March 5, 2007

Overton’s message is in his subtitle. He’s not writing about a one-time election theft or even a 2000/2004 double whammy. A professor of law at George Washington University, Overton details multiple ways in which officials of both parties are manipulating the election process to keep incumbents in office. In one chapter he discusses his service on the Carter-Baker commission on election reform and his dissent from the commission’s recommendations for voter identification.

Based on the Beecher Lectures delivered at Yale Divinity School in 2002, Shepherd’s chapters are sprinkled liberally with poetry, including some citations of his own poems. For Shepherd, retired pastor of First Presbyterian Church in New York City, the sermon is an art form that participates in the original act of creation. What he finds often lacking in preaching is a sense of wonder and delight. The final chapter includes three of his own sermons.

Lawrence and Hermia first meet in the early 1960s when they are students at Harvard and Radcliffe, but a long-term relationship is not in the cards. Somewhat implausibly, they meet up again on a Mediterranean cruise years later when they’re in their 60s. The novel flips back and forth between their lives since college and their burgeoning relationship in their senior years. Lawrence’s sister says to him, “You fall in love once only, . . . and all the rest is playacting, a way to pass the time.” Speaking of passing the time, this would make a good beach book for summer.