Page by Page: Book Reviews

Touchstone Texts: American Argument

American Argument provides historical depth in our consideration of how Blacks and Whites came together to enact the ritual of conversing across racial lines in the hope of better understanding each other. But it is remarkable how well it still speaks to us today, as aspects of that conversation have not changed. 

Fanfare for the Uncommon Man

Although Music by Max Steiner promises to be a must-read for anyone who wants an insider’s perspective on the music of Hollywood films, it also tells the tale of a semi-charmed life truly well lived.

Plato for Everyone

Frank’s book is beautifully written, elegantly presented, and compellingly argued. The reader will not necessarily agree with every thesis advanced or each reading of an individual passage proffered. But that is not the point. The point is precisely to engage in that discussion without reserve.

The Rise and Fall of Robert Kennedy’s Mission to Save America

Rising Justice is a magisterial book by a master historian, an epic sweep of Robert Kennedy and his time as a public figure. It is not a standard biography, but it has the narrative drive of a good biography. There is precious little here about Kennedy as a father, a husband, a son, just a few bits. Much testimony but little gossip. Yet one learns a great deal about Robert Kennedy person as well as Robert Kennedy the politician.

The Wonder World of Whiteness

I am not so sure if Williamson is a conservative as much as he is a contrarian, at times a kind of White Stanley Crouch, though less verbose. At times, a kind of Hunter Thompson but less gonzo. I did not always agree with his interpretation of the world as he saw it, but I always found what he saw stimulating and more than occasionally trenchant.

The House, and How to Run It

Ball’s portrait of Pelosi’s life in politics is a detailed and exhaustive exploration of Pelosi’s life in politics–an important project that fills a needed gap. But the very nature of the book reveals that the role of gender in negotiation is complex, and Ball’s handling of the issue represents a meta-commentary on the challenge of understanding it.