19 May 2012

Books I found helpful during the first year of law school (1L)

Last summer and fall, I did a bit of research to try and identify books and study aids that might be helpful during my first year of law school.  There are hundreds of products out there, and some are considerably more useful than others.  I wanted to put together a list of the books I found to be most valuable for any incoming law students (or self-educators interested in reading about law) who might be interested:

(* = essential/most valuable)

Ward Farnsworth, The Legal Analyst: A Toolkit for Thinking About the Law*
Richard M. Fischl and Jeremy Paul, Getting to Maybe: How to Excel on Law School Exams*
Dennis J. Tonsing, 1000 Days to the Bar but the Practice of Law Begins Now*
Steven Emanuel, Steve Emanuel's First Year Questions and Answers
Randy Barnett, The Structure of Liberty: Justice and the Rule of Law
LexisNexis Area of Law Outlines (free)
Black's Law Dictionary - iPhone app version

Legal Writing:
Brian Garner, Legal Writing in Plain English*
Ross Guberman, Point Made: How to Write Like the Nation's Top Legal Advocates

Civil Procedure:
Joseph Glannon, Civil Procedure: Examples and Explanations*
Richard Freer, Civil Procedure*
Richard Freer, Law School Legends: Civil Procedure (audio)*
Arthur R. Miller, Sum and Substance: Civil Procedure (audio) - out-of-date but still worthwhile

William Prosser, Prosser and Keeton on Torts*
Joseph Glannon, Torts: Examples and Explanations
Steven Finz, Sum and Substance: Torts (audio)

Brian A. Blum, Contracts: Examples and Explanations*
Marvin Chirelstein, Contracts and Case Analysis in the Law of Contracts
David Epstein, Sum and Substance: Contracts (audio)
Randy Barnett, Oxford Introductions to U.S. Law: Contracts

Criminal Law:
Joshua Dressler, Understanding Criminal Law*
Joshua Dressler, Sum and Substance: Criminal Law (audio)

John G. Sprankling, Understanding Property Law*
Linda H. Edwards, Estates in Land and Future Interests: A Step-by-Step Guide
Julian C. Juergensmeyer, Sum and Substance: Property (audio)

Constitutional Law:
Erwin Chemerinsky, Constitutional Law: Principles and Policies*
Mary Cheh, Sum and Substance: Constitutional Law (audio)*

15 August 2011

Recommended books and media

Here is a list of the books and media I've read over the years that I have either (a) enjoyed the most or (b) learned the most from.

Within each category, authors are listed alphabetically. Where more than one book is listed for an author, I've listed the books in order of preference.

Fiction/Literature/Literary Nonfiction:

Dante Alighieri, Inferno
Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine; Fahrenheit 451
Willa Cather, O Pioneers!My Antonia
Albert Camus, The Stranger
John Cheever, Collected Stories
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Anne Frank, Diary of a Young Girl
Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther
William Golding, Lord of the Flies
John Grisham, The Client; The Runaway Jury; The Firm
Knut Hamsun, Growth of the Soil; Pan; Victoria; Dreamers
Jim Harrison, Returning to Earth and True North
Hebrew Bible / Old Testament: Ecclesiastes, Job, Genesis, Song of Songs, Exodus, Hebrews
Joseph Heller, Catch-22
Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls; The Old Man and the Sea
Herman Hesse, Steppenwolf; Siddhartha
Homer, Iliad, Odyssey
Victor Hugo, Les Miserables
Henrik Ibsen, A Doll's House
James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; Dubliners
Jack Kerouac, On the RoadThe Dharma Bums
Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild
Halldor Laxness, Independent People
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
George R.R. Martin, A Song of Ice and Fire (series)
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude; Chronicle of a Death Foretold
Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It
Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Billy Budd
Arthur Miller, The Crucible
Yukio Mishima, The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea; Confessions of a Mask
Czeslaw Milosz, Native Realm
The New Testament: John, Luke, Revelations, James
Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged; We the Living; The Fountainhead; Anthem
William Shakespeare, King Lear; Hamlet; Othello; Julius Caesar; Macbeth; Richard II
Natsume Soseki, Kokoro
John Steinbeck, East of Eden; Travels with Charley; The Grapes of Wrath; The Pearl; The Red Pony; Junius Maltby
J.R.R. Tolkier, The Lord of the Rings; The Hobbit
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace; Anna Karenina; The Death of Ivan Ilyich
Virgil, Aeneid
Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-5
Elie Wiesel, Night


