A useful study of the Founders’s noble minds and fallible ideas.




Cogent, accessible survey of the drafting of The Federalist, spotlighting the lessons these early essays still hold for today’s interpreters of the Constitution.

Meyerson (Law/Univ. of Baltimore; Political Numeracy: Mathematical Perspectives on Our Chaotic Constitution, 2002) focuses on the unlikely partnership of James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, who under the pseudonym “Publius” published The Federalist over a feverish period of seven months, from October 1787 to May 1788, in several New York newspapers. (Fellow Founding Father John Jay wrote a few early essays before illness halted him.) The 85 essays laid out the entire range of issues involved in the debate over ratification. They aimed to sway New Yorkers to back the fledging Constitution, which was designed to rectify the defects in the Articles of Confederation. Hamilton and Madison later fell out, and Meyerson devotes a chapter to the disintegration of their relationship after Hamilton became the first Secretary of the Treasury in 1789. Two years earlier, however, eager for a share in history’s making, the two brainy writers were pleased to collaborate on The Federalist. Hamilton wrote the sections devoted to “the power of the sword and of the purse,” while Madison propounded on the dangers of factions, delineated the relationship between the state and national government, elucidated the separation of powers and offered a minute dissection of each part of the federal government, including the notorious three-fifths compromise, without ever mentioning the word slavery. Meyerson portrays the era’s roiling debates over ratification, including the ultimately successful clamor for a Bill of Rights, and examines the essays’ modern-day relevance, particularly in terms of current Supreme Court arguments between “originalists” and “non-originalists.”

A useful study of the Founders’s noble minds and fallible ideas.

Pub Date: March 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-465-00264-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2008

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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