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American Original: The Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia Paperback – August 17, 2010
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Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Biskupic devotes only 21 pages to the first 38 years of her subject's life--the very period the reader is most curious about. How can this be called biography? Compare the first volume of Robert Caro's life of Lyndon Johnson-- 800 deeply illuminating pages on Johnson's first 33 years.
The book offers few glimpses of the influences that shaped Scalia's thought and temperament. Who were the teachers, priests, and professors who taught him? What courses did he take, books did he read, bull sessions did he attend, course papers and letters did he write? He did years of ROTC in school but never served in the military; why not? He spent his junior year at Switzerland's University of Fribourg in what Biskupic calls "a yearlong academic and sightseeing feast." That feastful year gets 43 words.
What was his work during his six years at the law firm of Jones, Day? Hardly a word on this. His four years as a professor at the University of Virginia get only glancing coverage.
The book is drawn almost entirely from published sources. The author did interview the Justice himself several times, and a scattering of family and acquaintances, but collectively these interviews add only the faintest coloration to the public record. Most of Scalia's friends, classmates, and colleagues are still alive, and so loquacious a man certainly has left a lot of private writings and utterances scattered about.Read more ›
In short, this book leavesa lot of questions unaanswered. It is a brilliant piece of inside reporting on court politics and personalities, but a superficial view of its subject.
Particularly commendable about the book is the fact that Scalia is a sitting Justice. It's usually very difficult for an author to remain tonally impartial when she is writing a "history of the present." Yet Biskupic manages to do just that, even when considering such recent events as Scalia's duck-hunting trip with then-Vice President Dick Cheney and the 2009 New Haven firefighters case.
One way Biskupic manages this task is to cite responses to Scalia's public statements and/or opinions from a range of perspectives, "liberal" to "conservative." Another way is to highlight both the consistencies and inconsistencies with Scalia's professed "originalism." But much of the credit should go to Biskupic's own narrative style, which is the hallmark not of "objective" journalistic reporting but of measured historical analysis. Reading her book almost feels like assessing the career of a highly influential jurist from the past. That Scalia is a sitting Justice seems incidental to Biskupic's larger project of understanding his life and perspectives in rigorous historical context.
I highly recommend this book not only to students of law and the U.S. Supreme Court but also to anyone interested in civics, legal reasoning, and the art of biographical writing.
To better understand the long journey towards a more conservative Supreme Court, one must read American Original. While it may be known today as the "Roberts Court", it had its genesis from the commencement of Justice Scalia's tenure. American Original is a book that everyone, not just lawyers, should read to understand the impact of the Supreme Court in our lives.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Love in or hate him he is a fascinating character. This biography is comprehensive, easy to read, and revealing of the man.Published 5 months ago by Enid Reiman
A very disappointing book. I give the book two stars instead of one only because it was well-written, but it is so loaded with left-wing bias and ignorance of basic legal history... Read morePublished 5 months ago by D. Singleton
I knew Antonin Scalia at Xavier High School because he was part of my platoon. He often looked content and happy and had a nice smile on his face. I had not known he was so bright. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Dr. Keyran Moran
this author knows his subject NINO raw and unvarnished the first principle to good writting is to know of what you speak this proves the rule ...Published on April 8, 2013 by roger j wittig
Outstanding biography about the unique and impressive career of his honor, Antonin Scalia. Easy to read and as informative as it was entertaining. Read morePublished on November 25, 2011 by navtravlaw
Before I begin, please note that I (in general) rarely agree with Scalia's position. That being said..... Read morePublished on October 29, 2011 by L Hoover
Joan Biskupic has done a great job of squeezing a very complex judge's thinking and behavior into a readable volume. Read morePublished on December 3, 2010 by Jeff
I haven't yet finished reading this volume but I am not impressed with its even-handedness.
I'm sure Scalia is a good and honorable man, but I've already covered his youth and... Read more
I agree with most everything written here by Jeff Kelleher. There isn't much new ground broken in this book. I, too, could read the sources; it seems that's all she's done. Read morePublished on July 11, 2010 by Jeff of the South