“It goes to character. You don’t realize how important character is in the highest office in the land until you don’t have it.” Adam Schiff made this declaration during the Impeachment trial of Donald Trump on January 20, 2020 (p. 23). Marjorie Garber is a Shakespeare expert, but she spends a lot her latest book writing about Trump, Pence, and Brett Kavanaugh. Of course, Garber is quick to quote Shakespeare on character to highlight her thoughts that lack of character leads to disaster both for the individual and the community.
I’m a fan of books that explore intellectual history so Character checks a lot of the boxes that make a book compelling to me. Garber supplies plenty of historical examples of character and character failures. She links thoughts about character in the Past with those dealing with our present political nightmare.
My only quibble is Garber’s occasional forays into physiognomy–the “science” of determining character by the bumps on your head–and other wacko theories caused me to become impatient for a return to a Shakespeare reference or an another example of a catastrophic decision by the Trump Administration. If you’re looking for a wide-ranging discussion of character, Marjorie Garber’s new book covers all the bases. GRADE: A
Table of Contents
Introduction: Character Witnesses 3
1 Testing It: Politics, Sports, Celebrity 23
2 Teaching It: Tales Out of School 57
3 Claiming It: The Idea of National Character 131
4 Reading It: The Rise, Fall, and (Un)Surprising Return of Phrenology 195
5 Naming It: Psychoanalysis, Psychology, and the Emergence of “Personality” 240
6 Seeing It: Art, Physiognomy, Photography, Gesture, Science 271
7 Character Types: Greeks, Geeks, Nerds-and Little Miss Hug 322
8 The Difference Gender Makes: Mettle, Spunk, and the Right Stuff 349
Afterword: The Character Effect 375