Nat(han Irving) Hentoff Jack Forman - Essay

Jack Forman

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Fresh from Hentoff's This School Is Driving Me Crazy …, [in Does This School Have Capital Punishment?], Sam Davidson enrolls in Burr Academy, noted for its discipline and fairness, Sam's rebelliousness and carelessness, however, soon get him into trouble—he's caught with the circumstantial evidence after Jeremiah Saddlefield had thrown half-smoked joints at Sam and his friend Rob and run out of the locker room. The headmaster places Sam and Rob on probation until he can get the truth. In the meantime, Sam confides in Major Kelley, an old jazz trumpeter he is interviewing for a class assignment. Kelley travels to Chicago to track down information about Jeremiah's father (a newspaper magnate), whom the boy fears, and during a lecture to Sam's class, Kelley interests Jeremiah in jazz. Eventually, he convinces Jeremiah to confess the truth and confront his powerful father. The jazz sensibility is effectively and movingly described, and Hentoff's attempt to deal with the complexities of justice and fairness is appealing. But the story is full of unlikely contrivances and didactic messages.

Jack Forman, in his review of "Does This School Have Capital Punishment?" in School Library Journal (reprinted from the May, 1981 issue of School Library Journal, published by R. R. Bowker Co./A Xerox Corporation; copyright © 1981), Vol. 27, No. 9, May, 1981, p. 74.