The big one this week is Jack Rakove's review, for the New Republic: The Book, of For Liberty and Equality: The Life and Times of the Declaration of Independence (Oxford University Press), by law professor Alexander Tsesis (Loyola-Chicago). Here's a taste:
Once one sees how Tsesis operates, it is easy to imagine how later chapters will unfold, and the absence of surprise can weaken a historical narrative as much as it saps a good novel. Still, the record that Tsesis traces offers a remarkable example of the way in which this single text has acted as an independent force in our history. For in his view, the history of the Declaration is more than a case study in the uses of political rhetoric. It is also an argument about the independent influence of the document’s ideals. Americans did not appeal to the Declaration merely because they could make such obvious use of its phrases. Rather, the existence of those key concepts is what has inspired the proponents of equality to seek their goals.Read on here.
In the New York Times, check out the review of The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death (Alfred A. Knopf), by Harvard historian Jill Lepore.
Also reviewed: Sincerity: How a Moral Ideal Born Five Hundred Years Ago Inspired Religious Wars, Modern Art, Hipster Chic, and the Curious Notion That We ALL Have Something to Say (No Matter How Dull) (W. W. Norton & Company), by R. Jay Magill Jr (here) and City of Scoundrels: The Twelve Days of Disaster That Gave Birth to Modern Chicago (Crown Publishers), by Gary Krist (here).
For more Chi-town history and a different origins story, move on to the Wall Street Journal, where you'll find a review of Rising Up From Indian Country: The Battle of For Dearborn and the Birth of Chicago (University of Chicago Press), by Ann Durkin Keating .
Via Arts & Letters Daily, we have word of a review of Sex and Punishment: Four Thousand Years of Judging Desire (the Westbourne Press), by lawyer-journalist Eric Berkowitz. You'll find it here, in the Literary Review. (Not sure this sounds like serious scholarship? According to the book's Amazon page, Richard Posner found it "[v]ery interesting, very enlightening, very well written, and very timely.")