Books

Over the Transom: Under the Radar and Worth a Read
September 12, 2009

I used to try to read every book that came over the transom. That didn’t last long, but there are always those amidst the flow that grab my attention, and among them, a few that really stick with me. Lately I have been struck by three. Marcus LiBrizzi exhumes the story of the tiny Atusville community on the outskirts of a small town in Maine (Lost Atusville: A Black Settlement from the American Revolution). Atusville was a black district – but not one of the grand old bustling commercial black meccas that thrived in most large American cities until the fifties like Chicago’s Bronzeville.

What Breed of Pack Rat Would You Be?
September 03, 2009

I have to get a copy of the new novel by E.L. Doctorow, which takes its inspiration from the lives of the eccentric Collyer brothers, Langley and Homer, who lived and died in an inherited New York brownstone that, by the end, the pathological pack rats had piled high with everything from old magazines to car parts. The men's hoarding, in fact, was central to their end, when, in 1947, a tunnel of junk collapsed on Langley, suffocating him and trapping poor, blind Homer, who starved to death. I've always been fascinated by people who compulsively collect things, especially as they grow old.

Outcomes, Outcomes
September 01, 2009

The Constitution in 2020 Edited by Jack M. Balkin and Reva B. Siegel (Oxford University Press, 355 pp., $19.95) There is a genre, the "constitutional manifesto," that sits uneasily between the scholarly or theoretical analysis of constitutional law and the buzzwords of day-to-day constitutional politics. The latter category may be nicely illustrated by the competing slogans of interest groups contesting the Sotomayor nomination: "judicial activism," "empathy," and so on.

Outcomes, Outcomes
August 12, 2009

THE CONSTITUTION IN 2020 Edited by Jack M. Balkin and Reva B. Siegel (Oxford University Press, 355 pp., $19.95)   There is a genre, the "constitutional manifesto," that sits uneasily between the scholarly or theoretical analysis of constitutional law and the buzzwords of day-to-day constitutional politics. The latter category may be nicely illustrated by the competing slogans of interest groups contesting the Sotomayor nomination: "judicial activism," "empathy," and so on.

In Another Sector
August 12, 2009

a dream I lay my head against the blast wall of the barracks and the mattress rises up against me. You get high off it, right?

Split
August 12, 2009

We speak of rebellion when the kid is a hellion and the folks are as mild as a spoon. Likewise Republicans born of freethinking lesbians seem like reactors, turncoats on how they were raised. Let me offer another concatenation of this explanation. Think of your mother as one discreet corner of a person with a multiple mental disorder. You're one of the others. One that split off. Not a turncoat then, but the expression of what was suppressed.

Creationism For Liberals
August 12, 2009

The Evolution of God By Robert Wright (Little, Brown, 567 pp., $25.99) I. Over its history, science has delivered two crippling blows to humanity's self-image. The first was Galileo's announcement, in 1632, that our Earth was just another planet and not, as Scripture implied, the center of the universe.

Brothers
July 15, 2009

I made a paper replica of your skin and spread it across my face.   I still couldn't see the silence you drink. Our words slur as they mix up war   and experience. I fish for your wrist through this veil of trust and violence.   Help me find your hand to hold it.

Lists--III
July 15, 2009

The date's a sentence that can be parsed: pattern, symmetry, sequence. Can I parse the sky this morning, its complex syntax of cirrocumulus suggestions? The sunlight's breaking, broken. Light on the hills is thinner than yesterday's illumination. The flooding creek is still out of its banks, but lower. An impulse to measure, mark: the river the rain the times of sunrise sunset. I don't know how to take in the fact that we are at war: overreaching, aggressor, outlaw. In the garden snowdrops and trash, hyacinth heads pushing up like green tops of wooden newels, elaborately carved.

Autonomy Amuck
July 01, 2009

Long regarded as central to the contemporary understanding of medical ethics are four principles that must be satisfied in order to fulfill the requirements of moral decision-making.

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