Editor's Note — March 13, 2014, 8:00 am

Introducing the April 2014 Issue

How to be your own best doctor, a drone’s-eye view of America, and drought threatens the Southwest

Harper's Magazine, April 2014The older I get, the more I relish a little certainty in my life — and like most people, I look to doctors to supply it, at least to some degree. But in a world of futuristic instruments, shiny white furniture, and snappy assistants, that certainty is harder and harder to come by. For Heidi Julavits, who wrote “Diagnosis This,” the cover story for the April 2014 issue, the medical world is a gray zone, filled with conflicting views and endless, expensive conjecture. Attempting to determine the cause of a mysterious ailment, she consults a series of specialists — but also turns to literature and the Internet as diagnostic tools. Her quest is a fascinating look at modern medicine and how it is administered.

Contributing editor Christopher Ketcham, who last wrote for the magazine on a homeowners’ revolt against the banks, reports this month on the dying Colorado River, which has been diverted by a series of dams to supply water to the parched Southwest. Ketcham rafts down the river from Utah to Arizona with an environmentalist and the water manager for the city of Denver — two men with dramatically opposed views on how this precious resource should be used. But a solution must be found, since neither the cities of the Southwest nor California agriculture can ultimately survive if the river runs dry.

This month marks the first time we’ve used photography as our Folio. Tomas van Houtryve bought a drone on Amazon.com and modified it to accommodate a small camera and equipment for transmitting video back to the ground. The aerial photographs he took — of groups of people at weddings, funerals, and prisons — are eerie reminders of the drones the U.S. government deploys to carry out airstrikes in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, and of their even more troubling use as tools of domestic surveillance.

Our short fiction is an imaginative reconstruction of what happened between Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Nafissatou Diallo on May 14, 2011, at New York’s Sofitel. Told from Strauss-Kahn’s point of view, Ken Kalfus’s “Coup de Foudre” plausibly explains some of the more inexplicable details behind that historic, distinctly unsavory encounter, all the while treading a fine line between satire and satyriasis.

Also in this issue: Christopher Cox explores the balance between safety and surveillance, highlighting New York City mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to halt the police department’s stop-and-frisk program and the National Security Agency’s ongoing obfuscations; Andrew J. Bacevich skewers the diaries of American diplomat George F. Kennan, one of the prime architects of the Cold War; and Lawrence Jackson examines the life of Carl Van Vechten, an American writer and photographer who promoted many black artists and neatly blurred the line between fan, impresario, and (in the words of his biographer) “sideshow gimcrack barker.”

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Editor's Note May 13, 2016, 1:31 pm

Inside the June Issue

Helen Ouyang on the cost of crowd-sourcing drugs, Paul Wood on Trump’s supporters, Walter Kirn on political predictions, Sonia Faleiro on a man’s search for his kidnapped children, and Rivka Galchen on The People v. O. J. Simpson.

Editor's Note April 20, 2016, 11:18 am

Inside the May Issue

Rebecca Solnit, Andrew J. Bacevich, Samuel James, Elisabeth Zerofsky, Paul Wachter, and more

Editor's Note March 14, 2016, 1:39 pm

Introducing the April Issue

Dan Baum, Ralph Nader, Thomas Frank, Don DeLillo, Robert P. Baird, Emily Witt, and more

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Helen Ouyang on the cost of crowd-sourcing drugs, Paul Wood on Trump's supporters, Walter Kirn on political predictions, Sonia Faleiro on a man's search for his kidnapped children, and Rivka Galchen on The People v. O. J. Simpson.

The new docudrama The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX) isn’t really about Orenthal James Simpson. It’s about the trials that ran alongside his — those informal, unboundaried, court-of-public-opinion trials in which evidence was heard for and against the murder victims, the defense and the prosecution, the judge, the jury, and the Los Angeles Police Department, to say nothing of white and black America. History has freed us from suspense about Simpson’s verdict, so that the man himself (played here by Cuba Gooding Jr.) is less the tragic hero he seemed in the mid-Nineties than a curiously minor character. He comes to the center of our attention only once, in Episode 2, at the end of the lengthy Ford Bronco chase scene — which in real life was followed by a surreal cavalcade of police cars and media helicopters, as well as an estimated 95 million live viewers — when Simpson repeatedly, and with apparent sincerity, apologizes for taking up so much of so many people’s time. It is an uncannily ordinary moment of social decorum, a sort of could-you-please-pass-the-salt gesture on a sinking Titanic, in which Simpson briefly becomes more than just an archetype.

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"All our friends are saying, load up with plenty of ammunition, because after the stores don’t have no food they’re gonna be hitting houses. They’re going to take over America, put their flag on the Capitol.” “Who?” I asked. “ISIS. Oh yeah.”
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He made them groom and feed the half-dozen horses used to transport the raw bricks to the furnace. Like the horses, the children were beaten with whips.
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The new docudrama The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX) isn’t really about Orenthal James Simpson. It’s about the trials that ran alongside his — those informal, unboundaried, court-of-public-opinion trials in which evidence was heard for and against the murder victims, the defense and the prosecution, the judge, the jury, and the Los Angeles Police Department, to say nothing of white and black America. History has freed us from suspense about Simpson’s verdict, so that the man himself (played here by Cuba Gooding Jr.) is less the tragic hero he seemed in the mid-Nineties than a curiously minor character. He comes to the center of our attention only once, in Episode 2, at the end of the lengthy Ford Bronco chase scene — which in real life was followed by a surreal cavalcade of police cars and media helicopters, as well as an estimated 95 million live viewers — when Simpson repeatedly, and with apparent sincerity, apologizes for taking up so much of so many people’s time. It is an uncannily ordinary moment of social decorum, a sort of could-you-please-pass-the-salt gesture on a sinking Titanic, in which Simpson briefly becomes more than just an archetype.

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With its lens shifting from the courtroom to the newsroom to people’s back yards, the series evokes the way in which, for a brief, delusory moment, the O. J. verdict seemed to deliver justice for all black men.
Still from The People vs. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story © FX Networks

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$62,000

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