A well-reasoned treatise on the history of equality in America and how best to secure it in the future.




A timely review of America’s pursuit of equality and pragmatic solutions to better achieve it.

Tsai (Law/American Univ.; America’s Forgotten Constitutions: Defiant Visions of Power and Community, 2014, etc.) argues that to overcome injustice and inequality, we must be open to “second-best solutions” and “workable alternatives” as a matter of constitutional duty to seek common ground. This approach, writes the author, “practical egalitarianism…entails creating a long-term backup plan to deal with recurring situations where we struggle to enforce equality’s demands. Practical egalitarians take seriously the basic idea of civic equality for all.” Yet “equality,” a loaded word with substantial variations in meaning and emphasis, can be tough to pin down. The author clearly understands this conundrum and addresses the issue with appropriate nuance and respect for diverse ideologies, and he argues that gradual and incremental developments can be just as important as massive legal battles, particularly in the advancement of fairness and free speech. Tsai examines how Americans have wrestled with equality throughout history, from slavery to the most recent ban on Muslim travelers, and the lessons we can draw from these struggles. Much of the book offers practical advice for spreading equality in the legal system, but he mostly avoids legalese, delivering his ideas in vivid prose: “Instead of flying higher and higher into theory in a quest for gorgeously rendered concepts that can solve all of our problems at once, our goal should be to immerse ourselves in the squalor of human existence.” Like a battle “waged on multiple fronts,” equality’s advocates must be prepared to “initiate fresh lines of attack.” The author’s intended audience, however, is not entirely clear. The premise inherent in the subtitle will likely find currency among general readers, but the book seems best tailored for policymakers, scholars, jurists, and activists.

A well-reasoned treatise on the history of equality in America and how best to secure it in the future.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-393-65202-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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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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