The Book Beast Recommends
This week: stories of spoiled New Yorkers, behind the scenes at Saturday Night Live, battles for the Supreme Court, and more.
Spoiled: Stories by Caitlin Macy
Since the onset of the economic crisis, people have wondered when a new Fitzgerald will come along to document the excesses of our most recent gilded age. Does Caitlin Macy fit the bill? Her new book, Spoiled: Stories, documents the Upper East Siders who, in their pursuit of fortune, helped drive the economy to ruin. “My book is about this somewhat afflicted group,” Macy told the New York Times. “These people on the edge of where they’d like to be: almost rich, slightly rich, very conscious of their place in the world.” In the Times, Janet Maslin writes that Macy’s stories fall short of Fitzgerald’s precedent, but “the best are uneasily aware of their moral failings, which are brought into sharp relief as each story arrives, right on schedule, at its closing epiphany.”
The Great Decision: Jefferson, Adams, Marshall, and the Battle for the Supreme Courtby Cliff Sloan and David McKean
The idea that a president’s most enduring legacy lies in his Supreme Court appointments is frequently floated these days, and yet, in the country’s infancy, the Supreme Court was the weakest of the government’s three branches. The Great Decision: Jefferson, Adams, Marshall, and the Battle for the Supreme Court revisits Marbury v. Madison, which elevated the court to its modern prominence and paved the way for cases like Brown v. Board of Education and Roe v. Wade. The 1801 case established the principle of judicial review, which allows the Court to overturn federal legislation that it deems as violating the Constitution. Sloan and McKean’s account not only examines the case, but also animates the personalities—President Thomas Jefferson, former president John Adams, Chief Justice John Marshall, and Secretary of State James Madison—that surrounded it.
Paths of Glory by Jeffrey Archer
Mount Everest rarely serves up the adventurers it swallows, but in Jeffrey Archer’s new novel, Paths of Glory, the body of explorer George Mallory is found 75 years after he disappeared in 1924. Inspired by true events, Archer’s novel suggests that perhaps Mallory made it to the peak and died on the way down—a fact that would overturn the history books, which credit Sir Edmund Hillary as Everest’s first conqueror in 1953.
39 Years of Short-Term Memory Loss: The Early Days of SNL From Someone Who Was Thereby Tom Davis
Al Franken’s assumption of the Senate seat in Minnesota remains tabled, as he and incumbent Norm Coleman continue to wrangle over the recount, but you can be sure that he’s grateful SNL-partner Tom Davis’s 39 Years of Short-Term Memory Loss didn’t come out during the election. As Tom Davis wrote for The Daily Beast in January, “It may have been the smartest thing I’ve ever done to wait a year for Al to win before publishing. Otherwise I’d be on tour with Reverend Wright. Couldn’t you just see the two of us in an airport bar on our way to Rush Limbaugh or Bob Jones University? The conservative talk shows would be hailing me as the man who held Al Franken back for 20 years.” His new memoir recounts the rise of SNL and his and Franken’s dabbling in hippie culture.
A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clintonby Carl Bernstein
Hillary Clinton’s first trip as secretary of State was to Asia, but her second one, currently under way, is bigger: She started out on Monday in Egypt and pledged $900 million in aid to the Palestinians. In his 2008 biography, A Woman in Charge, Carl Bernstein examines Clinton’s career, focusing mostly on her role in her husband’s administration. As Clinton prepares to take on one of the age’s thorniest political issues—and already comes under fire for doing so—it may be wise to revisit the path that led her to the negotiator’s table.