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The Enigma of Clarence Thomas

Narrated by: Larry Herron
Length: 9 hrs and 51 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (14 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The Enigma of Clarence Thomas is a groundbreaking revisionist take on the Supreme Court justice everyone knows about but no one knows.

Most people can tell you two things about Clarence Thomas: Anita Hill accused him of sexual harassment, and he almost never speaks from the bench. Here are some things they don’t know: Thomas is a black nationalist. In college he memorized the speeches of Malcolm X. He believes white people are incurably racist.

In the first examination of its kind, Corey Robin - one of the foremost analysts of the right - delves deeply into both Thomas’s biography and his jurisprudence, masterfully reading his Supreme Court opinions against the backdrop of his autobiographical and political writings and speeches. The hidden source of Thomas’s conservative views, Robin shows, is a profound skepticism that racism can be overcome. Thomas is convinced that any government action on behalf of African-Americans will be tainted by racism; the most African-Americans can hope for is that white people will get out of their way.

There’s a reason, Robin concludes, why liberals often complain that Thomas doesn’t speak but seldom pay attention when he does. Were they to listen, they’d hear a racial pessimism that often sounds similar to their own. Cutting across the ideological spectrum, this unacknowledged consensus about the impossibility of progress is key to understanding today’s political stalemate.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2019 Corey Robin (P)2019 Macmillan Audio

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Fascinating book but too many mispronunciations

Dear Audible: Please use your influence with audiobooks producers to ensure that narrators get basic pronunciations right. I enjoyed Larry Herron's warm and clear voice, but he mispronounced way too many words. For example, "peremptory" was repeatedly pronounced "pre-emptory," "mores" was pronounced phonetically, and a number of fairly common names were mispronounced. While this might not be a big deal to some, it's fingernails across a chalkboard to me and suggests a lack of care. It also sometimes sends me running to the dictionary to make sure I haven't been mispronouncing those words all these years. IMO, mispronounced words/names in an audiobook are about as bad as misspellings in print books. Come on, man!

That said, I appreciate Audible's providing a PDF of footnotes and I hope it will be better about including notes and visual materials that have not been included with many other audiobooks.

As to the content of the book, I've always been interested in what fuels Thomas' unconventional and sometimes ugly jurisprudence. Mainly using Thomas' speeches, articles, and opinions, Robin sets out some provocative but well-supported theories. In Robin's view, Thomas is intent on destroying liberal remedies to racial injustice because they only exacerbate the problem. As one remedy, Thomas generalizes his grandfather's response to racism by being a good capitalist and patriarch as the prescription for how all other black people (or black males) should conduct themselves, apparently without much regard for their own widely varying circumstances. As Robin puts it, "At the heart of Justice Thomas’s jurisprudence, then, is a belief that the market is effective and politics is pointless." That's actually a relatively tame notion of Robin's and there's much more; please read reviews such as those in the NYT and NR for far better analyses.

Thomas' life story is in some ways compelling and his views are important in the debate on race, but AFAIC, it's a shame that someone with such a bleak and severe outlook on race, law, and society is sitting on our Supreme Court. Though I'm not entirely sold on Robin's views, this book is engaging, informative and very readable (or listenable) given the sometimes complex subject matter.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Legalese

I am not disappointed with the substance or the book's theses. I do think it may be inaccessible to those who don't have political science or law degrees or are law students. Had Robin gone to the trouble to offer some interpretations here and again, it would have been so much more.

Further, the narrator regularly mispronounces words. It's like reading a print book with multiple misspellings.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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The single worst book ever written.

This book is nothing more than propaganda, full of lies and ignominious statements about Clarence Thomas. The performance is amateur at best, and the book was written poorly. The author should be ashamed of this body of work.

2 of 6 people found this review helpful

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The Enigma Black Militant or Conservative?

1st look ever at ABM (Angry Black Man) as conflicted as I am. The difference is Justice Thomas is in a position to make meaningful changes... Where I am not but we both lost in the terrain in front of us! 1st time i had an Auditable book filled with so many dead air space.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful