Good, timely history for the #MeToo moment.

BRINGING DOWN THE COLONEL

A SEX SCANDAL OF THE GILDED AGE, AND THE POWERLESS WOMAN WHO TOOK ON WASHINGTON

Journalist Miller (Good Catholics: The Battle over Abortion in the Catholic Church, 2014) unearths a juicy 19th-century sex scandal.

For years, Willie Breckenridge, a beloved congressman from Kentucky, carried on a long-term extramarital affair with Madeline Pollard, a women of modest origins—and then was sued for breach of contract when, after his wife died, he married a well-connected widow rather than his mistress. Adultery, of course, was not uncommon. What was new was Pollard’s insistence that having behaved less-than-virtuously did not mean she should be treated like trash—and her demand that the powerful man she'd slept with not get off scot-free. The press went wild, reporting on every breath drawn in court and dissecting the meaning of the suit after the jury found for the plaintiff. Miller, a senior correspondent for Religion Dispatches, argues that the Breckenridge-Pollard drama was a turning point of sorts. She credits the case and its attendant publicity with “making it acceptable to talk openly about sex” and with eroding the double standard whereby men could stray sexually without damaging their reputations, but women who transgressed norms of chastity and fidelity were ruined. Even the (male) editor of the Ladies’ Home Journal responded to the case by criticizing “a code of morality” that burdened women with “all the responsibility for purity and all the penalty for wrong-doing.” As engaging as Miller’s central story are the minor characters, including Jennie Tucker, a young secretary hired by the Breckenridge team to spy on Pollard; and Breckenridge’s daughter, Nisba, who, after the scandal receded, became the first woman to be admitted to the Kentucky bar and the first woman to receive a doctorate in political science from the University of Chicago. Nisba's and Jennie’s stories, far from being filler, transform what might have been merely an account of a racy scandal into a panoramic examination of women’s changing roles and of women’s efforts to provide for themselves and make their way in the largely male public sphere.

Good, timely history for the #MeToo moment.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-374-25266-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Sarah Crichton/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“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

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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