Perhaps too lofty for the general reader, but for anyone with a wary eye on the battles ahead, Schwartz’s argument is...



This balanced scholarly investigation of the Founding Fathers’ divergent notions of inherent freedoms—in historical and contemporary terms—is sure to confound those who think they learned everything they need to know in 9th-grade civics.

In his most recent work, prolific independent scholar/essayist Schwartz (God’s Phallus, 1995, etc.) examines the seldom-discussed doubts Thomas Jefferson held about the “inalienable rights” he so eloquently enumerated in the Declaration of Independence—that seemingly inexhaustible sound-bite goldmine for Tea Partiers and other underinformed latter-day sloganeers. Unlike James W. Loewen’s corrective Lies My Teacher Told Me, Schwartz’s work doesn’t rewrite history as it has been taught to, and (mis)understood, by generations of Americans—rather, the author examines it contextually and philosophically. In measured, meditative language, he probes the Lockean themes of personal liberty that informed the debate surrounding the drafting of Jefferson’s Declaration. Schwartz also attempts to clarify Jefferson’s ambiguous personal stance and his ultimate acquiescence to the Continental Congress for the greater good of the fledgling democracy they engendered, by proclaiming independence from British rule in 1776. Passionate, literate and argumentative, the Founders were making things up on the fly, but ultimately, the author posits, it matters little who preferred Hume to Lock, or the ratio of deists to theists. The author declares that “the Declaration and the founders’ views are essentially as relevant or irrelevant to the nature of rights in America” as the reader’s or his are now—that is, “they may be illuminating, but they are not prescriptive.” While he shrewdly avoids name-calling and easy solutions, Schwartz’s message is clearly cautionary, warning that those who attempt to promote present-day political agendas based on misperceptions of centuries-old compromises of thought and language do so at their, and our, peril. The author urges that the current debate should shift “from what the founders meant” to “the values that ultimately we want to embrace and protect.”

Perhaps too lofty for the general reader, but for anyone with a wary eye on the battles ahead, Schwartz’s argument is absorbing and profound.

Pub Date: April 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0982832509

Page Count: 393

Publisher: Other Ideas

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2011

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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