Sunday, February 5, 2012

Finally.....a very slow read is finished.

Author: John Paul Stevens
Publisher-Format: Little, Brown and Company (2011),Hardcover, 304 pages 
Subject: Supreme Court Justices
Genre: political narrative
Source: my own shelves - a "win" from LibraryThing Early Review program
Recommended? not unless you really like reading case law

Wow....this was a huge disappointment. I've been a fan of LT's Early Review program and have gotten several good books through it. When you enter what amounts to a lottery and indicate which books you're interested in, you essentially promise to read and review the book since you're getting a free copy. These are full hardback published books usually, not ARCs. I have always admired Justice Stevens, and saw an interview with him just as he retired in which he talked about writing the book, and how he was planning to structure it, so I was excited when I received this one back in October.
Somehow though, I just couldn't get into it, and it took me until today to make myself sit down and finish it. I had been nibbling at it for weeks, but just wanted to get it over with. I thought I was going to get some insider insight on each of the five Chief Justices under whom he served. For each of these distinguished gentlemen, I got about a paragraph's worth of non-legalese. The rest would probably make interesting reading to law clerks, law students, and maybe constitutional lawyers. There was way too much personal opinion about whether so and so made a good decision, what lead up to the case coming to the Supreme Court, and whether he (Justice Stevens was on the pro or con side of a decision).

The writing was obviously from someone used to writing legal briefs to uphold a particular point of view, and to enumerate cogent arguments. I have trouble even assigning it the genre "memoir" because it was too apologetic (in the Greek "apologetics" sense of the word). It was more a political or sociological expos√© of court procedures, and even these boiled down to a recitation of who assigned the decisions to be written, and who changed the schedule. Aside from Justice Rehnquist's gold stripes on his robe, there was very little that gave me any feel for the personalities of the five. Perhaps readers with differing expectations will find it more to their liking.  It was well edited, and there were lots of illustrations, but I would have much preferred some more informal shots of the five featured subjects than the constant "class photos" that are sprinkled throughout.  I guess it just wasn't my cuppa.

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