The Curious Case of Stephen Breyer’s Library

 

 

Former Justice Stephen Breyer appeared on Washington Post Live and this was a screen grab. Catherine Rampell asked an obvious question:

The comments to X post put out several ideas. But the most obvious explanation is that it was to highlight the book Breyer was flogging (the only visible title):

 

That is an awful lot of work to eliminate all other books from the background. If you were going to touch every book (twice!) to stage this, why not just put photos, objet d’art, and plants behind him? Does anyone believe that Stephen Breyer’s library is always this way, that he loves to randomly select unknown books to peruse?

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  1. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    Rereading my post and Breyer’s book title, maybe Breyer has some deep subconscious animus to text itself.

    • #1
  2. Lunchbox Gerald Coolidge
    Lunchbox Gerald
    @Jose

    I expect he has books there that he doesn’t want us to see.

    • #2
  3. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    The problem with pragmatism is that it doesn’t work. 

    • #3
  4. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    And what about that guy on… MSNBC, was it?… who prominently displayed the book “Bringing Down Trump” for the camera?

    • #4
  5. Al French Moderator
    Al French
    @AlFrench

    Rodin: That is an awful lot of work to eliminate all other books from the background.

    I’m sure that he has a flunky publicist to do that for him.

    • #5
  6. EODmom Coolidge
    EODmom
    @EODmom

    Lunchbox Gerald (View Comment):

    I expect he has books there that he doesn’t want us to see.

    Looks like a set, not somewhere personal to him. 

    • #6
  7. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    EODmom (View Comment):

    Lunchbox Gerald (View Comment):

    I expect he has books there that he doesn’t want us to see.

    Looks like a set, not somewhere personal to him.

    If true, all the more curious.

    • #7
  8. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt
    @DouglasPratt

    I suppose some producer thought it was a good idea to make the background more neutral, but to me it just looks weird.

    • #8
  9. EODmom Coolidge
    EODmom
    @EODmom

    Rodin (View Comment):

    EODmom (View Comment):

    Lunchbox Gerald (View Comment):

    I expect he has books there that he doesn’t want us to see.

    Looks like a set, not somewhere personal to him.

    If true, all the more curious.

    If I were the person being interviewed I would not want a crew setting up anywhere in my home for any purpose. I’d much rather go to an office and walk away after. I expect that’s set up by a young set designer who think’s it’s clever. It could also be one of the many green screen options. Odd, but available to any. 

    • #9
  10. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Occam’s razor? I think he wants us to read that book because it is important. :) :)

    • #10
  11. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Occam’s razor: I think he wants us to read that book because it is important. :) :)

    For sure it’s important to HIM, and to his royalties income…

    • #11
  12. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I’m sure he goes off the rails in the book. One thing I know about authors is that they are singularly focused, and that enables them to write a few hundred pages on a particular subject. They believe ardently in what they are saying in their book.

    But we readers sort it out by reading opposing points of view, and we come to some place in the middle where there is some truth we’ve pulled from all the narrow points of view.

    The Constitution was finalized immediately after the Revolutionary War, which was its literary context. The war was over in 1783, and the Constitution was finally ratified in 1788. So parts of the final document were kicking around throughout the war and immediately afterward. Some of it is based on the Massachusetts constitution, which was ratified in 1780. Virginia passed its constitution in 1776. Some of the U.S. Constitution was based on that document as well. In fact, the constitutions for Massachusetts and Virgina were very similar.

    Language changes have occurred (capitalization and punctuation have changed a lot since the late 1700s), and for that reason alone, it’s impossible to take the Constitution exactly literally.

    It’s important to stick to it as much as we possibly can–I am a devoted fan of Robert Bork–but realistically, Breyer makes some good points too.

    • #12
  13. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    I’ve seen putting the books backwards in the bookcase in the “finished product reveal” on lots of the home remodeling shows on HGTV for several years. Obviously impractical, but provides a generic somewhat monochromatic background for video purposes.  

    • #13
  14. Richard Easton Coolidge
    Richard Easton
    @RichardEaston

    MarciN (View Comment):

    I’m sure he goes off the rails in the book. One thing I know about authors is that they are singularly focused which enables them to write a few hundred pages on a particular subject. They believe ardently in what they are saying in their book.

    But we readers sort it out by reading opposing points of view, and we come to some place in the middle where there is some truth we’ve pulled from all the narrow points of view.

    The Constitution was finalized immediately after the Revolutionary War, which was its literary context. The war was over in 1783, and the Constitution was finally ratified in 1788. So parts of the final document were kicking around throughout the war and immediately afterward. Some of it is based on the Massachusetts constitution, which was ratified in 1780. Virginia passed its constitution in 1776. Some of the U.S. constitution is based on that as well. In fact, the constitutions for Massachusetts and Virgina were very similar.

    Language changes have occurred (capitalization and punctuation have changed a lot since the late 1700s), and for that reason alone, it’s impossible to take the Constitution exactly literally.

