Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’s tart description of Supreme Court deliberations—“nine scorpions in a bottle”—has seldom seemed more apt than in this scathing tell-all screed about the Rehnquist Court from Lazarus (Black Hills/White Justice, 1991), now an L.A. federal prosecutor. As a clerk of former Justice Harry Blackmun in the 1988—89 term, Lazarus came to feel that infighting between its conservative and liberal divisions had “corroded [its] institutional culture and driven the Justices to disregard the principles of decision-making—deliberation, integrity of argument, self-restraint—that separate the judicial function from the exercise of purely political power.” He focuses on the Court’s decisions on capital punishment, race relations, and abortion to demonstrate how its comity has become strained. During this time, the politicization of the confirmation process, as evidenced in the Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas nominations, was mirrored in the Court’s chambers’sometimes in subtle ways (Sandra Day O’Connor was believed to have stopped joining William Brennan in majority opinions for having tricked her in an unnamed case), sometimes in argument (a shoving match between a conservative and liberal clerk). Only other participants can confirm Lazarus’s sensational charges (e.g., that clerks were ceded unwarrantably large roles in crafting Court opinions, and that conservative “cabalists” manipulated Anthony Kennedy into early votes in death penalty appeals because of his reluctance to cast the deciding vote to ensure an execution). His admitted liberalism can be glimpsed, as in his invariable depiction of liberals as “scrupulous,” “compassionate,” and the like. But his analysis of Court opinions is even-handedly critical. Conservatives, prodded by the brilliant but nasty Antonin Scalia, pushed states— rights at every turn. Octogenarian liberals (Blackmun, Brennan, and Thurgood Marshall) fell to name-calling and hypocrisy in abandoning principle to gain victory. Today’s badly splintered justices, he claims, no longer speak as one institutional voice. This memoir’s revelations—based on reporting as well as personal experience—may obscure its less controversial but more thoughtful analysis of the Rehnquist Court’s poisonous “politics of certainty.” (8 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-8129-2402-9

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Times/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1998

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



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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Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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