An accomplished, authoritative history of American liberalism.

THE HOUSE OF TRUTH

A WASHINGTON POLITICAL SALON AND THE FOUNDATIONS OF AMERICAN LIBERALISM

The history of a Washington, D.C., residence that served as a crucible for liberal ideas and strategies.

In 1912, a row house in DuPont Circle was dubbed the “House of Truth” by its original residents: labor relations expert Robert G. Valentine and lawyers Winfred Denison, Loring Christie, and Felix Frankfurter. Through the years, many others made their home there: among them, outspoken journalist Walter Lippmann, one of the founders of the New Republic; and Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. and Louis Brandeis, both of whom served on the Supreme Court. Lippmann, Holmes, Brandeis, and Frankfurter dominate Snyder’s (Law/Univ. of Wisconsin; A Well-Paid Slave: Curt Flood’s Fight for Free Agency in Professional Sports, 2006, etc.) richly detailed history of progressivism, which ends with Franklin Roosevelt’s election in 1932 and Holmes’ death in 1935. Drawing on a wealth of manuscript sources, the author traces the evolving alliances and views of his four passionate and influential protagonists. Except for Holmes, all believed “that government recognition of organized labor would create an industrial democracy.” Except for Holmes, they were Jewish, with varying connections to their heritages and responses to anti-Semitism, which was rampant in government, at Harvard, where Frankfurter taught, and a growing threat in Europe. Brandeis was a leader in American Zionism; Lippmann described Hitler as “the authentic voice of a civilized people.” Although Snyder depicts Holmes with warm admiration, the jurist emerges as a Victorian mired in the 19th century. Brandeis gently urged Holmes to read about “the pressing issues of the day,” but Holmes, Snyder writes, “loathed” facts. The author provides details of liberals’ involvement with each presidential aspirant and winner; with the Paris Peace Conference; with the notorious trial and executions of Sacco and Vanzetti, and many other social and political causes. At times, the sheer amount of information overwhelms the narrative, more appropriate for a reference source than a lively group biography. Nevertheless, the author’s focus on the significance of the Supreme Court makes the book unusually timely.

An accomplished, authoritative history of American liberalism.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-19-026198-6

Page Count: 800

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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