Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Essays Provide a Satisfying Menu of Tasty Insights

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Essays Provide a Satisfying Menu of Tasty Insights

Article excerpt

VALUE JUDGMENTS By Ellen Goodman 354 pages, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $22 Reviewed by Colleen Kelly Warren

ONE OF THE great joys of reading a book of essays is that it lasts. Essays are food for thought, meant to be consumed in smaller portions than novels. A reader may gorge on novels, staying up all night to finish, to satisfy the need for closure, denouement. But a collection of essays, depending upon its scope, its heft and breadth of thought, may stretch over weeks, even months. One does not generally stay up all night reading essays, even if they are the well-crafted, thoughtful perspectives written by Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman. But one may well stay up mulling over an idea that continues to nudge the mind after a good essay has lodged there.

Goodman tackles the stuff we call news and the substantive issues we face in our own everyday lives. Whether she is writing about the reproductive rights claimed by an innovative group of death-row inmates, or the hand-to-mouth satisfaction of gathering mussels and blackberries in Casco Bay, she makes sense of a world that sorely needs it. Or she tries to make sense when the world doesn't. Goodman is a moralist in the best sense - not preachy, but unafraid of value judgments based on an ethical code that is grounded in individual moral responsibility.

In a column titled "Say You're Sorry," Goodman laments that our country "seems to be ruled by the ethic of lawsuits." Thus, a doctor who botches an operation "is advised not to apologize, even speak to the family, because that human expression of regret could be used in court as an admission of guilt. …

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