Early Saturday morning "Sunday Review of Book Reviews"
There are some noteworthy book reviews in tomorrow's Sunday NY Times Book Review:
1. This review of what promises to be an excellent book on evangelist Billy Graham concerns Graham's sometimes tepid, sometimes powerful support of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. I can buy the point that we should be forgiving of Graham for not being as supportive as he could have been, but if we do, let's then be more forgiving and supportive to the radicals who endured the taunts, and violence emanating from the racist and reactionary structures of power, and elsewhere. Too often, we lionize the radicals after their death, or more often in the economic context (i.e. union), we forget about them altogether. The same with those who oppose wars. They endure the taunts and worse of being unpatriotic. Yet, later we realize they may well have been correct--and all we recall is they were "radical" and therefore not as worthy as those who were or are in power and were and are wrong. A real life example: Tom Hayden was wrong about North Vietnamese intentions, but right about most everthing else regarding that war, yet he is outside of respectable opinion. On the other hand, Henry Kissinger continues to be respected in corporate media when he was horribly wrong to continue and expand the war in southeast Asia. I expect this from corporate media, but we should be more discerning, just as the conservative book review writer wants us to be more discerning and forgiving about Billy Graham. In other words, everyone has their roles, which is something to consider as we as a society work through the same sex marriage political battles...
2. Here is an excellent review of what sounds like a classic and great journalistic work of sifting through the mythology of a horrific event, and seeking facts instead of trying to make larger philosophical and trendy cultural points. The reviewer explains in a powerful way the manner in which the media and police contributed to the myths that developed regarding the Columbine High School massacre ten years ago, and gives us a deeper sense of the specific truths as to what happened--and what did not happen--that fateful day in a small Colorado community.
3. And this review of an economics oriented book helps us understand the need to revisit the economist Keynes' insight that people are not really all that rational, and how we must ensure public policy reflects that insight--and not assume corporate leaders know what's best in a deregulated world. Another insight from the book is the assymetrical information that is often existing in most transactions--which undermines much of the legal theory of contracts that posits an evenhanded transaction is the norm, not the exception. As Ralph Nader astutely said, how many contracts have you signed in your life that were truly negotiated, as opposed to printed forms with all sorts of hidden zingers? It is gratifying we are seeing even economists learning again to challenge the childishness of the past thirty years of the idiot Milton Friedman and his horde of shallow business libertarians. Now, if only our public policy would begin to reflect that...Doubtful, as long as corporate lobbyists rule our legislature and executive branches, and our idea of judicial "liberals" are corporatists like Breyer and Ginsburg.
4. Here is a short brilliant review of a book on Thoreau that helps us understand Thoreau much better than I had thought, at least. The review helps me realize that if Thoreau was living in the woods, not spending money at shops or attending aristrocratic cocktail parties, just what did Thoreau do up at Walden Pond and nearby Concord? He sang, danced, and played games. In short, he enjoyed himself and attended to his positive senses. I agree this is how Thoreau should be discussed and not in what the book reviewer recognizes is the grim manner in which Thoreau is portrayed.
4. There are also some great book reviews in tomorrow's NY Times Times because they blast at newly released books in a way that give us, the readers, a chance to decide for ourselves whether we agree. With reference to the gross-out fest posing as a feminist tract, or the book on arrogant doctors and botched medical procedures in the past and present, I'm on the side of the reviewers.
5. Finally, what gives with the Times not providing a more lengthy review to Leon Litwack's new and fascinating book on the racial history of blacks and whites in America? I would have rather seen a lengthy review of "How Free is Free: The Long Death of Jim Crow" than the ridiculous gross out book.
The NY Times Book Review tomorrow is simply outstanding, and it is the best I've seen in any newspaper in a long time. That is not an attack on past NY Times book review editions or other newspapers' editions. It is instead a deeply felt accolade for tomorrow's edition.