Dan’s recent post on this country’s best independent bookstores inspired quite a few readers to chime in with their suggestions, most of which Dan added to the original list. Last year I shared two obituary notices for George Whitman (1913-2011), the eccentric proprietor of the Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris. Whitman was an eccentric in the best and endearing sense, that is, he was a “most unphony person” in the words of his daughter Sylvia. I’ve yet to visit Shakespeare and Company, but in my mind’s eye (and with the aid of a few photographs of the interior and exterior of the shop) it is the consummate bookstore.
One of the suggestions from my hometown was Chaucer’s Bookstore, which is the subject of a piece in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times by Pico Iyer, a dear friend (his mother, Nandini, a former teacher of mine, happens to be my best friend) who recently penned a wonderful book about Graham Greene…and his late father, Raghavan Iyer: The Man Within My Head (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012). Pico reminds us why we remain profoundly loyal to and quite fond of the independent bookstore:
“There was once a little bookstore, tucked into an unglamorous mall on the wrong side of town, where few visitors were likely to stumble upon it. Its owner had opened a small shop in 1974 with a modest bequest from her mother, and she and her husband had had to dip into their life insurance funds to keep it going. People from across the county drove for miles to buy books there — and to see friends, to pick up free copies of the New York Times Book Review, to special-order out-of-print works no one else could be bothered to find. But these days, so it was said, it was easier, cheaper — more fun — to shop online. A computer could read your taste better than you could. One click could bring you the whole world, radically discounted.
Just as Amazon.com was getting going, a large store called Borders came into the small town and set up a three-story emporium at its central intersection. This bright new palace sold CDs and boasted aisles full of magazines and cookies and coffee; musicians struck up concerts outside its entrance; thousands of books were sold at vastly marked-down prices; and it used the cozy chairs and community air of a neighborhood store to crafty corporate advantage.
But a few years later, to everyone’s surprise, the huge citadel of books, next to a free, multistory parking lot and a five-screen cinema in downtown Santa Barbara, closed. Just one week before, on the last day of 2010, the sprawling Barnes & Noble bookstore across the street from it, in the chicest mall downtown, had also shut its doors. Then the Borders near the town's large public university closed.
Online retailers and e-readers had become ubiquitous. But the little bookstore called Chaucer’s just kept growing and growing, housing more books — 150,000 and counting — in its happily overcrowded aisles than the central megastore had carried in a space six times as big.
How could this happen? Well, 24 of Chaucer's 26 employees work there full-time, many of them for more than 10 years. They have an investment in the concern that the part-time workers in big-box bookstores usually do not.
People come there just to browse through a carnival-like children’s room of books and toys and games. They come there to meet dates, to receive personal commendations, often to buy nothing at all. They come there as to a community center, a sanctuary or a trusted friend’s living room (albeit a living room where Salman Rushdie is reading from his latest, and sometime-local Sue Grafton is sitting around for four hours to chat with her many fans). Chaucer’s sells no coffee or remainders, but it offers teachers 20% discounts and holds two book fairs a year to raise money for local schools.
So perhaps the story of the bookstore stands for something larger than mere books. Most of us can get anything we want online these days — except for the tactile reassurance of human contact, the chance to do nothing at all and a sense of connection that persists even after the electricity has gone off and the batteries run out. Convenience is not always an ideal substitute for companionship, and speed isn’t infallibly the fastest way to well-being. Even the $2 — or $10 — discounts that corporations can offer may exact a cost at some deeper level that sometimes we find ourselves paying and paying.” [….]
Pico’s essay is adapted from a forthcoming volume of writers “celebra[ting] their favorite places to browse, read, and shop,” My Bookstore, edited by Ronald Rice (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 2012)
Addendum: In a popular online forum for local news and other regional stuff, several readers have taken offence at Pico’s reference to the “wrong side of town” in the opening sentence, a touchy subject in a city populated with not a few folks possessed of an overweening economic self-interest in real estate valuations and chock-full of citizens sensitive to crime statistics generally and the effects of a considerable amount of geographically-based (e.g., ‘Westside,’ 'Eastside’) gang banging (in the sense of participation in gang-related activities from graffiti vandalism to violence of one kind or another) in particular; or in a city economically dependent on tourism or with demeaning and condescending class- and race-based sentiments regularly emanating from the literal and figurative heights of the socio-economically and politically advantaged (as well as from those who daily dream of joining their ranks). But I’m confident that Pico was not referring to the “wrong side of town” in that sense, but rather in the manner befitting one considering the ideal location for a bookstore of this sort, the most successful of which have been located historically in the downtown area (hence the last clause of the sentence in question: ‘where few visitors were likely to stumble upon it’). Indeed, across the street from the city library in the heart of downtown sits California’s oldest used bookstore, The Book Den.
