An intense and accessible behind-the-bench examination of the Supreme Court's surprising drift to the center. Simon (Law/New York Law School; The Antagonists, 1989, etc.) focuses on four ideological flashpointsracial discrimination, abortion, criminal procedure, and the First Amendmentto show how Chief Justice William Rehnquist has so far failed to command a consistent conservative majority on the High Court. Since 1986, Rehnquist has endeavored to find the votes to overturn pesky civil rights precedents, including but not limited to Roe v. Wade. Antonin Scalia, Byron White, and Clarence Thomas can be counted on to advance the right wing's political agenda, but none of the other Reagan/Bush appointees (Sandra Day O'Connor, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter) has proven to be a surefire fifth vote. Using the justices' internal memoranda, letters, notes, draft opinions, and court transcripts, Simon shows how the centrist justices' votes are sometimes the product of wrenching intellectual struggles (the devout Kennedy's decision to strike public-school commencement prayer as violating church/state separation), sometimes of personal animus (O'Connor's defection from the dump-Roe camp following Scalia's nasty attack on her professional competence). The author clearly approves of the centrists' independence and is no fan of Rehnquist, who comes off as an unprincipled activist ill-suited to consensus-building, or of Scalia, who appears egomaniacal and obnoxious. But his harshest words are saved for Thomas, ``unimpressive'' and evasive at his confirmation hearings, ``the least engaged,'' ``least influential'' justice on the bench. Court watchers may find Simon's analysis too narrowfor example, his discussion of privacy interests omits a 1986 decision upholding Georgia's antisodomy statuteand other readers will be nettled by occasional sexist references to ``Sandra'' and to female attorneys' wardrobes. But this fascinating book will restore faith in the judiciary and in the men and women who wear its robes.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-684-80293-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1995

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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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