Monday, February 11, 2008

Anonymous Lawyer by Jeremy Blachman


Anonymous Lawyer by Jeremy Blachman
Copyright 2006
Henry Holt Fiction
269 pages
Finished 2/2/08

What led you to pick up this book? I read Kris' review of Anonymous Lawyer at her blog, Not Enough Books , last year, and it sounded great so I added the book to my wish list. I acquired a copy pretty quickly, but when I opened it up I thought the beginning was so funny that I actually closed it specifically to save the book for a time when I thought I really needed the upper. Note the pattern, here. I was on upper books, last week. Funny books = legal uppers. Okay, the legal part doesn't refer to the book, but it's kind of humorous that I stuck "legal" into the equation. This is especially funny if you're from another planet, as I am.

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending. An obsessed, selfish, and wily hiring partner in a law firm begins to blog about his plan to someday become chairman of the firm and is eventually "found out" by two people who could either harm him or help him. The book is actually a mixture of his blog entries and emails to his niece and various people who discover his blog -- very nicely balanced. Not all authors can handle that kind of format well.

What did you like most about the book? It's so completely over-the-top that you can't help but laugh, even when he's talking about deliberately tripping a paralegal or insisting that the lawyers shouldn't have to share a water fountain with the people who do computer support or the technicians because who knows what kind of diseases those people carry. He refers to everyone by descriptive names: The Jerk, The One Who Missed Her Kid's Funeral, The Frumpy Litigator, The Musician, The Suck-Up, The Guy With the Bad Haircut, etc.

What did you think of the characters? They're actually quite believable. I took a paralegal certification course, a few years back, and thought it was a little surprising that the lawyers who taught the class managed to fit into the room with their egos. But, there are normal people in law, also -- people who are idealistically out to save the world and those who just want to make enough money to feed the family. He represents the whole spectrum well.

Share a favorite scene from the book: I'm just going to quote a fairly large section that seems representative of his typical patter:

Mentor. I hate that word. It's how they manipulate us into caring about them. If I'm your boss, I can make your life a living hell without spending a single instant worrying about what you're getting out of it or how it affects your "career development." (Career development. Another pair of words I hate). But call me a "mentor" and suddenly I'm burdened with having to think about you. I don't want to think about the Suck-Up as a real person. I don't want the responsibility of making sure that what I ask him to do is actually helping him. It's helping the firm. That's all that's supposed to matter.

We're a business. We're trying to maximize profits. If that means each year we take fifty law school graduates and burn out forty-eight of them before they turn thirty-five, well, that's what they're signing up for. We don't promise mentors.

Well, in the recruiting literature we do. But in the recruiting literature we also promise client contact, pro bono opportunities, and a work-life balance. Scales balance in all sorts of ways.

What's the problem anyway? We're doing well. It's been almost seventy-five days without a work-related suicide.

In general:
You have to read this book in the spirit that it was apparently intended: not specifically a parody of any other work (as far as I know) but more of a caricature, picking on the obsessions and excesses in the dog-eat-dog world of corporate law. Like Kris, the last post completely threw me, but then I realized that there were hints that the character couldn't admit to certain realities throughout the book and the ending is simply a continuation of those occasional tall tales that he inserted because he didn't want to admit the truth. You should definitely read it in order to figure out what the heck I'm referring to.

Another thumbs up. And, it's worth noting that Anonymous Lawyer is yet another book that began as a blog. The blog Anonymous Lawyer was, according to the book's slip jacket, "profiled in The New York Times and remains one of the most popular blogs on the web." The author was a recent graduate from Harvard Law School at the time the slipcover was printed; Anonymous Lawyer is a novel, not a memoir. Blachman has a newer weblog, which is also fun reading but about the real human, not written from the perspective of a fictional character. He sounds like a fun guy.

Totally off the wall: Did you know there's such a thing as a Space Weather Alert? And, that we're currently in the midst of one? Is it bad to spend all day raking your yard and sweeping your porch when there's a solar flare or is a geomagnetic flux simply something that makes your radio signal worse? I don't know. Actually, I feel bad for not knowing. I think I'll have to investigate.

