Sunday, May 20, 2012

Liberalism, Divorce, Motherhood, and More: This Week in the Book Pages

This week in the New York Times: Jeff Shesol reviews, here, The Cause: The Fight for American Liberalism From Franklin Roosevelt to Barack Obama (Viking), by journalist Eric Alterman and historian Kevin Mattson. Shesol notes that the book is "less . . . about liberalism than it is . . . about liberals — stretch limousines full of them, fleet after fleet." "The net effect," Shesol continues, "is that of a Pointillist painting, though when you step back from the canvas and squint a little, the dots fail to cohere into a discernible image.

The Guardian has a review of Mrs Robinson's Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady (Bloomsbury), by Kate Summerscale. It is part cultural history, part painstaking reconstruction of the precedent-setting UK divorce case Robinson v. Robinson & Lane (1858). Another review, from BookForum, is here.

"Day to day, memory is what we choose to forget." So begins Timothy Snyder's Wall Street Journal review of The Jews in Poland and Russia, volume 1: 1350-1881 (Littman Library), by Antony Polonsky. It is the first in an "exemplary and formidable three-volume work of historical synthesis."

In the book pages of the Nation, Jennifer Szalai reviews, here, four books on modern motherhood, including The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women (Metropolitan Books), by Elisabeth Badinter.

Writing for the New Republic: The Book, Eric Posner covers Better, Stronger, Faster: The Myth of American Decline ... and the Rise of a New Economy (Free Press), by Daniel Gross. Here's a taste:
Daniel Gross celebrates the flexibility and the robustness of the American economy, arguing that it enjoys many hidden strengths, and will expand in the future, but his book . . . is undermined by a crucial ambiguity. Gross sets up as his target the “declinists” who view the economy with despair, but he does not clearly explain who the declinists are or what they believe, and in the end he provides a boosterish, one-sided account of American economic advantages that relies on anecdotes and skimps on analysis. The book is less interesting for its argument than for what it reveals about how Americans might confront the pangs of national decline.
Read on here.

Also in TNR: more high praise, this time from David Garrow, for Dale Carpenter's Flagrant Conduct (mentioned previously on the blog here).

The June 7 issue of the New York Review of Books is out. Check it out here.