Anna Akhmatova
Yehuda Amichai
W.H. Auden
Elizabeth Bishop
William Blake
Billy Collins
T.S. Eliot
Thomas Hardy
Randall Jarrell
D.H. Lawrence
Robert Lowell
Czeslaw Milosz
Sylvia Plath
Ezra Pound
Rainer Maria Rilke

Poetry anthologies:
The Columbia Book of Modern Korean Poetry
The Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry
The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry

"Children's" Literature (great for all ages):

Beverly Cleary, Dear Mr. Henshaw
Roald Dahl, Matilda; James and the Giant Peach; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; The BFG
Louise Fitzhugh, Harriet the Spy
Brian Jacques, Redwall (series)
C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia (series)
Lois Lowry, The Giver
Katherine Paterson, The Bridge to Terabithia
Philip Pullman, His Dark Materials (trilogy)
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter series
Louis Sachar, Sideways Stories from Wayside School (trilogy)
Shel Silverstein, The Giving Tree; The Missing Piece; Where the Sidewalk Ends; A Light in the Attic
Jerry Spinelli, Maniac Magee
E.B. White, Charlotte's Web

Politics, History, and Social Sciences:

Stephen Arons, Compelling Belief: The Culture of American Schooling
Robert Axelrod, The Evolution of Cooperation
David Baldwin, Neorealism and Neoliberalism: The Contemporary Debate
Randy Barnett, The Structure of Liberty
W.M. Theodore de Bary, Sources of Chinese Tradition; Sources of Japanese Tradition; Sources of Korean Tradition
Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence; Begin Here: The Forgotten Conditions of Teaching and Learning
Frederic Bastiat, The Law
Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind
Jacob Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy
Bruce Cumings, Korea's Place in the Sun
Norman Davies, Europe: A History
William O. Douglas, The Douglas Letters
W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk
Victor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning
Sigmund Freud, Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego
Francis Fukuyama, America at the Crossroads
J.K. Galbraith, The Good Society
Robert Gilpin, War and Change in World Politics; The Meaning of the Nuclear Revolution; Global Political Economy
Jonathan Glover, Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century
Friedrich Hayek, The Road to Serfdom
Chris Hedges, War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning
E.D. Hirsch, The Knowledge Deficit
Robert Maynard Hutchins, Education for Freedom
Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
Doug Lemov, Teach Like a Champion
John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration; 2nd Treatise on Civil Government
John J. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty; Autobiography
Ludwig Von Mises, Human Action
Barack Obama, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance
Murray N. Rothbard, Man, Economy, and State; For a New Liberty; What Has Government Done to Our Money?
Snell and Gail Putney, The Adjusted American: Normal Neurosis in the Individual and Society
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, On the Social Contract
Scott Sagan and Kenneth Waltz, The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: A Debate Renewed
Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political
Harvey Silverglate, FIRE's Guide to First-Year Orientation and Thought Control; FIRE's Guide to Free Speech on Campus
Voltaire, Political Writings
Kenneth Waltz, Theory of International Politics; Man, the State, and War
Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars
Jack Welch, Winning
Charles Wheelan, Naked Economics
Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States; A Power Governments Cannot Suppress

Philosophy, Religion, and the Humanities:

Augustine, Confessions
Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics; Poetics
Julian Baggini, Atheism: A Very Short Introduction
Derrick Bell, Ethical Ambition
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison
Wendy Doniger, The Implied Spider: Politics and Theology in Myth
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays
David Hume, Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding; Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals
Soren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling; The Sickness Unto Death
C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man
Martin Marty, Luther
Montaigne, Essais
Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra; On the Geneaology of Morals
Blaise Pascal, Pensees
Josef Pieper, A Brief Reader on the Virtues of the Human Heart; The Four Cardinal Virtues
Plato, Symposium; Phaedrus; Apology; Republic
Joseph Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity
Bertrand Russell, The Problems of Philosophy; Why I Am Not a Christian
Friedrich Schopenhauer, Essays and Aphorisms
Paul Tillich, The Eternal Now; The Courage to Be; Systematic Theology; On the Boundary

