2009 • $34.00 • 302 pp • paper
This is a book of biographical essays on lawyers and other individuals whose careers intertwined with law, public policy and politics. This collection of essays may especially appeal to many readers who may be daunted by huge biographical tomes, and who thereby welcome shorter works that convey much of the essence and flavor of prominent personalities and their careers. People covered include: William Beveridge (founder of the welfare state); Tommy Corcoran & Ben Cohen (key aides to FDR); Dwight Eisenhower; Felix Frankfurter; Averell Harriman; Pat Moynihan; Belle Moskowitz (key aide to Al Smith); Kenny O’Donnell (key aide to JFK); Bayard Rustin (key aide to Martin Luther King); Adlai Stevenson; Joe Tumulty (key aide to Woodrow Wilson); the Wright Brothers; and others.
“The essays were a great pleasure to read, and not only because they make interesting and well-founded points about historical materials. More important, they reflect the sort of general culture which is these days, alas, all too seldom brought to bear on scholarship. We have become so narrowly professional that I sometimes despair of carrying on a communication across disciplinary lines. This is something which the O’Connells clearly understand how to do.” — Stanley Katz, Princeton University, President-Emeritus, American Council of Learned Societies“The authors are brothers, one in public administration and the other a lawyer. But there are no signs of sibling rivalry; indeed, the seamlessness of the style might suggest they are twins rather than mere siblings. As to the subjects, they include, among others, Truman Capote, Winston Churchill, Karl Marx, the Wright brothers, and the authors' evident favourite Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Wisely, the authors seize on defining movements, e.g., the Wright brother's patient and thoughtful contributions to aeronautics set against their litigation to prevent anyone else from profiting from their work. The authors' forewood says that history is the most enjoyable reading and that biography is the most enjoyable form of history. These essays do nothing to contradict that claim.” — Alan Ryan, Oxford University, frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books“It's daunting to imagine an author tackling Winston Churchill and Bayard Rustin, JFK aide Kenny O'Donnell and New Deal uberlawyer Tommy Corocoran, in the same pages, but the O'Connell brothers have done it in this intriguing collection of historical essays. The subjects are people of achievement across two continents, famous and less so, who shared a passion for power and service in law, government and politics. The authors offer no overarching theme to connect them, but give their readers plenty of grist to construct one of their own. Read, absorb and enjoy.” — Margaret Warner, PBS Newshour