Though he strives mightily to be fair, Chemerinsky’s analysis remains vulnerable to the charge he most fears: an inevitably...

THE CASE AGAINST THE SUPREME COURT

The dean of the School of Law at the University of California, Irvine, places our most revered governmental institution on trial and finds it deeply flawed.

If, as Chemerinsky (The Conservative Assault on the Constitution, 2010, etc.) posits, the Supreme Court’s two most important responsibilities are to protect the rights of minorities and to uphold the Constitution against the impulse of political majorities, it has too often failed. By these terms, he makes a convincing argument. He draws on a number of crucial (and, he insists, wrongly decided) cases from all eras and across many different areas of the law to demonstrate the court’s dereliction. When it comes to race, the court has historically done more harm than good. In times of crisis—during war, in the wake of 9/11, etc.—the court has failed to restrain majorities, has allowed free speech to be trampled, and has permitted the wrongful detention, incarceration and internment of citizens. Instead of protecting employees and consumers or ensuring a path to recovery for the injured, the court has favored protecting property, freedom of contract and states’ rights. Nor does the performance of the Warren-led court, far more in keeping with Chemerinsky’s forthrightly acknowledged liberal politics, absolve the court of its many lapses. He reminds us that Warren’s tenure was brief and argues that even in the areas of its greatest successes—voting rights, school desegregation, ensuring counsel for criminal defendants—the court did much less than was necessary. Needless to say, the Roberts-led court comes in for a shellacking. Taking hope from the stirring dissents contained in most of the especially important cases he cites, Chemerinsky rejects recent scholarly calls for the abolition of judicial review and offers instead a number of reforms designed to improve the court and return it to its proper mission.

Though he strives mightily to be fair, Chemerinsky’s analysis remains vulnerable to the charge he most fears: an inevitably biased critique, amounting merely to the complaint that “the Court’s decisions have not been liberal enough.”

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-670-02642-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

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. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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