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BOOKS & THE CULTURE / operation, and, because many of the supporters of the parents were also pro-choice, “I began to recognize the zealotry of the abortion-rights movement.” Hentoff read some medical textbooks, thereby learning \(apparently for the first from fertilization to birth to death. Setting up divisions of this process to justify abortion, for example, is artificial. It is the life of a developing being that is being killed.” He also learned that some doctors are against abortion. Hentoff began to feel that legalizing abortion has bolstered “the consistent ethic of death in the nation including the discounting of the Baby Jane Does and the rise of support for ‘assisted suicide,'” because a number of pro-choice Congressmen voted against a bill that included protections for handicapped infants, and because court decisions on euthanasia consistently cite Roe v. Wade. That, at least, is Hentoff s version. To put it another way, Hentoff found himself opposing pro-choicers on several issues that didn’t involve abortion; he sought out a “scientific” answer to a question of rights that can’t be answered by medicine alone; and he decided that the right to private decision-making stipulated in Roe v. Wade had been too broadly applied in other cases, not involving abortion. Hentoff peers though the microscope at a fetus, and then places abortion in the broadest possible legal context, never pausing at the human level as if the issue had nothing to do with pregnant women. In this self-justifying intellectual process, Hentoff s condescending logic remains unconvincing. What comes across, instead, is how much he relishes his throne of “pariahdom,” and how confident he is of his ability, once seated there, to discover the perfectly rational answer to an oversimplified question and then, at last, wipe the cobwebs from our collective eyes. \(Did he think, beforehand, that fetal development was a discontinuous process? That all pro-choice advoWhatever you think of Hentoff s pro-life arguments, there’s something depressing about their appearance in a book also home to civil rights warriors and anti-war demonstrators and the giants of jazz. Glimpsed through the disjointed fragments that make up Speaking Freely is the career of a journalist who, as a young reporter, found himself in the midst of real political and cultural turmoil, only to turn columnist in his later years, churning out polemics in an age of diminished excitement. This is not to say that Hentoff the columnist hasn’t fought some good fights: he’s re mained an advocate for unpopular speech \(often by practicing unpopular speech himposing like a group of Oklahoma physicians who developed a nonmedical, projected-quality-of-life formula \(basically a ment to give newborns with spinal disorders. But Speaking Freely is too much of a columnist’s book, a series of tales told from the armchair. Chapters are devoted to television producer Rbbert Herridge, a fight in the New York state legislature over whether to require that mothers be informed when their newborns test positive for HIV, the controversy at Northeastern University School of Law that followed after Hentoff was invited to deliver the commencement address, a remembrance of New Yorker editor William Shawn, and so on Hentoff is enthusiastic, interesting, irritating, and all over the map. You can imagine being very torn over whether to invite this man to dinner or not, but it’s harder to imagine why, with more than twenty books to his credit, Hentoff chose to publish this one. Karen Olsson recently moved to New York after a distinguished stint as the Observer’s special correspondent. She wishes she were still right under the X in Texas. So do we. Lone Star Burke A Louisiana Crime Writer Moves West BY MARY WILLIS WALKER CIMARRON ROSE. By James Lee Burke. Hyperion. 288 pages. $24.95. 111With his latest novel, crimewriter James Lee Burke be gins a new series, this one set in Texas. That’s good news for those of us who are infatuated with our home state, because Burke is a master at evoking a vivid sense of place. He does this not by lengthy and boring landscape descriptions, but by weaving rich sensual details of the setting into his scenes. Here’s a sample: I woke before sunrise and fried eggs and ham in the kitchen and ate them out of the skillet with bread and a cup of coffee on the back porch. The dawn was gray and misty, the air so cool and soft that I could hear sound from a long way off a bass flopping in the tank, the creak of the windmill shifting directions, a cowbell clanging on my neighbor’s gate. Burke calls the little town where his story is set “Deaf Smith,” but he never precisely locates it in Texas, other than mentioning that the old Chisholm Trail passes nearby. This is in contrast to the geographical precision of his Dave Robicheaux novels, from which you could navigate New Orleans and the bayou country of southern Louisiana. The protagonist and narrator of Cimarron Rose is Billy Bob Holland, former Houston Cop, former Texas Ranger, former U.S. prosecutor, current small-town lawyer. Burke knows how to hook the reader’s interest immediately by raising compelling questions about Holland’s character and his 22 THE TEXAS OBSERVER DECEMBER 19, 1997