Submersion Journalism: Reporting in the Radical First Person from Harper’s Magazine

Edited by Bill Wasik

The New Press

336 pages, $26.95

Whatever the varying merits of this patchwork of articles, they at least offer views of the unfamiliar. There is an interval with the rambunctious junior auxiliary of the “Family,” a mostly secret religious organization that has attracted many federal officials; a trip with an organization that carries bride-seeking American men to Ukraine; and the work of an ostensibly arts-oriented group that commits fanciful vandalism at the Queens Museum in New York. In almost every piece, the writer is a participant, either disguised or in the open. Under treatment herself, Barbara Ehrenreich tells of her encounter with the breast-cancer culture of stuffed animals and good cheer that has grown up around the illness, and will have none of it. The young Willem Marx gets himself deeply involved in the Pentagon’s system for feeding purportedly good news to the Iraqi media. Daringly, Ken Silverstein runs a scam that gets high-powered D.C. lobbying firms to trot out their wares on behalf of Turkmenistan—a beleaguered nation with which, of course, Silverstein has no connection whatsoever. The collection could have done with more annotation: What was the impact of these stories? What happened afterward? Not a clue.


James Boylan is CJR’s founding editor.