An enthusiastic appreciation of a unique, increasingly vulnerable city.

INVENTING THE WORLD

VENICE AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION

Venice does not lack admirers, but this is an inventive addition to a crowded genre.

An anthropologist at Cornell, Small emphasizes the city’s social structure as she describes “how one small place had an outsized influence on the development of Western culture.” Venice lovers already familiar with plaudits by other travelers and historians will enjoy this different perspective. At its peak, historical Venice was far from the largest city in Italy, let alone Europe. A republic for more than 1,000 years, its government was an oligarchy with a weak leader (duke or “doge”) and an economy based on trade. Throughout history, an obsession with making money, although unattractive in an individual, was a feature of the most liberal societies. “Cutthroat” competition among Venice’s businessmen was rarely taken literally, which was not the case in other nations, where disagreements in religion or politics routinely ended in bloodshed. A center of European culture and science during the Renaissance, Venice paid little attention to papal strictures. Galileo’s troubles with religious authorities took place after he left. Taking advantage of the first copyright laws, Venetians established great publishing houses and invented the paperback, most punctuation marks, and the thesaurus. Small gives its heralded arts a nod but focuses mostly on its spectacular stream of new ideas, techniques, and inventions. To facilitate business, Venetians invented double-entry bookkeeping, national banks, government bonds, and reliable currency. Modern experimental medicine began at the University of Padua, then part of Venice. Other firsts include patent laws, eyeglasses, a department of health, public defenders, and national surveys and maps. Most readers know that rising seas are a critical danger, but Small also points out that Venice may be the first city destroyed by tourism. Its shrinking population of about 50,000 hosts 22 million visitors per year, who pack its streets and canals more densely than Disneyland in an area not much bigger. The book includes a “chronology of Venetian inventions.”

An enthusiastic appreciation of a unique, increasingly vulnerable city.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64313-538-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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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 cogent overview of the court’s crucial role, the application of which is sure to be discussed among scholars.

THE AUTHORITY OF THE COURT AND THE PERIL OF POLITICS

Why the Supreme Court deserves the public’s trust.

Based on his 2021 lecture at Harvard Law School, Supreme Court Justice Breyer offers a selected history of court cases, a defense of judicial impartiality, and recommendations for promoting the public’s respect for and acceptance of the role of the judiciary in the future. The author regrets that many Americans see the justices as “unelected political officials or ‘junior varsity’ politicians themselves, rather than jurists,” asserting that “nearly all” justices apply “the basic same interpretive tools” to decide a case: “They will consider the statute’s text, its history, relevant legal tradition, precedents, the statute’s purposes (or the values that underlie it), and the relevant consequences.” Although Breyer maintains that all try to avoid the influence of ideology or political philosophy, he acknowledges that suggesting “a total and clean divorce between the Court and politics is not quite right either,” since a justice’s background, education, and experiences surely affect their views, especially when considering the consequences of a decision. The judicial process, Breyer explains, begins as a conference held once or twice each week where substantive discussion leads to preliminary conclusions. Sometimes, in order to find a majority, the court will take a minimalist perspective, allowing those who differ “on the broader legal questions to come together in answering narrower ones.” Noting that, in 2016, only 1 in 4 Americans could name the three branches of federal government, Breyer suggests a revival of civics education in schools so that students can learn how government works and what the rule of law is. He believes that confidence in government will result from citizens’ participation in public life: by voting, taking part in local governance such as school boards, and resolving their differences through argument, debate, cooperation, and compromise, all of which are “the embodiment of the democratic ideal.”

A cogent overview of the court’s crucial role, the application of which is sure to be discussed among scholars.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-674-26936-1

Page Count: 104

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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