James Traub is a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine. He is currently writing a book about Times Square. (February 2002)

The Land of the Naked Cowboy

Times Square, “the crossroads of the world,” is the main archaeological site of urban commercial culture; the novelties and crazes and spontaneous art forms of the last century are buried there, one generation on top of another. It was in and around Times Square, in the years before World War …

Judgment Day

Jury service is one of the most common of all the burdens of citizenship (unless you consider voting a burden); and yet we have very few accounts of how juries actually work. In 1955, the University of Chicago Jury Project began to record jury deliberations surreptitiously (with the consent of …

Bleak House

Foster care is one of those social institutions that never seem to hold public attention for long. We hear a lot about the schools, because our own children attend them. And we hear a lot about the welfare system and the criminal justice system and the drug treatment system, because …

Excelsior!

Hillary Clinton must be throwing a fit. Here she is, a United States senator, rising up at last from the Grand Guignol of her husband’s presidency, eager to be judged on her own merits—and she’s pulled back down into the muck. She is, yet again, not “Hillary,” but one half …

The Desert Prince

New Yorkers have traditionally expected their mayor not so much to govern the city as to incarnate it—to radiate to the bland hinterland west of the Hudson the exuberance, quarrelsomeness, wit, and unassimilable ethnicity that make New Yorkers, at least in their own minds, a species unique on the planet.

The Worst Place on Earth

Sierra Leone is a tiny West African country famous now only for its evil. Once it was known as the source of some of the world’s highest-quality diamonds, but the stones have been plundered for generations by colonial mining companies, corrupt heads of state, Lebanese merchants, and profiteering warlords, and …