Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sunday Book Roundup

But even amid today’s colorful political climate — which seems to constantly remind us that we should expect the unexpected — the 1946 “slap heard round the world” stands as particularly peculiar. The incident is the takeoff point for Eric Jaffe’s “A Curious Madness,” a richly layered exploration of the thin line between wellness and madness and the extent to which our understanding of those states is sometimes a matter of perception. The slap happened at the end of World War II at a military tribunal in Japan that was similar to the Nuremberg Trials. Twenty-eight Japanese men, including generals, admirals and cabinet members, filed into a courtroom to face a panel of international judges. Just one of the defendants, a philosopher named Okawa Shumei, was a civilian.
The New York Review of Books tackles six books on World War I in a piece titled, "The Greatest Catastrophe the World Has Seen."

H-Net adds four reviews for readers this week: a work of political science, Pamela C. Corley, Amy Steigerwalt, and Artemus Ward's The Puzzle of Unanimity: Consensus on the United States Supreme Court (Stanford University Press) is reviewed here.  There is also a review of David Spinoza Tanenhaus's The Constitutional Rights of Children: In re Gault and Juvenile Justice (University Press of Kansas).
Is a child's basic right that of liberty or custody? In 1967, Justice William Brennan posed this question during oral arguments in In re Gault. Nearly fifty years later, David S. Tanenhaus's elegant analysis of this interesting case demonstrates the legal and historical complexities underlying Justice Brennan's deceptively simple question.
Two other H-Net reviews include two edited volumes: one review of Restoring Justice: The Speeches of Attorney General Edward H. Levi (University of Chicago Press) edited by Jack Fuller, and another of Re-Imagining Democracy in the Age of Revolutions: America, France, Britain, Ireland, 1750-1850 (Oxford University Press).

The New Republic posts a review of Melissa Schwartzberg's Counting the Many: The Origins and Limits of Supermajority Rule (Cambridge University Press).

Both the LA Times (here) and the LA Review of Books (here) take a look at Greg Grandin's The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World (Metropolitan Books). The LA Review of Books observes
Castigated and eventually ignored in his own lifetime, Melville would have to be amazed and thrilled that, in the second decade of the 21st century, one of America’s most distinguished historians would be using his 1855 novella Benito Cereno as the main vehicle to explore the history of slavery and the waves of revolution sweeping through the Western Hemisphere in the early 19th century. Grandin even takes the title of his book from Melville’s epigraph to “The Bell-Tower,” published two months before Benito Cereno and foreshadowing the novella’s bleak prophecy for the US slave republic.
The Washington Independent Review of Books reviews Heir to the Empire City: New York and the Making of Theodore Roosevelt (Basic Books) by Edward P. Kohn.

1 comment:

Dan Ernst said...

Just wanted to add that Kohn's "Heir to the Empire City" was a Christmas present from my son and that I enjoyed reading it immensely. I could never quite work out how TR could be both a patrician and a participant in New York's patronage politics. Popular images of TR the Cattleman or Rough Rider were no help, but Kohl's depiction of TR as a native of New York City is.

I've since moved on to another gift book, from a great college friend of mine, that helps with another mystery about another Roosevelt. In "The Man He Became," James Tobin uses doctors' correspondence (and much else) to explore what FDR's struggle with polio contributed to his personality. Tobin's book is even more artfully written than Kohl's; both are thought provoking for scholars as well as fun reads, in that they show how to develop some fairly significant ideas in a trade book.