A clear explanation of the workings of the United States government that should be required reading for politically engaged...




A thoroughly comprehensive guide to how the federal government works.

The latest book from Arenberg (co-author: Defending the Filibuster, 2014) takes on the ambitious task of providing a clearly written and systematic breakdown of the procedures, goals, and balances of the United States government. The author, a senior fellow in international and public affairs at Brown University, worked for decades in Congress for U.S. Sens. Paul Tsongas, D-Mass., Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell, D-Maine. As a result, he has firsthand knowledge of the many processes that he describes in these pages. In clear, nontechnical prose, he takes his readers through every element of the government, opening with an anatomy of both the Senate and the House of Representatives and the workings of congressional committees and then moving into the mechanics of how legislation originates and makes its way from draft to bill to law. Arenberg smoothly and confidently moves past surface summaries of these concepts, getting into the fine-print details of how committees work; he even attempts to clarify the Byzantine workings of protocol as it unfolds on the Senate floor. In the present political environment, many of Arenberg’s readers will no doubt pay extra attention to the sections on debt ceilings and government shutdowns, not to mention those on presidential fitness and the viability of the 25th Amendment to remove a leader from office. Over the course of this book, Arenberg steadily maintains a tone of restrained optimism—which feels like an almost defiant move given the present situation inside the Beltway. “The founders had high hopes for Congress,” he writes. “They understood that a strong legislature is fundamental to a healthy democracy.” That hope is reflected in the author’s direct, conversational tone, which clarifies details without oversimplifying them, always tying larger governmental concepts to small, personal applications: “If you spend more than you bring in, you must borrow the difference,” he writes. “If you spend less, you have a surplus and may be able to invest it or save for a child’s education.” Arenberg wisely concludes each chapter with review questions, and he finishes the book with a full glossary, although his cleareyed prose largely makes aids such as these unnecessary. The picture that emerges from this account is at once daunting—how could such a top-heavy, overly complicated system of government ever work?—and subtly encouraging, as in Arenberg’s explanations, it all does seem to make a kind of sense. Charts illustrate the intricate ways that the Founding Fathers and generations of later lawmakers created checks and balances at every level of the federal government, and this book topically underscores the importance of these. On this point, Arenberg quotes James Madison in The Federalist: “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many…may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”

A clear explanation of the workings of the United States government that should be required reading for politically engaged Americans.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58733-299-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: TheCapitol.Net

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.


A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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