CRB: Missing the point

We round the corner on our celebration of the week of Charles — Charles Kesler, editor of the Claremont Review of Books and recipient of one of this year’s Bradley Prizes on Tuesday evening in Washington, DC — with our third preview from the new (Spring) issue of the magazine that is hot off the press. Buy an annual subscription including immediate online access here for the modest price of $19.95. Forgive me for repeating myself: it is an invaluable magazine for those of us who love trustworthy essays on, and reviews of books about, politics, history, literature, and culture.

For our previews today and tomorrow I have chosen book reviews. The reviews are by scholars who speak with authority about interesting books on important subjects. The book under discussion in the review today is Madison’s Hand, Mary Sarah Bilder’s 2015 study of Madison’s notes on the Constitutional Convention. As Jennifer Schuessler noted in the New York Times, Bilder “uses both digital technology and traditional textual analysis to study how James Madison continuously revised his influential notes on the event, thus sharply challenging their claim to be an objective contemporaneous account.” A winner of the 2016 Bancroft Prize, Bilder’s book was reviewed favorably just about everywhere.

Professor Rahe is a deeply learned historian. His first book — Republics Ancient and Modern, now divided into three volumes — is an astonishing work of scholarship. Among his subsequent books are studies of Sparta and Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift, a study of Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Tocqueville. His scholarship approaches the omniscient. Michael Zuckert aptly observed of Professor Rahe: “He seems to have read or at least cited in his notes every primary and secondary text of even tangential relevance to his topics.”

Professor Rahe arrives late to Bilder’s party and has avoided the punch bowl. The reviews of Bilder’s book interested me in it at the time it was published. I held out to see what the CRB would have to say. It only took three years to find out, but it was worth waiting for. I am grateful to have Professor Rahe’s authoritative judgment on Bilder’s book and much more in “Missing the point.”

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