Magazines, Websites, and Columnists:

The Economist
Education Next
Future of Capitalism
The Freeman
Cafe Hayek
Frederick Hess
Hoover Institution
The Marginal Revolution
Mises Daily
The New Yorker
The New York Times
Political Wire
The Writer's Alamanac with Garrison Keillor
George F. Will

11 July 2011

Rethinking the Great Depression and the New Deal

I've become increasingly interested in the history of the 1930s, and I just finished Eric Rauchway's The Great Depression and the New Deal: A Very Short Introduction.  It has become increasingly clear to me that there are major holes in the dominant historical narrative about the Great Depression, the New Deal, and the Roosevelt administration.  The standard, high-school-textbook version of the story goes something like this:

"Greedy stock market speculators caused the stock market crash of 1929, which triggered the worst depression in American history; President Herbert Hoover believed in an outdated laissez-faire economic philosophy, so he did nothing; thankfully, President Roosevelt was elected, and his New Deal policies saved capitalism and helped the common man survive the Great Depression; and finally, World War II was an enormous boon to the U.S. economy, and it finally solved the problem once and for all."

Those of us with a preference for economic liberty and peace should be greatly disturbed by this story.  If true, it suggests that the best ways to fix a broken economy are (1) total war, including conscription; and (2) dramatic increases in government taxation, spending, regulation, and redistribution.

Thankfully, there are convincing reasons to believe that the standard narrative is wrong.  There is a lot more I need to read on the topic, but here are some resources and ideas that I look forward to exploring further:

-Murray N. Rothbard, America's Great Depression (free PDF and ebook)
-George Selgin, "The Economics of America's Great Depression" (course syllabus in PDF format with many links to readings).  My interest in this topic is largely attributable to a fantastic lecture I heard Selgin deliver in June.
-David Gordon, "What you must read about the Great Depression," Mises Daily, 2/22/09
-George Selgin, review of Hall and Ferguson's The Great Depression.

Stephen Davies, "Top 3 Myths About the Great Depression and the New Deal," LearnLiberty.org:

In my next post, I will share excerpts from Rauchway's The Great Depression and the New Deal, which - unlike the libertarian works linked to above - is firmly on the side of the standard narrative.

06 July 2011

Lying about Libya

My latest op-ed, "Lying about Libya," appeared today in Mises Daily, a publication of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.  You can read the article here. In it, I write:

"What was sold to the American public as a humanitarian intervention morphed almost immediately into unreserved support of one side in Libya's civil war and a commitment to overthrowing Libya's existing government.
To decide whether a military action undertaken in our name is prudent and just, we must adopt a skeptical stance toward politicians' stories and rationalizations. We must attempt to see through these to the reality of the situation.

Stories can change, and new excuses can be spun, but once a war is launched there is no predicting the course it will take or the consequences it will have. Wars rarely go according to plan; they set in motion a course of events that no one person or group of people can hope to control."

Click here to read the entire article. Please consider posting it on Facebook or Twitter, or otherwise passing it along to others if you enjoy it. Thanks, as always, for reading.

30 June 2011

Use of Predators Sets Dangerous Precedent

My op-ed "Use of Predators Sets Dangerous Precedent" appeared today on Antiwar.com. In it, I criticize President Obama's decision to authorize drone warfare in Libya. I write:

"The expediency of drones makes it all-too-tempting for governments to use them frequently and carelessly, brushing aside the ethical questions they raise and ignoring the long-term security consequences their use could entail."

Click here to read the full article. Thanks, as always, for reading.

14 June 2011

Excerpts from Klein, Warren, Chirelstein, and Gluck

Customs grow out of social processes whose details are highly individuated in regards to the type of activity, the individuals involved, their reputational pedigree, the knowledge they have about each other, and so on.  Viewing cultural evolution as deeply and densely rooted process may make one doubt the wisdom of government attempts to fine tune, guide, or supplant it.  It is highly unlikely that the blunt instruments of government will be well suited to cultivating the growth of delicate, teeming, unique interactions.

Daniel B. Klein
--"Assurance and Trust in a Great Society."  FEE Occasional Paper Two.

I kneeled to the crickets trilling
underfoot as if about
to burst from their crusty shells;
and like a child again
marveled to hear so clear
and brave a music pour
from such a small machine.