    It’s important to stick to it as much as we possibly can–I am a devoted fan of Robert Bork–but realistically, Breyer makes some good points too.

    I’m sure you know this, but the Constitutional Convention was in 1787.

    • #14
  15. Steve Fast Member
    Steve Fast
    @SteveFast

    I don’t think it works as a visual. The book cover is white, but the shelves and the exposed pages of the books are white, so it just blends into the background. It does make Breyer more prominent in his navy jacket.

    • #15
  16. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    The top book in the stack to the right of his head is definitely The Communist Manifesto.  I’d know it anywhere.

    • #16
  17. Paul Stinchfield Member
    Paul Stinchfield
    @PaulStinchfield

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    The problem with pragmatism is that it doesn’t work.

    But he likes the stink aroma of its emanations and penumbras.

    • #17
  18. Paul Stinchfield Member
    Paul Stinchfield
    @PaulStinchfield

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    I’ve seen putting the books backwards in the bookcase in the “finished product reveal” on lots of the home remodeling shows on HGTV for several years. Obviously impractical, but provides a generic somewhat monochromatic background for video purposes.

    I have heard that sometimes it is done avoid speculation about the opinions of the home owners. That might be particularly important to a supreme court justice.

    • #18
  19. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Richard Easton (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    I’m sure he goes off the rails in the book. One thing I know about authors is that they are singularly focused which enables them to write a few hundred pages on a particular subject. They believe ardently in what they are saying in their book.

    But we readers sort it out by reading opposing points of view, and we come to some place in the middle where there is some truth we’ve pulled from all the narrow points of view.

    The Constitution was finalized immediately after the Revolutionary War, which was its literary context. The war was over in 1783, and the Constitution was finally ratified in 1788. So parts of the final document were kicking around throughout the war and immediately afterward. Some of it is based on the Massachusetts constitution, which was ratified in 1780. Virginia passed its constitution in 1776. Some of the U.S. constitution is based on that as well. In fact, the constitutions for Massachusetts and Virgina were very similar.

    Language changes have occurred (capitalization and punctuation have changed a lot since the late 1700s), and for that reason alone, it’s impossible to take the Constitution exactly literally.

    It’s important to stick to it as much as we possibly can–I am a devoted fan of Robert Bork–but realistically, Breyer makes some good points too.

    I’m sure you know this, but the Constitutional Convention was in 1787.

    Yes, and parts of the final document were in circulation for years before the convention.

    • #19
  20. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    The top book in the stack to the right of his head is definitely The Communist Manifesto. I’d know it anywhere.

    I know you’re making a joke, but shouldn’t we have books we disagree with in our libraries?

    Breyer is a contemptible man.  “Pragmatism” sounds fancy, but what it means is “whim of the judge.”

    • #20
  21. QuietPI Member
    QuietPI
    @Quietpi

    Assuming for the moment that it truly is his library, I find it odd that the vast majority of the books are quite thin.  Most would be 200 pages or so tops.  That’s very odd for any lawyer, and especially presumably one of the top legal minds in the world.

    By the way, to me, the title of his book constitutes a repudiation of his oath of office.

    • #21
  22. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    They are supposed to use the ordinary meanings of the words when it was written. 

    • #22
  23. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Petty way to advertise . . .

    • #23
  24. Paul Stinchfield Member
    Paul Stinchfield
    @PaulStinchfield

    Stad (View Comment):

    Petty way to advertise . . .

    Authors are often photographed in front of a shelf or entire bookcase filled with their books.

    • #24
  25. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Paul Stinchfield (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Petty way to advertise . . .

    Authors are often photographed in front of a shelf or entire bookcase filled with their books.

    Yes, but this method makes him look like a fool.

    • #25
  26. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Could there have been a plan to “paint in” some inoffensive books later?

    • #26
  27. Sisyphus Member
    Sisyphus
    @Sisyphus

    They may be bound with no backs. Saw that when I was a kid with large contracts, official publications, legal documents, briefs and the like. In my father’s office, it was blueprints distinguished by small tabs. It was cheaper and likely still is cheaper when using a professional printer. Not how we would do it today, but we dinosaurs remember.

    • #27
  28. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Sisyphus (View Comment):

    They may be bound with no backs. Saw that when I was a kid with large contracts, official publications, legal documents, briefs and the like. In my father’s office, it was blueprints distinguished by small tabs. It was cheaper and likely still is cheaper when using a professional printer. Not how we would do it today, but we dinosaurs remember.

    So does Pepperidge Farm!  :-)

    • #28
  29. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Paul Stinchfield (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Petty way to advertise . . .

    Authors are often photographed in front of a shelf or entire bookcase filled with their books.

    If they have shelves filled with their books, sure.  But Breyer turned all books that were NOT his, so . . .

    • #29
  30. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Stad (View Comment):

    Paul Stinchfield (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Petty way to advertise . . .

    Authors are often photographed in front of a shelf or entire bookcase filled with their books.

    If they have shelves filled with their books, sure. But Breyer turned all books that were NOT his, so . . .

    Harsh, but fair.

    • #30
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