After this unenlightening account, Harlan remains an enigma. (16 halftones, not seen)

JUDICIAL ENIGMA

THE FIRST JUSTICE HARLAN

A serviceable but bloodless biography of the Supreme Court justice who penned some of the most celebrated judicial dissents of the 19th century.

Yarbrough (Political Science/East Carolina Univ.; John Marshall Harlan, 1992, etc.) sketches the complex, contradictory life of the Kentucky Republican who in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) eloquently disputed the Court's 'separate but equal' doctrine. Harlan's 34-year tenure on the court (18771911) was notable for his willingness to cast the sole dissenting vote in major civil rights cases in the aftermath of the Civil War. In ringing, righteous prose, Harlan was the first justice to argue that the Bill of Rights should apply to the states and US territories (not just to the federal government) and, in the famous case of Lochner v. New York (1905), that states are entitled to pass legislation protecting the health and safety of workers. But Yarbrough shows that Harlan's judicial record even in civil rights cases was 'spotty' and unpredictable, his inspiring dissents often marred by ethnocentric attitudes and gross generalizations. The author also examines Harlan's troubling private life, focusing on the justice's insensitive treatment of both his alcoholic brother and mulatto half-brother, his chronic insolvency, and his tendency to adapt his stance to shifting political winds. But Yarbrough simply doesn't have enough material here: He often speculates on how the justice's private life affected his work but offers little concrete proof of a connection. He also has little to say about Harlan's relationship with his colleagues on the Court. Worse, Yarbrough summarizes instead of analyzing many of the Court's major opinions: Lochner, one of the most influential cases in the Supreme Court's jurisprudence, is discussed in a mere page and a half.

After this unenlightening account, Harlan remains an enigma. (16 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-507464-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?

more