Harper’s editor Bill Wasik lays it on a bit thick in titling a new collection of the magazine’s stories Submersion Journalism, with a subtitle promising “reporting in the radical first person”—you’d think that Lewis Lapham’s vacated chair is now filled by a case of Mountain Dew. But then, Wasik isn’t above a little bullshitting to make a point: For 2006’s “My Crowd,” included in the book, he prankishly engineered a “flash mob” movement, in which in-the-know urbanites were directed to hang out in public for a few minutes to no useful end, as a way to study (and skewer) the life cycle of hipsterdom. The book is larded with similar fits of stunt journalism—Ken Silverstein pretends to represent Turkmenistan’s dictatorial regime to show just how easily lobbying firms sell themselves out, for instance, and Kristoffer A. Garin infiltrates a group of sketchy men hunting for brides in the impoverished Ukraine. If it takes a little fakery to expose just how filthy K Street is willing to get, so be it, but the best pieces in the collection aren’t especially “radical”—just proof of the indelible power of the detailed nonfiction storytelling Norman Sims trumpeted in two classic anthologies. Among the best here are Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Welcome to Cancerland,” a compelling rebuke of the more Pollyana elements of the breast-cancer support movement, and William T. Vollman’s “They Came Out Like Ants!”—a search for secret tunnels in Mexicali that turns into a broader study of myth-making and the roots of racism. For this event, Wasik will be joined by Ehrenreich, Silverstein, and Washington City Paper Staff Writer Angela Valdez; Congressional Quarterly editor Christopher Lehmann will moderate.
THE EVENT BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ON OCTOBER 16 AT BUSBOYS & POETS, 2021 14TH ST. NW. FREE. (202) 387-7638.