magic Shows," the Summer 2012 issue of Lapham's Quarterly, and is posted at TomDispatch.com with the...

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Machine-Made News

(37) Comments | Posted April 23, 2012 | 4:30 PM

Word Order: The Internet as the Toy With a Tin Ear

Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com

I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men, and German to my horse.
-- Emperor Charles V

But in which language does one speak to a...

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The Midas Touch: Stomachs Too Big to Fail?

(28) Comments | Posted June 13, 2011 | 1:52 PM

Crossposted with TomDispatch.com

[A longer version of this essay appears in "Food," the Summer 2011 issue of Lapham's Quarterly and is posted at TomDispatch.com with the kind permission of that magazine.]

Jesus answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word...

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The Servant Problem: In Search of the Lost Battalion of America's Unemployed

(213) Comments | Posted April 4, 2011 | 3:01 PM

Crossposted with TomDispatch.com

Man must be doing something, or fancy that he is doing something, for in him throbs the creative impulse; the mere basker in the sunshine is not a natural, but an abnormal man. -- Henry George

The news media these days look to outperform one...

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Domesticated Deities: About Messiahs Come to Redeem Our Country, Not Govern It

(11) Comments | Posted December 13, 2010 | 12:37 PM

Crossposted with TomDispatch.com.

[A longer version of this essay appears in "Celebrity," the Winter 2011 issue of Lapham's Quarterly.]

Glory is like a circle in the water,
Which never ceaseth to enlarge itself,
Till by broad spreading it disperse to nought.
-- William Shakespeare

Label celebrity a...

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Field of Dreams: The CIA and Me and Other Adventures in American Sports

(0) Comments | Posted June 8, 2010 | 12:03 PM

Crossposted with TomDispatch.com.

“The space of play and the space of thought are the two theaters of freedom.”  -- Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy

Rosenstock-Huessy was a German army officer in World War I, afterward a professor of medieval law in Breslau until the Nazis acquired the franchise in 1933....

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How the "Lively Arts" Became "the Media"

(9) Comments | Posted March 15, 2010 | 3:38 PM

Crossposted with TomDispatch.com

Art as a medium of exchange is the gift in the hand of its creator, alive in the mind of its beholder, converting the private to a public good, and thereby adding it to the common store of human energy and hope. It’s the embodiment...

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