An impressive work of deep research that moves smoothly along biographical as well as legal lines.



A thorough biography of the Supreme Court justice who famously said, “our Constitution is color blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.”

Canellos, the former executive editor of Politico, delivers the riveting story of a courageous Kentucky lawyer who initiated significant challenges to anti–civil rights measures during an era of ubiquitous bigotry. John Marshall Harlan (1833-1911) is remembered especially by his ringing Supreme Court dissents in three disgraceful cases passed by near unanimity: the Civil Rights Cases of 1883, focused on arbitrary discrimination by establishments; Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, which established the “separate but equal” doctrine of Jim Crow segregation in public spaces for the next 60 years; and Lochner v. New York, a setback for labor legislation that would become especially troublesome during the New Deal. In 1876, Harlan was appointed to the Supreme Court by the recently elected president, Rutherford Hayes, who desired a Southerner for the post—though the Great Dissenter would prove to be a decidedly “eccentric” Southerner. Harlan grew up in a family that owned slaves, including his half brother, Robert, who built a successful career for himself as a freed man. Canellos shows how Robert, “horse-racing impresario, gold rush entrepreneur, financier of Black-owned businesses, world traveler, state representative, and leading Black citizen in Ohio,” had a profound impact on his brother. Despite the fact that the final postwar civil rights amendment had been ratified in 1870, by the time Harlan was appointed, the meaning of all of them was still unclear. Harlan was the lone voice insisting that a “legal revolution had been won on the battlefields of Shiloh, Antietam, Gettysburg, and Manassas.” His dissent “provided the only shred of faith in the system, the only real evidence that America wasn’t completely separating along color lines.” Given the recent heated debates about Supreme Court justices and civil rights legislation, this expert biography is especially timely and significant.

An impressive work of deep research that moves smoothly along biographical as well as legal lines.

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-8820-6

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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