A dense but ingenious mixture of history, legal anecdotes and hypothetical cases.

AMERICA'S UNWRITTEN CONSTITUTION

THE PRECEDENTS AND PRINCIPLES WE LIVE BY

A carefully reasoned defense of the United States Constitution as the foundation—but only the foundation—of our legal system.

At a mere 8,000 words, the Constitution can only sketch basic rules for governing America. This hasn’t prevented a large group—which includes a few Supreme Court judges—from insisting that it contains within itself a perfect and unchanging legal system. Amar (Law and Political Science/Yale Univ.; America’s Constitution: A Biography, 2005) disagrees, laying out his argument in case-by-case details that are scholarly and legalistic but always readable. He emphasizes that much of our unwritten Constitution is written—Supreme Court opinions, presidential proclamations, congressional acts—but that it also encompasses common sense and legal scholarship that aims to decipher a document that contains no instructions on how to interpret its many general statements. Thus, almost everyone believes that the Constitution prohibits anyone in government from limiting freedom of speech, religion and assembly. In fact, the first amendment only prohibits Congress. From the beginning, it was implicit (a terrible word to strict constructionists) that the president, courts and state governments do not get a free pass, but the written Constitution is silent. The Constitution designates the vice-president as president of the Senate: its presiding officer. If impeached, the vice-president could preside over the Senate as it tries his case, acting as both judge and defendant. This is not only absurd, but legal tradition forbids it. If it happened, the Senate would change the arrangements, but the Constitution is no help.

A dense but ingenious mixture of history, legal anecdotes and hypothetical cases.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-465-02957-0

Page Count: 668

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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