By David McCullough
Simon & Schuster, $30
In his latest book, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough chronicles the gradual settlement of what was then the western boundary of the United States — the Northwest Territory — starting in 1788.
Manasseh Cutler, a Massachusetts clergyman, successfully lobbied Congress to include in the Northwest Ordinance three provisions: religious freedom, free universal education and a ban on slavery. It was the first time that this “American ideal” was enshrined in a document, McCullough asserts. When the slavery ban was challenged in the Ohio legislature, it was Cutler’s son, Ephraim, a legislator himself, who cast a key vote shoring up the ban for which his father had laid the foundation.
McCullough’s graceful, understated writing style is perfect for “The Pioneers,” a slowly unfolding narrative populated with frontiersmen and women going about the laborious job of clearing the land and building a new community — what is now Marietta, Ohio, on the banks of the Ohio River.
“Wild and Crazy Guys”
By Nick De Semlyen
In comedy, timing is everything. That law works against this collection of anecdotes starring Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy and Chevy Chase that are as familiar as your dad’s jokes around the dinner table.
Author Nick De Semlyen, the features editor for Empire movie magazine, has a breezy, conversational delivery, but he relies too much on recycled interviews, hyperbole and a shaky memory that butchers a key detail from “Parenthood.”
The book is at its best when it takes you behind the scenes of “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Neighbors” and other movies that haven’t been dissected to death. Those features may not be as beloved as “Ghostbusters” and “Animal House,” but at least the material feels fresh.
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