A crisp analysis of the limits of our civil rights laws and a prescription for how to move beyond them.

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RIGHTS GONE WRONG

HOW LAW IGNORES COMMON SENSE AND UNDERMINES SOCIAL JUSTICE

A law professor argues against the harmful misuse of our civil-rights laws.

If instances of outright discrimination today are relatively rare, we have the 20th-century's civil-rights movement and the laws it inspired to thank. Ford (Law/Stanford Law School; The Race Card: How Bluffing About Bias Makes Race Relations Worse, 2008, etc.) forthrightly acknowledges this monumental achievement, but asks if those laws are now being stretched too far to cover every type of unfairness or slight. In an increasingly ambiguous and complex social landscape, are we doing more harm than good by insisting every injury or grievance amounts to a civil-rights violation? Ford enlivens his discussion with numerous, colorful example of rights gone wrong, cases where the laws are being abused to the detriment of genuine social justice. For example, Google fires a veteran Internet pioneer, deeming him a poor cultural fit. He sues, claiming age discrimination. A fan sues a Major League Baseball team after being denied the Mother's Day goodie bag distributed to all females. Another man files suit to be a waiter at Hooters; still another repairs to court against a Manhattan nightclub for its ladies' night promotion. All claim sex discrimination. A Harvard medical student, already granted an extra eight hours to complete a licensing exam because of her ADHD, demands still more time for a breast-pumping break. The organized San Francisco bicyclists who disrupt traffic, the Million Man marchers, the Promise Keepers, plaintiffs, protesters, even the Jena Six criminal defendants—all vigorously assert their "civil rights" and all, writes Ford, injure the social compact that recognizes a corresponding duty for every right. To view every instance of disparate treatment through the lens of discrimination—at the expense of common sense, civility and pragmatic problem-solving in the public interest—is to encourage the moral poseurs, narcissists, absolutists and extremists among us and to invite a host of outrageous, unintended consequences for those the laws were intended to help.

A crisp analysis of the limits of our civil rights laws and a prescription for how to move beyond them.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-25035-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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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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