ISBN is

978-0-201-62274-4 / 9780201622744

It's All the Rage: Crime and Culture

by

Publisher:Perseus Books

Edition:Hardcover

Language:English

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About the book:

The core question asked in It's All the Rage casts a long shadow: "Who deserves to die?" This is a book about the death penalty. "Knowledge about it," writes Wendy Kaminer, "is not widely shared--how it is applied and to whom, what it costs and accomplishes. Public perceptions about the death penalty--that it is cheaper to execute people than imprison them for life, that appeals in a capital cases are a great burden to the courts--are almost invariably wrong." Fear, rage, and desire for a simple solution fuel the debate.

Kaminer presents the heated debates on capital punishment, as well as an examination--historically, judicially, ethically--of the phenomenon. Offering a unique viewpoint, she points out the gap between the recovery movement and its soft ethics ("we're all victims of dysfunctional families; feel my pain") and the hard standards applied, for example, to those on death row. How can we sanction whining and irresponsibility in the noncriminal segment of society and cruel and unusual punishment in the other?

Hers is a humor riddled with impatience, straining to hold onto ethics in an ethically slippery time. On the nature of public support for the death penalty: "People don't trust the Postal Service to deliver the mail, or the IRS to enforce the tax code with fairness and good sense; they don't trust the Parking Violations Bureau to process traffic tickets or refrain from towing cars for no good reason. Yet, out of fear or fury or wishful thinking about deterrence, they trust the criminal justice system with the power to put people to death. What is perhaps most notable about the death penalty is its irrationality." This is a strong example of Kaminer's "cutting through the B.S." style. The subject is grim; one hesitates to use the word "entertaining." But It's All the Rage is. Indeed, Kaminer's voice pulls the reader through contradictory points of view; commentaries on some of the decade's more sensational court cases, studies, polls and the inimitable Kaminer extrapolations. This can sometimes feel like a wild ride, but it's well worth the motion discomfort. --Hollis Giammatteo

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