Robert Penn Warren
--from "Touch Me"

01 May 2011

Book received: "The Crimean War: A New History"

Thanks to Henry Holt and Company for sending a review copy of Orlando Figes' The Crimean War: A History."  I look forward to reading it.

Authors and publishers interested in sending review copies of books in the social sciences or humanities - especially education and international relations - should contact me by email at ryan (dot) mccarl (at) wideawakeminds (dot) com.

30 April 2011

Robert Nozick's "Experience Machine"

The following is political philosopher Robert Nozick's incredible allegory of the "Experience Machine," from his book Anarchy, State, and Utopia. The allegory makes a case against hedonism, the idea that sensory pleasure is the highest good:

Suppose there were an experience machine that would give you any experience you desired.

27 April 2011

Discussing the Libya War on "Russia Today"

I appeared on Russia Today (RT) yesterday to discuss the U.S./NATO intervention in Libya as well as the situation in Syria - feel free to check it out if you are interested:

My related article, "Rolling the Dice in Libya," appeared on Antiwar.com yesterday.

Another, unrelated op-ed of mine appeared yesterday as well in the Michigan Education Report: "National standards will stifle innovation." In it, I argue that "strict standards risk forcing students and teachers alike into a curricular straitjacket, alienating creative teachers and sapping the motivation of students."

You can find links to all of my online publications at my homepage, www.ryanmccarl.com.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

26 April 2011

Rolling the dice in Libya

My latest op-ed, "Rolling the dice in Libya," appeared today on Antiwar.com.

You can find the op-ed here as well as pasted below. If you enjoy it, please consider sharing it on your Facebook wall, mentioning it on Twitter, or emailing it to a friend. Thanks, as always, for reading.


Rolling the dice in Libya

Ryan McCarl

President Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination in 2008 partly by reminding the party’s base of his early, prescient criticisms of the ill-fated decision to invade Iraq. “What I am opposed to is a dumb war … a rash war,” then-Senator Obama explained in 2002.

04 March 2011

Excerpts from Jacques Barzun, "From Dawn to Decadence"

(Note: The excerpts below are related to issues outside of education; I will post education-related excerpts from From Dawn to Decadence on Wide Awake Minds, my education blog. You can find these here if you are interested.)

Here are a few excerpts from what I've read so far:


In any art a new technical power leads to uses and ideas not suspected at first.
Another singularity in Petrarch's life was that he climbed a high hill in southern France in order to admire the view. If it was done before him, it was not recorded. Nature had been endlessly discussed, but as a generality, not as this landscape.

Inquisition as such, that is, apart from methods and severity of results, has remained a live institution. The many dictatorships of the 20th century have relied on it and in free countries it thrives ad hoc - hunting down German sympathizers during the First World War, interning Japanese-Americans during the second, and pursuing Communist fellow-travelers during the Cold War.

"Heretics are given us so that we might not remain in infancy. They question, there is discussion, and definitions are arrived at to make an organized faith." -St. Augustine

It takes hundreds of the gifted to make half a dozen of the great.

27 November 2009

Excerpts from Benedict Anderson, Gottfried Benn, and Bob Altemeyer

Happy Thanksgiving weekend! I am spending it in Boulder, CO, one of the most beautiful cities in America.

From "Static Poems"

Deafness to imperatives
is profundity in the wise man,
children and grandchildren
don't bother him,
don't alarm him.

To represent a particular outlook,
to act,
to travel hither and yon
are all signs of a world
that doesn't see clearly.

--Gottfried Benn
(in Poetry, 11/09.)

Adult authoritarians tend to be highly ethnocentric and heavy users of the "consensual validation pill" (Newcomb, 1961). They travel in tight circles of like-minded people so much, they often think their views are commonly held in society, that they are the "Moral Majority" or the "Silent Majority." It has been hard to miss the evidence that certain kinds of religious training have sometimes helped produce their ethnocentrism and authoritarianism.

...(They) are scared. They see the world as a dangerous place, as society teeters on the brink of self-destruction from evil and violence. This fear appears to instigate aggression in them. Second, right-wing authoritarians tend to be highly self-righteous. They think themselves much more moral and upstanding than others - a self-perception considerably aided by self-deception, their religious training, and some very efficient guilt evaporators (such as going to confession). This self-righteousness disinhibits their aggressive impulses, and releases them to act out their fear-induced hostilities....

