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INDEFENSIBLE

ONE LAWYER’S JOURNEY INTO THE INFERNO OF AMERICAN JUSTICE

A vibrant, smart, authentic story of a special sort of heroics in which one lawyer does the best he can in a dysfunctional...

A veteran public-defense lawyer offers candid insight into what he characterizes as a pervasively brutal and capricious criminal-justice system.

Feige, a Court TV talking head and former Trial Chief of the Bronx Defenders, knows his way around that New York borough’s notorious criminal courthouse. There he represented the frequently handcuffed, never cuff-linked. They were street people, predators from the projects, crack-dealers, wife-beaters, turnstile-jumpers, hustlers and killers. And they were seldom innocent. The author was fond of them all and viewed himself as their last hope against an incomprehensible judiciary system. He was less happy with vicious assistant district attorneys, and he detested judges who often prejudged and punished before hearing either the defense or the prosecution. Feige’s text, loosely framed on a representative long work day, explains how to use an autopsy report or a rap sheet. He teaches the art of investigation, the mechanics of drug busts and the hard truth that, when the police interrogate, the police always win. The author demonstrates the skill required in plea-bargaining, in which a price is negotiated for every crime and why “motion practice”—the submission of heaps of paper so assiduously practiced by private white-shoe litigators—is a different matter for the Bronx Defenders, who must react quickly to cycle through a constant deluge of cases. And he introduces some of his clients, each of whom he fully humanizes, caught in the wheels of the Department of Corrections. Feige will convince readers that whether guilty or innocent—especially innocent—it is always best to plea-bargain rather than fight.

A vibrant, smart, authentic story of a special sort of heroics in which one lawyer does the best he can in a dysfunctional system that too often links “miscarriage” with “justice.”

Pub Date: June 3, 2006

ISBN: 0-316-15623-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2006

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

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

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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. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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