A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE SUPREME COURT

This sweeping history of the Supreme Court will thoroughly aggravate anyone who believes, along with Robert Bork or Justice Antonin Scalia that the Constitution should be read narrowly. Irons (Political Science/Univ. of California, San Diego; May It Please the Court: The First Amendment, 1997, etc.) makes no bones about his ideological stance. To him, the Constitution must be construed in the context of an evolving nation. Not surprisingly, former Justice William Brennan —remains my judicial ideal and inspiration.— Irons is at his best when he focuses on those litigants before the Court who were outsiders seeking empowerment: people like Fred Korematsu, who challenged the evacuation of Japanese-Americans during WWII, or Homer Plessy, who in 1892 had the audacity to ride in a Louisiana railroad car reserved for white passengers. The decision to explain the Supreme Court and its evolving doctrines through the stories of those whose cases generated rulings that subsequently affected every citizen makes the book accessible to nonlawyers who have a general interest in legal history. This may be why the chapters that trace the early years of the court make for slow going: the —little guy— litigants with whom Irons identifies are missing, and instead we are left slogging through rehashed material. Finally, while Irons is unabashed about his viewpoint, this candor does nothing to assure readers new to the subject that they are getting the whole, if partisan, story. Irons has a disquieting habit of using loaded adjectives and verbs when describing the thoughts of those justices with whom he disagrees. Thus, Felix Frankfurter —pontificates— and gives a —civics lecture— in an opinion that Irons views as wrongheaded, and he barely conceals his disdain for justices, like William Rehnquist and Clarence Thomas, on the other side of the ideological debate. Irons is preaching to the choir. While his history contains a few great stories, it will change no minds. (Book-of-the-Month Club selection)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-670-87006-4

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

1776

A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

Did you like this book?

more