Amusing, insightful snapshots of Ivy League variegations.


The Things I Learned in College


A former Marine, who earned college degrees as a commuter, recounts living at each Ivy League school during an academic year in this memoir/guide.

After his four-year stint in the Marines, straight out of high school, formerly “academically horrible” Green (Marching to College: Turning Military Experience into College Admissions, 2004) transformed into a “college freak/snob,” earning several degrees, including from Ivy League schools. Yet because he had been an older commuter student, Green, who now works in higher education administration, felt he “never had the student experience.” This account reflects his attempt to rectify that situation by residing for 30 days at each Ivy League school during the 2004-05 academic year. He offers conversational sketches on school culture and lore, social encounters, and more, covering visits in chronological order: Cornell (stunning scenery, rollicking fraternity parties, “a sense of inferiority”), Brown (Ralph Nader speech, a cappella, a strip club), Dartmouth (lived in off-campus housing dubbed “The Experiment,” “adopted” by a sorority), Yale (was his mysterious student contact a secret society member?), University of Pennsylvania ( “obnoxious” tour guide Barry), Columbia (Barnard, bagels, marching band), Penn again (requested to return after blogging about Barry), Harvard (nearby MIT students were friendlier), and Princeton (an inspiring valedictorian speech, Nader’s reappearance as a visiting alumnus). While specifically referring to Cornellians, Green’s general takeaway from his experience was that all students were “complex, more thoughtful and talented than any caricature can express.” The account is naturally a bit dated, with the controversy over Lawrence Summer’s then-presidency, for example, taking up part of the Harvard entry. Yet the author also manages to capture a sense of the distinct underlying, evergreen flavor of each school, thus offering helpful intelligence that could prove useful to college-bound students and their parents. His writing style is also highly engaging and entertaining, with dry wit infusing this book, including teeing up each chapter with a school-specific iteration of the classic light bulb joke (at Harvard, apparently, only one student is needed, because “he just holds it up and the world turns around him”).

Amusing, insightful snapshots of Ivy League variegations.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: 235

Publisher: The Leigh Publishing Comp

Review Posted Online: Feb. 25, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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Outstanding in every respect.



When the Supreme Court declined to accept the appeal of a 1963 rape case, Justice Arthur Goldberg published an unusual dissent questioning the constitutionality of the death penalty. From this small beginning, Mandery (John Jay College of Criminal Justice; Q: A Novel, 2011, etc.) skillfully traces the building momentum within the country and the court to question the legality of a punishment the Founding Fathers took for granted.

Indeed, by 1972, in Furman v. Georgia, the court struck down death penalty statutes so similar to those in 40 other states that executions nationwide came to a halt. Disagreement among Furman’s 5-4 majority—was the death penalty “cruel and unusual” punishment under the Eighth Amendment, or was its arbitrary application a violation under the 14th?—and a forceful dissent hinted at a blueprint for states to rewrite their capital-sentencing schemes. By 1976, 35 had done so. In Gregg v. Georgia and its companion cases, the court approved the revised statutes, opening the door to 1,300 state-sponsored executions since. Relying on interviews with law clerks and attorneys, information from economists, criminologists and social scientists, arguments from political and legal scholars, a thorough knowledge of all applicable cases and sure-handed storytelling, Mandery focuses on the strategies of the Legal Defense Fund, the remarkable attorneys who led the charge for abolition, to cover virtually every dimension of the capital punishment debate. The author is especially strong on the individual backgrounds, personalities and judicial philosophies of the justices, the shifting alliances among them and the frustrating contingencies upon which momentous decisions sometimes turn. Even those weary of this topic will be riveted by his insider information about towering figures, lawyers and judges.

Outstanding in every respect.

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-393-23958-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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A rather chaotic and messy tale of talent, determination, and success in the world of independent film and TV that hardcore...


A quirky inside portrait of brotherhood within the “insane Hollywood system.”

Marx, Coen, Farrelly. Add to that list the Duplass brothers, who have been carving out a place for themselves as writers, directors, producers, and actors (Mark in The League, Jay in Transparent, etc.). In her foreword to this jumpy, eclectic collection of odds and ends, Mindy Kaling writes that the brothers are funny, “woke as hell,” and have a “tireless entrepreneurial spirit that inspires.” The brothers write that the book is “filled with essays on all kinds of things,” which isn’t exactly true. There are some—e.g., a short piece on why the band Air Supply is so good or the value of The Karate Kid Part II (even though “there are so many things wrong with this movie”)—but mostly this is a hodgepodge of autobiographical sketches, lists of favorite movies (actually the same list slightly edited over and over), emails, rough screenplays, advice to young filmmakers, Mark’s short story “The Blowjob,” edited by Jay, comments from their wives, and “Airport” 1-5, in which the brothers make up filmic scenarios inspired by the people they see walking and sitting about. We learn that they grew up outside New Orleans and had great boyhoods. Creative and ambitious kids, they played around with a video recorder their father gave them and started writing little scenarios and filming them. In 1996, they started Duplass Brothers Productions and got to work. We follow them in action as they fail (Vince del Rio) and succeed (Cyrus). They made The Puffy Chair for $10,000 and premiered it at the Sundance Film Festival. Other successes followed, including HBO’s Togetherness series (2015), until cancelled, and Room 104 (2017).

A rather chaotic and messy tale of talent, determination, and success in the world of independent film and TV that hardcore fans will enjoy.

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-101-96771-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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