The Odd Clauses

  From the Introduction:

            The Constitution of the United States contains some of the most powerful and well-known legal provisions in the history of the world.  The First Amendment, for example, gives us the right to speak our minds without government interference.  The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment stops the state from discriminating against us because of our race or gender.  And the Fourth Amendment, as our television crime dramas constantly remind us, prevents the police from searching our homes without a warrant. In the past twenty years, I would bet that several hundred books have been written about these important clauses, and for good reason.  This book, however, is not one of them.

            Instead, this book will shine a much-deserved light on some of the Constitution’s lesser-known clauses—its benchwarmers, its understudies, its unsung heroes, its crazy uncles.  To put it another way, if the Constitution were a zoo, and the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments were a lion, a giraffe, and a panda bear, respectively, then this book is about the Constitution’s shrews, wombats, and bat-eared foxes.  And believe me, if you’ve never laid eyes on a bat-eared fox before, you are in for a treat. 

            "The book is funny and better still, it is a funny book for smart people." --Atticus, the Magazine of the New York State Assn of Criminal Defense Lawyers

            "We learned a lot, as well as laughed a lot." --ABA Appellate Practice Journal

            "The book is a gem . . . the way Wexler ties everything together is magical." --History Book Club



"Professor Wexler dispenses his expertise on the Constitution with a light touch, imparting many lasting insights and a few belly laughs along the way. What a delight to discover that our founding document is not only brilliant, but brilliantly weird."

Ben H. Winters, author of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and Bedbugs

"The maniacs who run the modern American political process seem determined to reduce our Constitution to an electoral fetish object.  Thank God, then, that we have Jay Wexler, whose wise and funny treatise reminds us that the Constitution is, like the men who drafted it, brilliant but imperfect.  I learned more reading this book than in my entire college career.  This isn't saying much given my college career, I realize.  But I now plan to attend law school.  It's that good."

Steve Almond, author of Candyfreak and God Bless America

“A know-it-all's treasure trove, a cabinet of constitutional curiosities, The Odd Clauses touches down on NASA, Ellis Island, even Saturday Night Live. Jay Wexler is brilliantly snarky, erudite and comedic.”

Julianna Baggott, author of Girl Talk and Pure

“In Holy Hullabaloos, Jay Wexler took us along on what he called a "road trip" to some of the most important places connected to the First Amendment's religion clauses. This time, in The Odd Clauses, Wexler exits off the highway to take us on a tour of some back roads of constitutional law: places scholars and the public seldom visit like the Bill of Attainder Clause or the Third Amendment (which prohibits quartering of troops in private houses during peacetime, in case you didn't know.) The result is magical: you'll have so much fun reading about these unsung constitutional provisions that you won't realize until the trip is over how much you've learned.”

Pamela S. Karlan, Professor of Constitutional Law at Stanford Law School

"I love this book.  It is, believe it or not, an utterly entertaining constitutional law book. I am blown away by Wexler's comedic skills and his ability to make the usually dry subject matter so funny and readable."

Gary Gulman, Finalist, Last Comic Standing, and Guest, The Late Show with David Letterman

"Jay Wexler has a unique gift for combining acute constitutional analysis with humor and a human touch." 

Peter Irons, author of A People's History of the Supreme Court and The Courage of Their Convictions


    The Odd Clauses was published on November 1, 2011 by Beacon Press.  The paperback version became available on September 4, 2012.  You can buy it here from a variety of great places.  Here are some media mentions, interviews, and reviews of the book:

--Discussion of the book at Brookline Booksmith from November 2011 broadcast on CSPAN BookTV.

--Nice Review from "Choice" Magazine (the magazine of the American Library Association).

--Podcast of an interview I did on a radio program called "Your Weekly Constitutional"

--Emily Yoffe quotes me and mentions the book in Slate in an article about people using their titles after they leave office.

--Lovely review on the incomparable law-humor blog "Lowering the Bar"

--Great review on the website of the History Book of the Month Club by a law professor at University of Texas.

--Super duper review on a great blog called "For the Defense"

--Great review on awesome "Simple Justice" blog.

--An interview I did about the book with Library Thing.

--Odd Clauses featured on BookTalk, the blog of the American Constitution Society (with my commentary on the Recess Appointments Clause).

-A pretty nice review from Reuters/Breaking Views.

--A great review from Shelf Awareness ("surprisingly goofy and quite funny")

--A not very good review from the Boston Globe.

--A video I made of my 7 year old son reading the Boston Globe's not very good review.

--Radio interview on "Word of Mouth" from New Hampshire public radio

--My interview on Midwest Opinions out of Nebraska

--Audio from my discussion with Jim Lehrer about the book on WNYC.

--A podcast about the book from the LegalTalk Network.

--I talk with Steve Almond on WGBH about the book

--I talk about the public debt clause of Article IV, and a bit about the book, on The Jim Lehrer show on WNYC

--Andrea Seabrook mentions the Odd Clauses and lets me make a joke in an All Things Considered segment on Obama's signing of a bill with an autopen


For about a year, I ran a blog that went with the book called Odd Clauses Watch.  It included news, links, analysis, humor and more regarding many of the weird clauses of the U.S. Constitution--not just ones I discuss in the book but others as well.  I put the blog to bed at the end of February, 2012, but you can check out a lot of odd clauses info in the archives if you're interested.