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DEATH IN THE DARK

MIDNIGHT EXECUTIONS IN AMERICA

A lawyer argues that Americans do not know enough about how death sentences are carried out and that the way to learn about them is to let TV cameras into the execution chamber. As the title indicates, executions usually take place between midnight and sunrise, before a small number of witnesses. This, says Bessler, who has assisted in the pro bono representation of four death-row inmates, largely accounts for declining interest in this society's most solemn punishment. It allows us to keep out of sight and out of mind the more gruesome aspects of execution, especially when the process goes awry. Also, more insidiously, it allows us—from politicians who endorse the death penalty as a way of seeming tough on crime to jurors who sentence a criminal to death—to evade a sense of responsibility for taking another's life. To allow better- informed public debate on the issue, he argues, we should be able to see executions on television, which delivers ``unfiltered images'' and ``objectively record[s]'' what is before the cameras—claims that are astonishingly naive. The history of public executions, private executions, and related legislation and court cases (given, at some points, in extraneous detail) suggests that there is no way of reliably predicting our response to such telecasts. Some viewers are likely to be horrified, some outraged, and some entertained. Moreover, neither proponents nor opponents of the death penalty can be entirely certain such exposure will swell their ranks. Regardless, says Bessler, let people see what goes on. Bessler is convincing when he argues that we need more light on the subject of the death penalty, but he fails to make a case that the flickering TV screen will cast more light than heat. (illustrations, not seen) (For another study of the death penalty, see Mark Costanzo, Just Revenge: Costs and Consequences of the Death Penalty, p. 1428.)

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 1997

ISBN: 1-55553-322-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1997

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NUTCRACKER

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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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TO THE ONE I LOVE THE BEST

EPISODES FROM THE LIFE OF LADY MENDL (ELSIE DE WOLFE)

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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