Bob Altemeyer
--"The Other 'Authoritarian Personality'"

07 November 2009

Two cents about COIN

My latest op-ed, "Two cents about COIN," appeared today on Antiwar.com. It discusses the the growing faith of U.S. political and military leaders in the military doctrine of COIN, or manpower-intensive counterinsurgency warfare.

You can find the op-ed here as well as pasted below; if you enjoy it, please consider sharing it on your Facebook wall, mentioning it on Twitter, or linking to it on your blog. Thanks, as always, for reading.


Two Cents About COIN

Ryan McCarl

The war in Afghanistan, according to Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s recent assessment, is "a situation that defies simple solutions or quick fixes. Success demands a comprehensive counterinsurgency (COIN) campaign." McChrystal and other American leaders calling for a "surge" of additional U.S. troops into Afghanistan to mirror the alleged success of the "surge" in Iraq are voicing their belief that the doctrinal framework for the original surge – COIN, or manpower-intensive counterinsurgency warfare – is a widely-applicable tool in asymmetric warfare that the U.S. ought to employ in Afghanistan.

05 November 2009

A limited ecumenism

My latest op-ed, "A limited ecumenism," appeared today in Sightings, the newsletter of the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School. It discusses the Catholic Church's recent outreach to traditionalist Anglicans. Sightings is a free online publication sent out twice a week to over 7,000 scholars, ministers, students, and others interested in the intersection of religion and public life; you can subscribe to it at the Sightings subscription page. Sightings is also online at http://divinity.uchicago.edu/martycenter/publications/sightings/.

You can find the op-ed here as well as pasted below. Thanks, as always, for reading.

A Limited Ecumenism

Ryan McCarl

As reported in Sightings last Monday, the Vatican announced two weeks ago that it was setting up a new canonical structure, or Apostolic Constitution, to facilitate the conversion of disaffected Anglican traditionalists to Catholicism; the converts will be able to “enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony,” in the Vatican’s words. Married former Anglican clergy will be allowed to become Catholic Priests, though not Bishops.

28 October 2009

Empathy across neighborhood lines

My latest op-ed, "Love Thy Neighbor: In the wake of an attack on the Men’s Cross Country team, it’s time to rethink University-community relations," appeared in the Chicago Weekly today.

You can find the op-ed and add your comments here, and I've also pasted it below. Thanks, as always, for reading.

Love Thy Neighbor: In the wake of an attack on the Men’s Cross Country team, it’s time to rethink University-community relations

Ryan McCarl

The University of Chicago is a bastion of resources and privilege in a largely underserved and segregated South Side. The University and many of its students regularly engage in outreach and volunteer programs aimed at bridging the gap between the University community and the broader South Side, and Hyde Park is often hailed as one of the most integrated neighborhoods in the United States. But there is an undeniable separation—an invisible wall—between the University and its surroundings.

20 October 2009

Readings from Solomon's "Judaism: A Very Short Introduction"

Martin Buber and Emanuel Levinas put their faith in the God of relationships. Alles Leben ist Begegnung ('all life is encounter'), declared Buber, and the important thing is to get your relationship with God and with people right (I-Thou, rather than I-It); from that relationship, which is the essence of Revelation, ethical action flows; laws and rules are feeble attempts to capture revelation, and doomed to inadequacy.
Genesis 1:27 states clearly enough: 'So God created humankind in his own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.' This implies that in using our concept of God to model human behavior we should not distinguish between male and female.
Emil Fackenheim grounds his theology in the actual resistance of Shoah [Holocaust] victims to whom no realistic hope remained: 'A philosophical Tikkun ['repair', 'restoration'] is possible after the Holocaust because a philosophical Tikkun already took place, however fragmentarily, during the Holocaust itself'; the rebirth of Israel, and a new constructive dialogue with a self-critical Christianity, are essential to this process. Fackenheim is also noted for his statement that there should be a 614th commandment, surplus to the 613 of tradition - to survive as Jews, to remember, never to despair of God, lest we hand Hitler a posthumous victory.

