Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sunday Book Review Roundup

Jill Lapore reviews Wilson (Putnam Adult) by A. Scott Berg in the New Yorker, as does Jeff Shesol for the Washington Post here. Shesol writes,
"The latest attempt to assess — or really, to firmly establish — his significance is “Wilson,” by A. Scott Berg, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his 1998 biography of Charles Lindbergh. Berg likens his approach to impressionism, with its use of “thousands of dabs of paint,” and here he paints a vivid tableau. Indeed, color abounds in this book: Railcars are “furnished with big easy chairs, footstools, and cushions, in rose brocade”; people drink “high tea with yellow Devonshire cream”; Edith Wilson’s bedroom is “decorated in ivory with a pink bedspread.” But the picture Berg is most interested in rendering is, in a way, abstract: the interior Wilson. “I have never seen a book that captured the emotional side of the man,” Berg said in a recent interview. “I wanted to do that book.”"
H-Net offers up several reviews this week. There is a review of The Oxford Handbook of the Cold War (Oxford University Press) edited by Richard H. Immerman and Petra Goedde, and another of Angela Pulley Hudson's Creek Paths and Federal Roads: Indians, Settlers, and Slaves and the Making of the American South (University of North Carolina Press). There is also a review of Katherine A. Scott's Reining in the State: Civil Society and Congress in the Vietnam and Watergate Eras (University Press of Kansas).

In the latest volume of Slavery & Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies, Alfred Brophy thoughtfully reviews Andrew Fede's Roadblocks to Freedom: Slavery and Manumission in the United States South (Quid Pro Books), "a study of statutes and appellate opinions in the southern states from Revolution to Civil War that hindered slaves who were seeking freedom."

In the New York Review of Books Nicolas Lemann writes about "The New Deal We Didn’t Know," in his review of Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time (Liveright) by Ira Katznelson. Lemann writes,
"Another difference between Fear Itself and most of the familiar histories of the New Deal is that Katznelson thinks like a political scientist. That means that, although he defines the period presidentially, as the twenty years when Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman were in the White House, Roosevelt and Truman themselves are spectral presences. They are not the primary determiners of the course of government, and Katznelson has no interest in their personal qualities or their methods of leadership. Instead his focus is on Congress and government agencies, and more broadly on political systems, voting, and interest groups. This gives Fear Itself the feeling of a fresh look at a familiar story; what Katznelson loses in ignoring the inherent force of the hero narrative, he gains in being able to make an argument that largely ignores the presidency."
Back in August we noted a review of The Great Dissent: How Oliver Wendell Holmes Changes His Mind – and Changed the History of Free Speech in America (Metropolitan) by Thomas Healy. This week the Washington Post reviewed the book.

Similarly, last week we noted several reviews of For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action, and the Law (Pantheon) by Randall Kennedy. This week the New York Review of Books adds another.

And finally, if you're interested in what Slate is suggesting as "the perfect reading material for the college-bound"--including the Federalist Papers--you can find their lengthy and diverse list here.