Lewis Lapham Returns From the Future


Jesse points out, by way of the Volokh Conspiracy, that Harper's Editor Lewis Lapham has apologized for describing his thoughts as he listened to Republican convention speeches that have not been given yet. In response to a reader who wondered if he had in fact perfected time travel, Lapham writes:

As Mr. Ostrowski properly notes, the rhetorical invention was silly. The mistake, however, is a serious one, and if I'd had my wits about me as an editor, I wouldn't have let the author mix up his tenses in manuscript or allowed him in page proof to lapse into poetic license. Both of us regret the injury done to the magazine and apologize, wholeheartedly, to its readers.

Lapham should get credit for his prompt apology, but his description of the passage as a "rhetorical invention," a "mistake," and an exercise of "poetic license" suggests there was no intent to deceive. Since the issue of Harper's in which his essay appeared was dated September and will be on the newsstands after the convention, it seems more likely that he was trying to seem as current as possible. If so, his "mistake" was in thinking that no one would notice the trick.