12 October 2009

Readings from the stories of John Cheever

It was after four then, and I lay in the dark, listening to the rain and to the morning trains coming through. They come from Buffalo and Chicago and the Far West, through Albany and down along the river in the early morning, and at one time or another I've traveled on most of them, and I lay in the dark thinking about the polar air in the Pullman cars and the smell of nightclothes and the taste of dining-car water and the way it feels to end a day in Cleveland or Chicago and begin another in New York, particularly after you've been away for a couple of years, and particularly in the summer.
I took the eight-ten train into town in the morning and returned on the six-thirty. I knew enough to avoid the empty house in the summer dusk, and I drove directly from the station parking lot to a good restaurant called Orpheo's.

--"The Cure"

"The sun is in your hair."
"The sun is in your hair. It's a beautiful color."

--"The Chaste Clarissa"

28 September 2009

Excerpts from Jonathan Glover's "Humanity"

Jonathan Glover's Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century is one of the best and most important books I have ever read.

Excerpts below:

An extimate for the period from 1900 until 1989 is that war killed 86 million people. Eighty-six million is a small proportion of all those alive during the ninety years, and is a small number compared to those who have died from hunger and preventable diseases. All the same, death in twentieth-century war has been on a scale which is hard to grasp. ...If these deaths had been spread evenly over the period, war would have killed around 2,500 people every day. That is over 100 people an hour, round the clock, for ninety years.
One of this book's aims is to replace the thin, mechanical psychology of the Enlightenment with something more complex, something closer to reality. A consequence of this is to defend the Enlightenment hope of a world that is more peaceful and humane, the hope that by understanding more about ourselves we can do something to create a world with less misery. ...We need to look hard and clearly at some monsters inside us. But this is part of the project of caging and taming them.

04 September 2009

Readings from Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning"

I am currently reading Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning. Frankl, a psychiatrist, was imprisoned in the Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz, for several years. He survived the experience and went on to develop the theory of "logotherapy," a branch of psychoanalysis that focuses on human beings' "will to meaning." The part of the book that discusses Frankl's memories of his camp experience is, like any Holocaust memoir worth its salt, extremely disturbing and difficult to read, but it ought to be read in spite of that. Here are a few (non-graphic) excerpts from the book, which I highly recommend:

Soon we had resumed the previous day's positions in the ditch. The frozen ground cracked under the point of the pickaxes, and sparks flew. The men were silent, their brains numb. My mind still clung to the image of my wife. A thought crossed my mind: I didn't even know if she were still alive. I knew only one thing - which I have learned well by now: Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. It finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self. Whether or not he is actually present, whether or not he is still alive at all, ceases somehow to be of importance.
If there is a meaning of life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete. The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity - even under the most difficult circumstances - to add a deeper meaning to his life.
What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life - daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and right conduct.

24 August 2009

Discovering the letters of Justice William O. Douglas

I was sorting through some books in my closet yesterday, and I discovered a fantastic book which drew me away from my regular reading: The Douglas Letters: Selections from the Private Papers of William O. Douglas, edited by Melvin I. Urkofsky. William O. Douglas was a brilliant, contrarian Associate Justice on the Supreme Court as well as a transformative environmentalist and New Dealer who crusaded against rampant speculation and corruption in the financial industry. His writing is insightful and often hilarious. Here are a few samples:

To Ramsey Clark, 4/28/70:

On my visit to Baghdad, I went to the University with my interpreter to see what books, if any, they had on our Constitution or Bill of Rights or Jefferson, Madison, democracy, etc.

That library was bare on those subjects. So when I returned, I prepared what I called the Douglas Eight Foot Shelf which I thought should be in every underdeveloped nation. I thought then - and still think - that those ideas are more important than military missions.

To Max Radin (professor at Berkeley Law School), 5/27/46:

...If you are willing, I will ask you to find me a law clerk each year....I need not only a bright chap, but also a hard-working fellow with a smell for facts as well as for law. I do not want a hide-bound, conservative fellow. What I want is a Max Radin - a fellow who can hold his own in these sophisticated circles and who is not going to end up as a stodgy, hide-bound lawyer. I want the kind of fellow for whom this work would be an exhilaration, who will be going into teaching or into practice of the law for the purpose of promoting the public good. I do not want to fill the big law offices of the country with my law clerks....

To the Wall Street Journal, 10/16/78