A book that makes a landmark work easier to read but robs it of much of its verve.




A recasting of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense into more familiar, approachable prose. 

The 1776 publication of Paine’s pamphlet was a momentous historical event. It contributed to the debate about the Colonies separating from England, and it effectively captured the political implications of accepting the doctrine of natural rights. Debut author Scott argues that the Founding Father’s arguments should interest everyone, not just Americans, as “Many of these issues have ramifications and rely on principles that affect people around the world.” However, the work’s archaic language, he says, makes it largely inaccessible. In order to rectify this, he’s rendered the entire work into plain, contemporary parlance while also preserving its original meaning. Scott faithfully follows Paine’s original structure, maintaining the same sequence of chapters and leaving the historical references unchanged. He doesn’t provide a running, interpretive commentary, but he does preface his revision with a very brief synopsis of the events leading up to the book’s publication and to the Revolutionary War. The author does largely achieve his overall aim, meticulously employing terminology and sentence structures that modern readers will indeed find more familiar. However, his claim that the pamphlet’s original prose is virtually unintelligible is vastly overstated. Consider this line from Paine’s actual work: “And there is no instance, in which we have shewn less judgment, than in endeavouring to describe, what we call, the ripeness or fitness of the Continent for independance.” Here’s Scott’s reworking: “In every instance, good judgment has shown and described the ability of America to be independent.” The former doesn’t seem that confusing, and the latter doesn’t seem all that different. However, Paine’s famously inflammatory prose—no small part of the pamphlet’s historical success—has been thoroughly domesticated throughout. 

A book that makes a landmark work easier to read but robs it of much of its verve.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5439-4678-9

Page Count: 68

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2019

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The sub-title of this book is "Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools." But one finds in it little about education, and less about the teaching of English. Nor is this volume a defense of the Christian faith similar to other books from the pen of C. S. Lewis. The three lectures comprising the book are rather rambling talks about life and literature and philosophy. Those who have come to expect from Lewis penetrating satire and a subtle sense of humor, used to buttress a real Christian faith, will be disappointed.

Pub Date: April 8, 1947

ISBN: 1609421477

Page Count: -

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1947

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Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.


Comprehensive, myth-busting examination of the Colorado high-school massacre.

“We remember Columbine as a pair of outcast Goths from the Trench Coat Mafia snapping and tearing through their high school hunting down jocks to settle a long-running feud. Almost none of that happened,” writes Cullen, a Denver-based journalist who has spent the past ten years investigating the 1999 attack. In fact, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold conceived of their act not as a targeted school shooting but as an elaborate three-part act of terrorism. First, propane bombs planted in the cafeteria would erupt during lunchtime, indiscriminately slaughtering hundreds of students. The killers, positioned outside the school’s main entrance, would then mow down fleeing survivors. Finally, after the media and rescue workers had arrived, timed bombs in the killers’ cars would explode, wiping out hundreds more. It was only when the bombs in the cafeteria failed to detonate that the killers entered the high school with sawed-off shotguns blazing. Drawing on a wealth of journals, videotapes, police reports and personal interviews, Cullen sketches multifaceted portraits of the killers and the surviving community. He portrays Harris as a calculating, egocentric psychopath, someone who labeled his journal “The Book of God” and harbored fantasies of exterminating the entire human race. In contrast, Klebold was a suicidal depressive, prone to fits of rage and extreme self-loathing. Together they forged a combustible and unequal alliance, with Harris channeling Klebold’s frustration and anger into his sadistic plans. The unnerving narrative is too often undermined by the author’s distracting tendency to weave the killers’ expressions into his sentences—for example, “The boys were shooting off their pipe bombs by then, and, man, were those things badass.” Cullen is better at depicting the attack’s aftermath. Poignant sections devoted to the survivors probe the myriad ways that individuals cope with grief and struggle to interpret and make sense of tragedy.

Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

Pub Date: April 6, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-54693-5

Page Count: 406

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

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