by Nat Brandt ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 25, 1991
Sex, power, and crime add up to the ultimate tabloid scandal. But the 1990's, with its focus on the alleged misbehavior of the Kennedys, has no monopoly on same, as demonstrated in this entertaining narrative by Brandt, a former editor at American Heritage and Publishers Weekly. As with his two other arrestingly titled works, The Town That Started the Civil War (1990) and The Man Who Tried to Burn New York (1986), Brandt focuses on a sensational incident in the era surrounding the Civil War. In February 1859, disturbed by the revelation of his beautiful wife's adultery, Congressman Daniel Sickles of N.Y.C. fatally shot her lover. The ``Washington Tragedy,'' as it came to be called, gained additional notoriety because of the principals: Victim Philip Barton Key was a notorious philanderer, US District Attorney for the District of Columbia, and son of the composer of ``The Star-Spangled Banner,'' while Sickles was a leading Tammany Hall politician and confidant of President James Buchanan (who, directly and indirectly, sought to influence the trial's outcome). Despite the fact that 12 people witnessed the murder and that Sickles had affairs of his own to account for, Sickles's lawyers (including Abraham Lincoln's future secretary of war, Edwin Stanton) won an acquittal by extensively cataloguing the lovers' indiscreet liaisons and by pleading temporary insanity—the first time such a defense was successfully used. Astonishingly, Washington society lionized the politician following his court victory, only to ostracize him later for forgiving his wife and living with her again. In an all-too-brief postscript, Brandt details Sickles's equally flamboyant postscandal career as a Union general (he made a questionable troop-deployment decision at Gettysburg and lost his leg in the battle). A fascinating case study of the law, capital society, and sexual morality in the mid-Victorian period. (Fourteen b&w illustrations.)
Pub Date: Nov. 25, 1991
Page Count: 296
Publisher: Syracuse Univ.
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1991
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by Ta-Nehisi Coates ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 8, 2015
This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”
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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.
Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”
Pub Date: July 8, 2015
Page Count: 176
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015
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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.
“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.
It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.
Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019
Page Count: 432
Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019
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