Wednesday, May 26, 2021
The law is always reactionary. All law is created in response to something that happened. Holmes was right: the life of the law has not been logic, but experience. That said, the way we are trained to interpret experience is also important, and that doesn't seem to be much commented upon. I quote Holmes frequently, but let's be realistic: Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., who fought and was wounded at Antietam, is an odd authority to look to when we are considering how to understand the jurisprudence of the 21st century. As original a thinker as he was we have to acknowledge that his thinking was necessarily informed by the education he received from figures from an even more distant antiquity. If that is true of a genius like Holmes what can we expect from ordinary judges- or lawyers, for that matter? The calcified habits of our practices are difficult to break out of.
Wednesday, May 12, 2021
Lots of people say that they want things to go back to normal, but this reactionary impulse should be resisted. Normal sucked, and if what you mean is that you miss restaurants, well, I do too, but there's a lot that's changed in the last year, and among those things are the way that we work, and the way that employees are going to expect to be treated. I hope there are a lot of union reps getting ready to organize a lot of people, because that will constitute a meaningful improvement on the Before Times
Monday, May 03, 2021
Post-World War Two American letters produced a lot of great writing, and Phillip Roth was responsible for quite a bit of it. He was also a powerful advocate for Eastern European writers, itself no small thing. Of course, in addition to these contributions his sexual politics and his personal life were both terrible. It is true that the same can be said for quite a few of his peers, and this raises the perennial question of how to regard the work of terrible people. In Roth's case the stakes are raised: not only was Roth abusive but his biographer is arguably worse. W. W. Norton & Company has withdrawn the book from print and this troubles me a great deal. The pre-scandal reviews made it clear that Blake Bailey had complete access to the sort of material that a serious biographer needs, and pulling from shelves is bad for all future scholars. Frankly, it is probably also bad for the women that Bailey abused, since a successful book would generate royalties that might end up being awarded as damages.
In the meanwhile, I am inclined to spend part of the summer re-reading Roth.