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Book Report: Three's the charm this week

A reprint of 2007's "Going to Extremes" by Harvard professor Cass Sunstein (Oxford University Press, $15.95 paper) couldn't have appeared at a better time than right now.

Here as I write this review, we've been at a stand-off since Governor Scott Walker's assault on collective bargaining. Walker should read "Going to Extremes" and so should the Democrats in exile over in Illinois.

Debate the issue, Sunstein advises, rather than curling up with your like-minded compatriots.

Sunstein holds that when like-minded people talk to one another, they tend to become more extreme in their views than they were before. For instance, when like minded liberals get together to talk about climate change, they end up more alarmed about climate change.

When conservatives gather to discuss same-sex unions, they oppose them even more.

So we probably shouldn't arrest the defecting senators at the Illinois border, but welcome them home to Madison.


"Ol' Man River

He must know something

But don't say nothing

He just keeps rolling

He keeps on rolling along."

--Oscar Hammerstein

If you want to finally put the I-35W bridge collapse to bed, there's a new book out that puts to rest many of the controversies exposed by the popular press when the bridge first collapsed in 2007.

It's entitled "The City, The River, The Bridge: Before and After the Minneapolis Bridge Collapse," Patrick Nunnally, ed. (University of Minnesota Press, $22.95 paper), a collection of essays by University of Minnesota professors and administrators, who held a symposium soon after the collapse to determine if the university's academic presence near the site might shed scholarly light on what happened and its consequences in the aftermath.

So this is not just a book about why it collapsed or whose fault it was that it did collapse. Various essays by experts in the field cover everything from the manner in which America has abused the Mighty Mississippi to how the neighborhoods around the collapse were affected. It's chock full of photos and drawings by popular photographers and engineers.

It's an interesting book, which would have better served the reader had it included a bibliography rather than depending on footnotes only to reveal sources and also an index. Strange that a university publication eschewed the two warhorses of scholarship.


Gail Rosenblum writes a column for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which often deals with interpersonal relationship. Now her thoughts are out with a charming book of essays cum autobiography, "A Hundred Lives Since Then" (Nodin Press, $19.95 paper).

I've only met Rosenblum once, and she seemed pleasant enough. Newspaper columnists aren't always the most pleasant generous people you'll meet. I know because I am one.

Now that I've read her book, I'd like to know her better. In every essay she proves to be a "good person." She's a good daughter, a good mother. She's good at honest self-assessment.

She's even good to her ex-husband. Each essay demonstrates her humanity without sentimentality. I especially liked a little essay, in which she discusses the problem of when and where to have sex if you've got a six- and an eight-year-old:

" husband and I are in big trouble. Apparently, we're supposed to be in the same room at the same time.

"When we do end up in bed at the same time, we are rarely alone. Chances are good that if that man o' mine reaches over and touches something soft, it'll be Peanut, the Beanie Baby. And when he whispers 'take 'em off,' I respond immediately. The wool socks are off. But everything else stays on in this Godforsaken Minnesota Siberia....

"So forget lingerie. How about a 'guest appearance' in the shower? Get over it! We have a clawfoot tub. Any attempt at a coy entrance would likely result in seriously bodily harm to him, me, or Rubber Duckie."

"Maybe we are in a rut, always having sex at the same time. (What can we do? Our anniversary falls on the same date every year....

"Sex? Sure, we'll get around to it -- when the kids are in college."

Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554.