BRENNAN VS. REHNQUIST

THE BATTLE FOR THE CONSTITUTION

A ho-hum digest of 100 Bill of Rights cases decided by justices Brennan and Rehnquist along predictable ideological lines. ``This is not an insider's account,'' warns Irons (Political Science/Univ. of California, San Diego; The Courage of Their Convictions, 1988, etc.) in his preface. ``I did not interview either justice for this book. Neither have I talked with former clerks or looked at private papers.'' Bad move. Had Irons provided some behind-the-robes analysis, this book might have had drama. (Irons himself acknowledges Brennan's legendary ability to use his charm to win votes in controversial cases.) And had he focused on far fewer cases—say, ten—his analysis might have had some depth. Instead, this numbing case-by-case-by-case summary provides little insight into the jurisprudence of the men who, for 18 years, were the Court's leading voices on the left and right—and even less insight into their personalities. After a perfunctory stab at characterizing each justice in a chapter-long biography, Irons proceeds to march through the Bill of Rights, offering an overly dense historical context for each amendment and then quoting from Brennan's opinion, on the one hand, and Rehnquist's on the other. Most of the big constitutional issues of the post-Warren Court are here—abortion, affirmative action, the death penalty, the right to die, school prayer. But all Irons offers is the revelation that Brennan consistently votes for individual litigants against the government, and uses the word ``dignity'' in his opinions a lot, while Rehnquist sides with state legislatures and the police, and relies on the word ``deference.'' (Fans of Rehnquist will chafe at the frequent snide comments about his proclivities for ignoring precedent and distorting evidence—but it's unlikely that this tedious book will generate much heat on the subject.) Plodding he-said/he-said treatment that makes for strenuous cover-to-cover reading.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 1994

ISBN: 0-679-42436-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1994

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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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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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