It's been a while since I've blogged about virtual classrooms, and lately I've been wondering about the class participation levels in online versus offline spaces.
I've taken some non-law courses lately both in the virtual space and in real life classrooms - yes, they still exist even outside law schools.
In my recent experiences in classes that have a participation component, I've noticed that in the virtual classroom, more students seem to post on every thread of a discussion, while in the real space classroom (due to physical and temporal constraints), not everyone weighs in on every discussion point. I'm wondering it that's a good or a bad thing. Allowing people a whole week to weigh in on each discussion point and give them all the time and space to provide a lengthy response certainly encourages individual thinking about a problem. However, it can lose the spontenaity and detailed interaction of in-class discussions, and can end up with a bunch of individual students writing mini-essays on an issue without paying much attention to what others have contributed.
In cases where students are geographically dispersed, the online interactions are necessarily the main discussion forum, although they can be augmented with real time online chat sessions. But I'm wondering what is lost if more educational initiatives are moved partly or wholly online. I love the flexibility of online learning and the ability to interact with students around the country and around the world. But I wonder what we lose in the absence of face-to-face discussions.
Peter Fitzgerald (Stetson and Law Commission of England and Wales) reminds me that there is apparently only one Civil War memorial outside of the US; it is in Edinburgh. I must confess that I have been to that remarkable city several times, but I never noticed the memorial.. The striking back-story is here. http://www.scottish-american.net/us-civil-war-memorial-edinburgh.html. You can see the memorial here. It is very lovely.
The Institute for Global Law & Policy (IGLP) at Harvard Law School announces its first biannual international conference, "New Directions in Global Thought," to be held in Boston on June 3-4, 2013. According to its website, IGLP "is a collaborative faculty effort to nurture innovative approaches to global policy in the face of a legal and institutional architecture manifestly ill-equipped to address our most urgent global challenges." Panel and paper proposals on governance, inequality, conflict, and the rule of law are invited. More information is available here.
(The conference is scheduled to occur immediately after the 2013 Law & Society meeting in Boston, which I blogged about here.)
I'm very much looking forward to attending the 25th Annual meeting of the Southern Intellectual
History Circle next February 21-23, 2013 in Macon, Georgia. Professor Beth Barton Schweiger of the University of Arkansas, who is chair of the SIHC's Program Committee, has provided the following information: Michael O’Brien, Professor of American Intellectual History,
Cambridge University (author of Conjectures of Order, among many other works), will give the keynote address on Thursday evening, with
panel responses Friday morning. There will be two additional panels on
Friday. The final day is devoted to two separate two-hour discussions in a
considers innovative work in a broad array of disciplines on the American
South, including history, literary studies, Caribbean, Native American and
African American studies, anthropology, and legal history. Each year SIHC
convenes on a different campus. SIHC 2014 will meet at the University of
Arkansas, Fayetteville. (And last year the conference met at William and Mary.)
Circle participants can lodge at Hilton Garden Inn, located on
Mercer’s campus. Macon is easily accessible by way of the Jackson-Hartfield
International Airport in Atlanta, with Groome shuttle service from Atlanta to
A Southern Intellectual History Circle page has been established on
Updates to the program and information about the Circle will be published
there. The Southern Intellectual History Circle invites scholars in all fields to join them.
And if I might be permitted to add a personal note: I attended SIHC for the first time last year; it was a fabulous conference (we were at William and Mary), which is a terrific place to talk about southern history -- and particularly ideas in the old south.
The University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke
School of Law announces a call for submissions for its 2013 Law Review
symposium on “Expanding the Civil Right to Counsel: 50 Years After
Gideon.” Articles presented during
the symposium will be published in the Law Review’s annual symposium
issue. Abstracts are due by
November 15th (details here).
It happened. Yesterday, a Las Vegas business owner
called in to a radio program to report that he had fired 22 employees because
of President Obama’s reelection. The caller explained:
“I never tell them which way to vote. I believe in the free
system we have, I believe in the right to choose who they want to be president,
but . . . I can’t wait around anymore, I have to be proactive.”
In the past several weeks, there’s been some discussion in
the blogosphere over whether it is unlawful for an employer to attempt to influence employee voting choice by threatening adverse
employment actions over the results of an election. In October, billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson was
criticized for instructing casino managers to distribute an “issues guide” to employees
that suggested that the President’s positions on taxes, health care, and energy
policy would threaten jobs while Mitt Romney’s positions on these same issues
would “lead to working-class prosperity.” The Koch brothers similarly
distributed materials threatening Georgia Pacific employees’ job security if Obama was reelected.
