25 September 2007

The Nine

Book rating scale:

5: Touched by God - a work which makes Shakespeare look infantile
4: Amazing - Instantly began rereading it and quoting it to friends
3: Worth Every Penny - a solid, interesting read, inspiring some thought and discussion with people who share similar interests
2: I Paid For It So I Finished Reading It - Some interesting parts but if I lose the book I'm not buying another copy
1: Couldn't Force My Way Thru and Burnt the Book in order to send it to the Hell it deserves

I rate The Nine a 3: it is a well written but ideologically slanted look at the recent history of the federal supreme court.

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I almost didn't write this review because of the 3 rules which govern this site.1 However, upon further consideration I thought I'd give it the old college try.

It is well written and an easy read. The narrative has something of a gossipy quality to it and I found myself often wondering if the author wasn't engaging in some creative attempts at mind reading. Perhaps he was trusting the statements of others (most likely clerks) who were themselves engaging in some inferring (inferation, inferment?) as to their Justice's feelings. It's impossible to know for certain as the author interviewed unspecified Justices and clerks and wrote without attributing anything to them (by design).

There are clearly good guys and bad guys in this book and they are defined by where they fall on the ideological spectrum. As you read The Nine you cannot help but notice this. However, it is so blatantly obvious where the author stands that, if you have a smidgen of sense and a little bit of a stiff upper lip, even if you are of a different viewpoint than the author you can still find the book an interesting read. If you are of the same viewpoint as the author it will all be a no brainer and solid book.

Nevertheless, do not walk into this thinking there will be important revelations. There's not much of that here. There's no indepth review of competing legal philosophies and the portrayal of the justices is far from complete.2 This is a book claiming to (and trying) to outline the decisions of justices in the court and their interactions as they make the decisions. It has a kind of shallow and newspaperish tone wherein the opinions are not discussed with subtlety and the ideals in which each Justice believes are distilled to left or right. Opinions delivered by the court are either A or Z, there's not a whole lot of room for the possibilities between. Judges may migrate one way or the other on the left-right spectrum, but they aren't seen as having a particular jurisprudence which cuts across both (as the reality often is). However, I'm not sure if the author could do these things without publishing a 9 tome history of the modern court. It's probably too much to ask of an author trying to write a popular book.

All-in-All, it's a good book, worth a read and an interesting spark for a discussion on the modern court. It's not going to become a must have book for those who want to understand the court; it's not The Brethren or Closed Chambers. Still, if you have an interest in the court you will find this book interesting.

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1 1) No politics. 2) Civility. 3) No politics.

2 Noting what seems to be a lack of information about certain Justices, I suspect that he got frozen out in certain quarters.

1 comment:

Flash Gordon said...

Since we on this earth for only a limited time any time spent reading one book is time that cannot be devoted to another book. Jeffery Toobin is a far left ideologue and I don't know why anyone who is not of his persuasion would waste precious time on anything he writes.