THE JUSTICE FROM BEACON HILL

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES

Baker (Miranda, 1983, etc.) presents a highly readable, scholarly biography of the distinguished and enigmatic jurist. Holmes's life prior to his elevation to the Supreme Court in 1902 was largely an insular and intellectual one, occupied with the arcana of legal scholarship and devoid of events of great drama (with the important exception of the Civil War, in which Holmes received wounds at Ball's Bluff, Antietam, and Chancellorsville). Nonetheless, Baker demonstrates that Holmes made enduring contributions to American legal thought during this period, first as a Harvard professor and author of the classic The Common Law, and later as a Massachusetts judge. Baker shows how the horrors of the Civil War shaped Holmes's pessimistic, skeptical, and highly rationalistic view of human nature, how his background as heir to the intellectual and cultural legacy of Puritanism made him an autocrat who ``didn't believe much in rights,'' and how his vast legal scholarship did not prevent him from rejecting hoary common- law rules. The author discusses Holmes's great (and infamous) opinions for the Supreme Court with intelligence and objectivity- -Giles v. Davis, in which Holmes upheld Alabama restrictions on the voting rights of black Americans; his free-speech dissents, which, although articulating the basis of modern free-speech jurisprudence, Holmes privately dismissed as upholding the ``right of a donkey to talk drool''; his notorious decision in Buck v. Bell, in which he upheld the sterilization of an allegedly feeble- minded woman with the declaration that ``three generations of imbeciles are enough.'' Although some of Holmes's decisions shock modern sensibilities, Baker rightly finds value in his careful and intellectually honest judicial restraint, even regarding legislation he disliked. A fine, thoughtful biography of one of American legal history's most formidable intellects. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: July 3, 1991

ISBN: 0-06-016629-0

Page Count: 784

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1991

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

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

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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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

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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