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The Odd Clauses: Understanding the Constitution Through Ten of Its Most Curious Provisions

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Overview

If the United States Constitution were a zoo, and the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth amendments were a lion, a giraffe, and a panda bear, respectively, then The Odd Clauses would be a special exhibit of shrews, wombats, and bat-eared foxes. Past the ever-popular monkey house and lion cages, Boston University law professor Jay Wexler leads us on a tour of the lesser-known clauses of the Constitution, the clauses that, like the yeti crab or platypus, rarely draw the big audiences but are worth a closer look. Just as...

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The Odd Clauses: Understanding the Constitution Through Ten of Its Most Curious Provisions

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Overview

If the United States Constitution were a zoo, and the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth amendments were a lion, a giraffe, and a panda bear, respectively, then The Odd Clauses would be a special exhibit of shrews, wombats, and bat-eared foxes. Past the ever-popular monkey house and lion cages, Boston University law professor Jay Wexler leads us on a tour of the lesser-known clauses of the Constitution, the clauses that, like the yeti crab or platypus, rarely draw the big audiences but are worth a closer look. Just as ecologists remind us that even a weird little creature like a shrew can make all the difference between a healthy environment and an unhealthy one, understanding the odd clauses offers readers a healthier appreciation for our constitutional system. With Wexler as your expert guide through this jurisprudence jungle, you’ll see the Constitution like you’ve never seen it before.
 
Including its twenty-seven amendments, the Constitution contains about eight thousand words, but the well-known parts make up only a tiny percentage of the entire document. The rest is a hodgepodge of provisions, clauses, and rules, including some historically anachronistic, some absurdly detailed, and some crucially important but too subtle or complex to get popular attention. This book is about constitutional provisions like Section 2 of the Twenty-first Amendment, the letters of marque and reprisal clause, and the titles of nobility clauses—those that promote key democratic functions in very specific, and therefore seemingly quite odd, ways. Each of the book’s ten chapters shines a much-deserved light on one of the Constitution’s odd clauses—its history, its stories, its controversies, its possible future.
 
The Odd Clauses puts these intriguing beasts on display and allows them to exhibit their relevance to our lives, our government’s structure, and the integrity of our democracy.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“I love this book. It is, believe it or not, an utterly entertaining constitutional law book. I am blown away by Wexler's comedic skills and his ability to make the usually dry subject matter so funny and readable.”—Gary Gulman, Finalist, Last Comic Standing and Guest, Late Night With David Letterman and The Tonight Show

“In Holy Hullabaloos, Jay Wexler took us along on what he called a "road trip" to some of the most important places connected to the First Amendment's religion clauses. This time, in The Odd Clauses, Wexler exits off the highway to take us on a tour of some back roads of constitutional law: places scholars and the public seldom visit like the Bill of Attainder Clause or the Third Amendment (which prohibits quartering of troops in private houses during peacetime, in case you didn't know.) The result is magical: you'll have so much fun reading about these unsung constitutional provisions that you won't realize until the trip is over how much you've learned.”— Pamela S. Karlan, Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law

“The book provides a fresh vantage point from which to consider the Constitution.”—Choice Magazine

“Professor Wexler dispenses his expertise on the Constitution with a light touch, imparting many lasting insights and a few belly laughs along the way. What a delight to discover that our founding document is not only brilliant, but brilliantly weird.”—Ben H. Winters, author of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters

“A know-it-all's treasure trove, a cabinet of constitutional curiosities, The Odd Clauses touches down on NASA, Ellis Island, even Saturday Night Live. Jay Wexler is brilliantly snarky, erudite and comedic.”—Julianna Baggott, author of Girl Talk and Pure

“The maniacs who run the modern American political process seem determined to reduce our Constitution to a electoral fetish object. Thank God, then, that we have Jay Wexler, whose wise and funny treatise reminds us that the Constitution is, like the men who drafted it, brilliant but imperfect. I learned more reading this book than in my entire college career. This isn't saying much given my college career, I realize. But I now plan to attend law school. It's that good.”—Steve Almond, author of Candyfreak and God Bless America

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807000908
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 11/1/2011
  • Pages: 248
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Jay Wexler is a professor at the Boston University School of Law, where he has taught since 2001. Prior to teaching, Wexler studied religion at the University of Chicago Divinity School and law at Stanford Law School. After law school, he worked as a clerk to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the U.S. Supreme Court and then as a lawyer in the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice. He has published nearly two dozen academic articles, essays, and reviews, as well as over forty short stories and humor pieces in places like the Boston Globe, Spy, Mental Floss, and McSweeney’s. His first book was Holy Hullabaloos.

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Customer Reviews

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( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2013

    Garbage

    Terrible treatment of what should be an interesting subject. I'm sorry I wasted good money on this piece of trash.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2013

    Waste of time!

    I found this book poorly organized. I might have enjoyed it more had the author been less sarcastic and gave less evidence of his left leaning bias.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2013

    Poor book

    I wish I had read the reviews before I bought this. I will be more careful in the future.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 3, 2012

    Check it out...from your library

    I concur with anonymous. It is unfortunate that an author would take so little pride in his work as to print something as mundane and uninspired as Jay Wexler. I bought this book with the hope of an enjoyable, yet intelecutaly stimulating read, but found neither.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2012

    Doesn't Recommend

    This book is absolute drivel. Far from being witty or humorous, Wexler's writing is not only obviously skewed and his opinions are blatantly stated within the text, but there are moments of obvious historical inaccuracies. On page 28 for example Wexler states that "In 1816 President James Madison brought the issue [the standard of weights and measures in the country] up again with Congress, and Congress once again asked the Secretary of State to prepare a report. This time the Secretary of State was John Quincy Adams." In 1816 under the Presidency of James Madison the Secretary of State was James Monroe, not John Quincy Adams.
    Because this was written so early in the text everything else was suddenly suspect and the entire book became unreliable, its argument lost all credence, and every assertion required extra research to uphold validity.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 1, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    The Odd Clauses, by Jay Wexler, provided a fascinating and very

    The Odd Clauses, by Jay Wexler, provided a fascinating and very accessable journey through ten of The Constitution's more obscure provisions.
    A professor at Boston University School of Law, Mr Wexler writes with a large dollop of snarky political asides, that I found in no way affected my understanding of the difficul subject matter.

    Seperation of Powers; Weights and Measures; Recess Appointments; Original Jurisdiction; Natural Born Citizen; Federalism; Letters of Marque and Reprisal; Title of Nobility and Privacy clauses are all treated thoroughly enough that even a political neophyte like myself grasped a basic understanding of these parts of our Constitution with out making me feel stupid.
    I came away with a much greater respect and admiration for the framers of the Constitution who were prescient to include these clauses to ensure a more free and open society than what they had left in Great Britain.
    My interest has been piqued enough that I will pursue more on this and similar subjects.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2012

    Ant historian should check it out

    Witty, informative, entertaining, educational and enlightening.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 27, 2011

    An informative, quick and humorous read.

    The US Constitution can be a very sleepy read except for maybe those folks who make their living from in its interpretation and application. Even under those circumstances, I'm sure it's a far cry from riviting.
    Wexler does an excellent job of taking some of the least read and or understood clauses of the Constitution and makes them not only fun but pertinent. His stand on each is very obviously left of center which of course allows for even more fun given the right and far right are so tied up in themselves that nothing is fun and everything is threatening and insulting. I loved it and would like to see more serious legal subject matter addressed by this author.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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