Overlong and overly impressionistic breast-beating from one of the elder statesmen of the American bar with help from Mayer (The Greatest Ever Bank Robbery, 1990). How profound can reader response be to a book that conludes: ``The fault is not in our stars but in ourselves''? Linowitz, former US ambassador and currently senior partner of a noted ``white shoe'' law firm, gave a lawyer-thumping speech at Cornell Law School's centenary celebration. Apparently aided and abetted by several Supreme Court justices who sent admiring notes about the speech, he has here elongated it into a book-length treatment about the decline of standards in the legal profession. His major complaint is that too many lawyers, faced with increased competition and the drive for personal profit, have abdicated their independence—i.e., they are ``afraid to say no'' to clients. This might make a hard-hitting op-ed piece despite the confusing title (``betrayed'' by whom?), but the argument peters out when blown up to over 200 pages, largely on the strength of material that seems more anecdotal than evidentiary. The book has its stranger moments, as when Linowitz lionizes old-line titans like Paul Cravath for their courage to defy their clients while admitting that the doors of the law firms run by Cravath and his peers were shut to Linowitz as a young lawyer because of his ethnic origins. Too often Linowitz's valid reflections (e.g., on the unhealthy change from a long-term lawyer/client relationship to one-shot transaction work) nestle uncomfortably next to pointless or confusing stories (``An ever-increasing number of people no longer admire doctors''). Linowitz's ``solutions''—greater independence, more pro bono work- -are worthy but not exactly cutting-edge stuff. While aware of the temptation to glorify the ``good old days,'' Linowitz is not too successful in avoiding that trap: he complains of the ``forced retirement of senior partners `who had the wisdom and leisure to serve as mentors.' '' A real ho-hum.

Pub Date: May 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-684-19416-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1994

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.


New York Times columnist Brooks (The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement, 2011, etc.) returns with another volume that walks the thin line between self-help and cultural criticism.

Sandwiched between his introduction and conclusion are eight chapters that profile exemplars (Samuel Johnson and Michel de Montaigne are textual roommates) whose lives can, in Brooks’ view, show us the light. Given the author’s conservative bent in his column, readers may be surprised to discover that his cast includes some notable leftists, including Frances Perkins, Dorothy Day, and A. Philip Randolph. (Also included are Gens. Eisenhower and Marshall, Augustine, and George Eliot.) Throughout the book, Brooks’ pattern is fairly consistent: he sketches each individual’s life, highlighting struggles won and weaknesses overcome (or not), and extracts lessons for the rest of us. In general, he celebrates hard work, humility, self-effacement, and devotion to a true vocation. Early in his text, he adapts the “Adam I and Adam II” construction from the work of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, Adam I being the more external, career-driven human, Adam II the one who “wants to have a serene inner character.” At times, this veers near the Devil Bugs Bunny and Angel Bugs that sit on the cartoon character’s shoulders at critical moments. Brooks liberally seasons the narrative with many allusions to history, philosophy, and literature. Viktor Frankl, Edgar Allan Poe, Paul Tillich, William and Henry James, Matthew Arnold, Virginia Woolf—these are but a few who pop up. Although Brooks goes after the selfie generation, he does so in a fairly nuanced way, noting that it was really the World War II Greatest Generation who started the ball rolling. He is careful to emphasize that no one—even those he profiles—is anywhere near flawless.

The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9325-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


The name of C.S. Lewis will no doubt attract many readers to this volume, for he has won a splendid reputation by his brilliant writing. These sermons, however, are so abstruse, so involved and so dull that few of those who pick up the volume will finish it. There is none of the satire of the Screw Tape Letters, none of the practicality of some of his later radio addresses, none of the directness of some of his earlier theological books.

Pub Date: June 15, 1949

ISBN: 0060653205

Page Count: 212

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1949

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet