Sheldon M. Novick's Author Page

My work allows me to visit foreign times and places and to meet remarkable people. I try to keep myself in the background when I write about them, but a reader is naturally curious about the author. Here is a brief and incomplete biography, with links to my  work.


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Sheldon Novick
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I was born in New York City in 1941 and attended public schools and the Bronx High School of Science there. My bachelor of science degree is from Antioch College, at the now (temporarily?) abandoned campus in Yellow Springs, Ohio; my law degree is from Washington University School of Law, in St. Louis. Law was a second career. After college I worked for Prof. Barry Commoner, helping to organize the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems at Washington University and serving as staff member and then editor of Environment Magazine. During those years I wrote books and articles on environmental subjects (my first book, The Careless Atom, had the first public account of the "China syndrome," the jocular name the engineers had given the worst-case meltdown of a nuclear plant). With a law degree in hand in 1977, I left St. Louis in 1977 to practice law in New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.  For six years I was a regional counsel for the United States Environmental protection agency.

In 1987, my wife Carolyn Clinton and I left Washington, moved to Vermont and started new careers. I began work on a biography of Justice Holmes, and soon began teaching part-time at Vermont Law School, where I was for ten years Scholar in Residence, and am now Adjunct Professor of Law and History. I now teach American Legal History, and conduct seminars on the construction of national identity, and on the law of local community. My articles on constitutional law and history have appeared in the Harvard Law Review, The Supreme Court Review, and other journals. 

Teaching and scholarly writing nourished my work on Holmes; my Honorable Justice: The Life of Oliver Wendell Holmes was the first full biography of Holmes based on unrestricted access to the Holmes papers. It was published in 1989 and among other honors received the American Bar Association's Silver Gavel Award. The New York Times Sunday Book Review said, "One opens [this] book with high hopes, and as chapter follows masterly chapter the hopes mature into admiration of author and awe of subject."  After the biography appeared, I was invited to prepare the quasi-official Collected Works of Justice Holmes; the first three volumes were published by the Holmes Devise and the University of Chicago Press.

The Holmes biography was only the first part of a larger project -- one that is still underway -- to write about the place of Holmes and the James brothers in in American history. The first volume of my biography of the novelist Henry James (Henry James: The Young Master) appeared in 1997, and was widely and favorably reviewed. The second and concluding volume, Henry James: The Mature Master, is scheduled for publication in November, 2007. My biographies  have generally been popular with readers and reviewers, but have upset received notions about their subjects and have been controversial in the academic world.

Carolyn and I have two grown children and two grandchildren. We live in small house on a gravel road in Norwich, Vermont and when the power goes out, as it often does, we are back in the nineteenth century.

copyright 2007 Sheldon Novick
all rights reserved