Are politically-motivated adverse employment actions ever legitimate? Where's the line between a reasonable business decision and political motivation? How would plaintiffs ever prove that impermissible considerations went into the decision?
It remains to be seen whether mass layoffs like the one in
Las Vegas will be contested in court. The law on most of these types of
employer communications is inconsistent and untested, so it’s interesting to
consider (and would make a great student law review topic (hint hint)).
I love history written from the bottom up -- particularly intellectual history, even though these days I'm mostly writing about the legal ideas (and actions) of the wealthy and well-educated and powerful. I plan to change that soon.
The question whether unjust dispossessions of land perpetrated on whole peoples in the past should be corrected by restitution in kind, that is, granting reparations in the form of returning land to the dispossessed former owners or their present-day successors is substantially more complex than the questions posed by other forms of reparations. I argue that the complexities involved in all of the situations where claims for land reparations are made to correct historic injustices give us good reasons to be hesitant about granting such claims. At the same time, we should not dismiss such claims out of hand. Reparations which take a form other than restitution of dispossessed land may be both necessary and sufficient to establish a public marker of acknowledgment.
The UNIVERSITY OF DETROIT MERCY SCHOOL OF LAW invites
nominations and applications for the position of Dean of the School of
Law. As Michigan's largest, most comprehensive private University, the
University of Detroit Mercy is an independent Catholic institution of higher
education sponsored by the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) and
the Religious Sisters of Mercy. The University seeks qualified
candidates who will contribute to the University's mission, diversity, and
excellence of its academic community. The University of Detroit Mercy is
an Equal Opportunity Affirmative Action Employer with a diverse faculty and
student body and welcomes persons of all backgrounds. The full
announcement and profile are available on the School of Law's website,
available here. http://www.law.udmercy.edu/index.php/aboutusmain/448-school-of-law-dean-search-2
I generally try to stay out of talk of politics (other than nineteenth century politics, of course!) But I want to reflect a little on the 2012 election and its implication for understanding history. First off, I heard a bunch of comparisons of Obama to FDR -- but you may recall that FDR won 60% of the vote in his first re-election, in 1936 (the year that the Literary Digest's poll was so far off). Wow, polls have improved a lot in quality over time.
Given the triumph of quantitative reasoning over impressions of momentum, I wonder if this will cause nineteenth century historians to shift their study even more to analysis of voting rather than analysis of political rhetoric? Will there be a resurgence of interest in what used to be called the "new political history"? Will there be more interest in how political rhetoric relates to political reality (and economic and demographic reality as well.) To bring this closer to home: What is the relationship between the UNC student literary society debate in 1830 over whether it is ”expedient for government to erect monuments to perpetuate the memory of her departed worthies” with the re-election of Andrew Jackson in 1832? Or Henry Laurens Pinkney's address opposing nullification and votes in Congress on South Carolina's efforts at nullification?
Moving back further in time, I've been meaning to comment on Representative Ryan's repeated references on the stump to the principle on which our country was founded: that rights come from nature and God rather than government. I actually would have thought if you were going to pick one principle that it would be that all people are created equal.
On November 5, 2012
the Case Western Reserve Law Review broke new ground in the digital
pre-release of the first issue of Volume 63. The new volume is
redesigned from the ground up to support tablet reading. A digital
edition of the entire issue is available here.
The Law Review also
released the second episode of the first-of-its-kind podcast series
Below the Line featuring articles published in the Law Review on
iTunes. The Law Review created the student-produced
series to showcase important legal scholarship published in the Law
Review, to generate and disseminate commentary on articles, and to offer
a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the research process. On each program
the author offers a summary of the article and
answers questions from the Law Review. In addition, the Law Review
invites leading authorities in the relevant field of law to offer their
commentary on the article. The second program, Below the Line 63:1,
features Professor Clay Calvert (Florida) and his
article To Defer or Not to Defer? Deference and Its Differential Impact on First Amendment Rights in the Roberts Court
with commentary by Professor Mark Tushnet (Harvard) and Professor Steve
Shiffrin (Cornell). The series is available on iTunes here.
More on Civil War Memorials in the North
Between Sandy and illness, I have not been able to post for a while, but here goes. Juliet Moringiello reminded me of the Civil War memorial in Lancaster, Pa. It is a stunner; perhaps the best I have ever seen. One interesting feature of the monument is a memorial to sailors in the Northern Navy, a tribute I do not believe I have seen anywhere else. (The Navy played a decisive role in the Civil War, of course; it was not just the blockade, but the ability to move troops along the periphery, a feat Admiral Mahon must have admired.) I cannot find pictures other than these on Wikipedia, which are pretty striking.
As I look at these monuments, I am struck by the beauty of the sculptures. Notice the lovely flowing lines and the gestures of the pictured combatants. American sculpture certainly had reached a high point by the end of the 19th century, although I am not aware of any serious art commentary on point. Nevertheless, the Civil War monuments often display stunning beauty.
The final tally of destruction from these two storms is not yet in, but there are some striking differences already.
Some of these stem from the physical differences between New Orleans and New York/New Jersey. As my wife says of her native city, New Orleans is a bowl that sits below sea level. Once the Katrina water came in, it wasn’t going to leave; instead, it had to be pumped out. Katrina didn’t blow by — she stayed, as a practical matter, for months. In distinction, the damaged areas of New York and New Jersey are mostly above sea level (at least for now). With the exception of basements, tunnels and other underground facilities, when the storm left, the water drained away by gravity. Consequently and fortunately, the recovery from Sandy should be more rapid if, for no other reason, as that recovery efforts were able to start immediately.
Another difference worth noting is the comparative effectiveness of the local governments. As Huey Long said about his own state, “One of these days the people of Louisiana are going to get good government — and they ain't going to like it.” Neither Louisiana nor New Orleans had the reputation of having a particularly effective government in place before Katrina and the storm did nothing to challenge this conclusion. Both New Jersey and New York, on the other hand, appear in normal times to provide relatively competent government services. All of the state and local government leaders were there immediately after Sandy and had started to work on recovery. It seems very unlikely that the U.S. Army will have to be sent in to gain control of the situation as local police and state-commanded National Guard units were immediately deployed and have maintain order.
But there is also a developing similarity that is disturbing. In the response to Katrina, many commented that support and money for restoration was far more available along the gulf coast of Mississippi than it was to the completely damaged City of New Orleans. The argument was made that casinos and rich people’s vacation homes were more important than housing for the less fortunate. Again with Sandy, Wall Street and other Manhattan neighborhoods seem to have gotten priority over less well off regions in the outer boroughs.
I can’t say that I have drawn any firm conclusions from the comparison of these two devastating storms. What has been welcome is the fact that the lessons learned seven years ago in Katrina do not seem to have been lost as Sandy struck. Both the government and private sector response to Sandy has been immediate, and the pace of the overall recovery is heartening. We can only hope that the nor'easter expected today will not prove to be a major hindrance.
My friends at Oklahoma City University have just announced that they're moving the law school downtown from their campus on 23rd street. This is really exciting news; I think this'll open up some nice opportunities for students. The building they're moving to is really beautiful -- and historic: the old Central High School, built in 1910. It was designed by Andrew Solomon Layton, who designed such other Oklahoma City landmarks as the Skirvin Hotel. The school anticipates being in their new location by the fall of 2014. This is really exciting -- I so love Oklahoma City's downtown, but this is news that seems destined to make me feel old. Because when I arrived at Oklahoma City in the fall of 1994 to start my teaching career they had just opened their current law school building. I hope to have a chance to make it back to Oklahoma City soon -- maybe even before their new building opens, but certainly when it does. It's such a beautiful state and there's so much legal history yet to explore there.
I thought I might open a thread for people's thoughts on last night's election. I was tuning in and out throughout the night as I'm sure many others were, although the vote in Texas wasn't all that exciting.
I was interested in the record number of women elected into the senate - and Senator Elizabeth Warren from MA will be interesting to follow.
I heard that people were already tweeting about Hillary 2016, but now I'm wondering about Warren 2016.
Last night, I also heard one state legalized marijuana for the first time and the first openly gay senator was elected.
It was also the first "Twitter" election and apparently a tweet of the victory hug between Barack and Michelle Obama knocked Justin Beiber off the top tweet spot!
I am sorry to hear (via Harvard University Press' twitter feed, @Harvard_Press) that distinguished historian Thomas McCraw has passed away. The Boston Globeis reporting that he passed away on November 3. McCraw was born in Corinth, Mississippi and attended Ole Miss on a Naval ROTC scholarship, then served in the Navy and later attended the University of Wisconsin for his Ph.D. in history. He later taught for some year at UT-Austin before moving to Harvard Business School in 1976. He is best known for his book Prophets of Regulation: Charles Francis Adams, Louis D. Brandeis, James M, Landis and Alfred E. Kahn, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1985.