BEYOND THE BURNING CROSS

THE FIRST AMENDMENT AND THE LANDMARK R.A.V. CASE

An honorable but flat how-I-won-that-case account, by Minnesota defender Cleary. On June 21, 1990, a 17-year-old ``rebel without a clue'' lit a small burning cross on the front lawn of a black family's home in St. Paul, Minn. The youth, whose initials were R.A.V., was indicted under St. Paul's new ``hate speech'' ordinance, which banned any symbol, such as burning crosses and swastikas, that ``arouse[d] anger, alarm or resentment in others on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, or gender.'' Cleary, a private lawyer who regularly represented indigent clients (including, he is quick to point out, blacks), was dispatched by the county public defender's office to represent the young skinhead. He found his client's act repugnant; nevertheless, he immediately recognized that the hate- speech ordinance targeted ``the expression or viewpoint itself, including expression that was neither threatening nor terrorizing but simply upsetting''—or simply unpopular. Punish my client, he argued, but punish his conduct (under felony ``terroristic threats'' laws), not his speech. The Minnesota Supreme Court didn't agree, but the US Supreme Court did, ruling in a landmark 1992 decision that the threshold question for First Amendment analysis is not whether a certain type of speech is protected or not, but ``whether a law discriminates between viewpoints.'' Cleary correctly perceives that the general reader needs some appreciation of the evolution of free-speech jurisprudence to grasp the magnitude of the R.A.V. holding, but his workmanlike survey of a century of Supreme Court cases will glaze the eyes of all but Constitution wonks. For such a high-profile case, this book is remarkably devoid of human drama: Only the tales of the ACLU's passive-aggressive litigation support, and an attempt by two law- school honchos to commandeer Cleary's Supreme Court appearance, leaven the dry, dead-earnest prose. No juicy war stories here: just the author's Supreme Court brief annotated and enlarged for the general reader.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-679-42460-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1994

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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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MOMOFUKU MILK BAR

With this detailed, versatile cookbook, readers can finally make Momofuku Milk Bar’s inventive, decadent desserts at home, or see what they’ve been missing.

In this successor to the Momofuku cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar’s pastry chef hands over the keys to the restaurant group’s snack-food–based treats, which have had people lining up outside the door of the Manhattan bakery since it opened. The James Beard Award–nominated Tosi spares no detail, providing origin stories for her popular cookies, pies and ice-cream flavors. The recipes are meticulously outlined, with added tips on how to experiment with their format. After “understanding how we laid out this cookbook…you will be one of us,” writes the author. Still, it’s a bit more sophisticated than the typical Betty Crocker fare. In addition to a healthy stock of pretzels, cornflakes and, of course, milk powder, some recipes require readers to have feuilletine and citric acid handy, to perfect the art of quenelling. Acolytes should invest in a scale, thanks to Tosi’s preference of grams (“freedom measurements,” as the friendlier cups and spoons are called, are provided, but heavily frowned upon)—though it’s hard to be too pretentious when one of your main ingredients is Fruity Pebbles. A refreshing, youthful cookbook that will have readers happily indulging in a rising pastry-chef star’s widely appealing treats.    

 

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-72049-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Clarkson Potter

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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