CROSSING THE LINE

LEGISLATING MORALITY AND THE MANN ACT

A well-wrought cautionary tale about the dangers of trying to impose morality by law. Langum (Law/Samford Univ.; Law and Community on the Mexican California Frontier, not reviewed) traces the history of the Mann Act of 1910, which prohibited the transportation of women across state lines for ``prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose.'' Under this law, people were arrested and imprisoned or fined simply for having sex out of wedlock after crossing into another state, or for asking someone to come visit in another state for the purpose of having pre- or extramarital sex. Those convicted became federal felons who were consequently unable to vote, closed out of jobs, denied naturalization. Langum shows how the law grew out of the early 20th century's ``white slavery'' scare, a mixture of antimodernism, racism, and an all but pathological fear of sexuality, as well as a frenzied response to immigration and urbanization. The author argues convincingly that, like Prohibition, which came in 1919, the Mann Act was a classic example of the Progressive movement's social engineering propensities and notes that it did not produce the effects Progressives desired; people didn't stop having sex outside of marriage, and prostitution didn't fade away. The white slavery hysteria abated (because it never existed), but the law left in its place a new opportunity for blackmail of unsuspecting men and a potential for new kinds of prosecutorial misconduct in the service of a ``morals crusade.'' The act was instrumental in the growth of the FBI and the rise of J. Edgar Hoover, and Langum thoroughly exposes Hoover's use of it as a club to beat suspected ``radicals'' like Charlie Chaplin. A trifle repetitive in a lawyerly way, but a thorough, often wryly funny, and closely argued work of legal and social history.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-226-46880-1

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1994

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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