Harper’s threaten to dislodge The NewYorker as my favourite magazine. Drifting away from my usual course, I entered Victoria Plaza’s second floor Bookshop the other day and discovered an old Harper’s issue on its shelves, marked P20.00. When I opened the plastic-wrapped copy after I paid, the cover page immediately detached from its main body, and the pen scratches that I thought was only on its plastic cover, were actually scribbled on its cover, right on top of the caricature of William Finnegan’s title essay on the “Economics of Empire.” I threw the cashier a puzzled, and then, an accusatory look. The cashier pretended not to notice. Feeling very much cheated and duped, I was about to open my mouth to complain. But realizing that the cashier did not really valued or cared for what I valued, anyway, I decided to keep quiet.
At home, with the help of a scotch tape, scissors and all the love I could muster, I restored the old Harper’s back to its old glory and respectability. I still glanced with pain and grave irritation at the pen scribbling on its cover, but reading its pages, I began to delight on its highly-critical essays, which are ironic and iconoclastic at their best. But what I really appreciated were the artworks on its pages, announcing exhibits of certain artists on certain dates somewhere. I was particularly drawn by Keith Carter's art photo, “Conversation with an Owl,” and kept returning to it over and over again, marveling at the owl, a small object depicted in sharp focus, in contrast to the blurred figure of a man, crouching before it.