What do you think about the following photo? If you looked down into my car, while you were working in some drive-through window, handing me a clear drink (because, of course, we don't drink anything that could stain the beige interior) would you freak out? Yes, of course I realize you're beyond the drive-through years, but that's not the point. Would you scream, thinking it was a real lizard or just laugh and say, "What a cute little plastic lizard!"

I ask these things because I'm sure a curious chick.

But, I have to go. Three more reviews forthcoming. I'll try to concentrate.

Bookfool, getting flippy

19 comments:

  1. This is especially funny if you're from another planet, as I am.

    Being from another planet is underrated.

    Love the quote you posted---it definitely conveys the flavor of the book! I think this is another one of those "someday" books for me. "Someday" I'll have to read it. Really I will!

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  2. Anonymous Lawyer sounds like a fun read. I like over the top type of humor every once in a while (like my old pal Bridget Jones).

    Not so sure about the lizard. :) But he is kinda cute. I am rather jumpy, though, so who knows.

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  3. You're becoming obsessed with lizards, aren't you? ;) Very cute! I love it!

    This book sounds great...I'm putting it on my wishlist. I need something funny. I haven't read a good laugh out loud book in ages. David Sedaris' Me Talk Pretty One Day was the last one that had me in stitches and that was in November, so it's time for another one.

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  4. I love my home planet, Heather.

    You should make the reading of Anonymous Lawyer a "someday" that you really, really need a laugh. It made me snicker and snort and read pages aloud to the poor husband. I read one entry to my eldest over the phone and abbreviated a few other bits. He told me to "save that one" for him, when he'd stopped laughing.

    Trish,

    It's loads of fun, much like Bridget. Great when you need a laugh.

    The lizard frightened someone in a drive-through, actually. It was so funny. She pointed and sputtered and I'm lucky she didn't scream. It was a great moment. He's plastic, incidentally -- a prize my son got at Chuck E. Cheese, about 5 years ago, and which he happily handed over to me.

    Chris,

    I loves me a lizard (real or not). That one's actually been on my dash since the car was nearly new, so . . . close to 5 years. If he was real, he'd be petrified lizard, by now.

    I couldn't get through Me Talk Pretty One Day; I think I'm unusual in that. I've heard it's hilarious, but there was something about it that turned me off.

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  5. Bookfool -

    As a member of the law enforcement community, I've always said lawyers are my least favorite sub-species of person...

    With that in mind, I'll have to think about this one.

    And I didn't much care for the Sedaris book I read, either.

    Oh, and I agree with Heather - being from another planet is underrated but us visitors to this planet want to keep it that way. We prefer not to be crowded, right Nancy?

    cjh

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  6. Being the complete dork and lizard-phobe that I am, I'm almost certain I would scream like a banshee. Not sure what it is about the little buggers that freaks me out. I think they're cute from a distance (your pics), but in person...not so much!

    The book sounds fantabulous! Might have to check the blogs out.

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  7. Argh. When will I learn not to read reviews? That book sounds hilarious and perfect for the season.

    And, I would scream and drop the drink in your lap shrieking like a banshee. Why? lol.

    Of course we're in the midst of space weather. We're in the midst of weather, time, physics...... :)

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  8. Come on over to Bonnie’s Books (http://bonniesbooks.blogspot.com/2008/02/awards-ceremony-dress-appropriately.html). Dress up because I’m having an awards ceremony complete with gala. And do bring along your acceptance speech, though the producers are asking that each person receiving an award please limit your speech to five minutes ... save your longer comments for your own blog, when you pass along the award(s).

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  9. Thanks, Bonnie. I tried to keep my speech under 5 minutes, but some people are just incorrigible. Sad, but true. :)

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  10. So glad you enjoyed the book!

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  11. I think I'd be one of those state-the-obvious kinda people. I'd probably say "Did you know there's a lizard in your car?!"

    Then you'd probably roll your eyes at me and say, "Yes, yes it is."

    I get that/do that a lot with people about my hair. I'm 23 and I have a lot of gray hair. And people all the time say to me, "Did you know you have gray hair?"

    My usual response is, "I have what?!" And then we all get a good laugh when they realize that I'm kidding.

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  12. I would laugh and ask if it was a real lizard. I'd never scream about a lizard. Too adorable. :)

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  13. Bookfool, your posts always make me smile. You write so well and about such interesting, often off-beat things - like the lizard in your car.
    This book sounds great and very funny. Thanks for the review.

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  14. Kris,

    It was so great I can't bear to part with it, doggone it. I'll have no choice but to read it, again, when I need to laugh. Thanks for the recommendation. :)

    Nikki,

    LOL! I can see that! It is kind of funny when people state the obvious, isn't it? Now that I know you have gray in your hair, I'll be sure not to mention it if I happen to drop by Italy (that's a hopeful statement). And, you can say things like, "They have a pope, here," and "Did you know that big broken, hulking thing that looks like a stadium is called the Coliseum?" and "So, they squish the grapes and let them rot a bit and people just love drinking the stuff." And, I'll say, "You're kidding!" to every word and then we'll go eat some of that Italian ice and laugh.

    Yeah, I'm daydreaming, again.

    Kookie,

    That is, of course, just one more reason to like you. I'll bet you'd catch and release them if you had a cat who brought lizards into your house and proudly dropped them at your feet, too. Right? You should see the little hatchlings in real life; they're unbearably cute.

    Booklogged,

    Why, thank you. I live to make people smile, so that means I've been a success. :)

    The book is great fun. I highly recommend it. I've just added Jeremy Blachman to my mental list of authors I'd love to meet and pummel with questions.

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  15. CJ,

    Sorry, I just realized I skipped right over a bunch of comments.

    "Sub-species". Hahaha. I like.

    It's been such a long time since I tried to read Sedaris that I don't even remember what I disliked, but I bought the book and when I tried to read it I hated it so much that I took it to the library and donated it the next day. And, then everyone started to gush about him and I wondered if I'd made a mistake. Oh, well.

    Gosh yes. We aliens deserve a little peace and quiet, preferably in a snow-covered land. Oops, did I drop my space-ship in the wrong place?

    Andi,

    You're so funny about those reptiles. Now, I just need to get you up close to one of the tiny anole hatchlings. I swear you'd say, "Awwwwww, so cute!" Really.

    I think you'd like the book. The author is a Harvard grad, so he might be smart enough for you. Maybe. No, probably not.

    Carrie,

    Silly girl, you're supposed to find the fun books by reading my blog. And, then, of course you're supposed to call me Oh Great One for recommending things that make you smile. Or, you know, just read and enjoy and then flick me for being such a dork, when we finally meet.

    You're a screamer?? I never would have guessed! How fun. I love a good mix of screamers and matter-of-fact folks. He's plastic, don't worry.

    Yes, but it's a space weather *alert* meaning . . . something's happening. Yes, yes, I know something is always happening but only a few events make the natives fall on their knees because the gods are about to wallop them. And, then, when they realize it's really nothing at all, they say, "Okay, I was kidding. Smoke if you've got 'em."

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  16. Another one for the wish list! You and Iliana are bad for me tonight. :-)

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  17. This one's loads of fun, though. I'm allowed to be bad, Wendy. :)

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  18. I do not have time to read the all fabulous books I find on your blog! Well, right now. I have to work all the time. See? Right now I'm putting off going to the copy machine and copying the 85 million pieces of paper in varying peculiar sizes so I will have to do it one. at. a. freaking. time and probably don't actually need but feel compelled to have on hand. Just in case.

    I'm a screamer? Well, just that way, lol.

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  19. Carrie,

    I'm sorry. You have to read this one; you simply have no choice. It's a good one to read during tax season, because taxes are enough to give anyone a headache -- whether or not they're making money because of it. I promise you'll smile. You might even make a snort noise, but I don't know. It depends on whether or not you smuggle the book to work.

    What an interesting statement. The screaming one. :)

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