Law and Conversation

August 12, 2011

Crime fiction, Giller Prize, CLE

Despite its popularity, crime fiction isn’t generally a genre that attracts me. Even though I’ve practiced only civil, not criminal, law, it’s just always seemed too much like reading about work in my free time. By its nature, any crime fiction novel involves an investigation, which is common to any legal matter, criminal or civil. Often lawyers are involved. And then there are the gory details–sometimes more, sometimes less.

But Sarah Weinman has an article in The Wall Street Journal that explains what its devotees see in it. Reviewing a new translation of French noir novelist Jean-Patrick Manchette‘s “Fatale,” Weinman writes “One way crime novels become classics is by channeling the social concerns of the day. Raymond Chandler’s novels were indictments of moral corruption, pre- and post-World War II, while Dashiell Hammett countered Jazz Age excess with a decided anti-capitalist bent. These works offered a window into how the world really works, not how we wish it did.”

Weinman’s analysis makes sense to me, and it’s helping to convince me to plan on reading some noir in the near future. Reading some intriguing reviews and mentions of noir such as Jean-Claude Izzo’s and Carlo Lucarelli’s works on The Europa Challenge Blog, which are published in translation by Europa Editions, is strengthening my resolve. Crime fiction always includes strong stories and place settings, both of which I love. And I’ve observed that doing or reading something outside my usual routine on a regular basis almost always reinvigorates me.

Speaking of the Europa Challenge blog, after noticing a tweet yesterday about the forthcoming announcement of the longlist for the ScotiaBank Giller Prize, which annually recognizes the (arguably) best Canadian novel or short story collection published, I wondered (via tweets) whether some of the many Canadian booklovers might establish a Giller Prize Challenge Blog along the same lines as the one for Europa Editions books, which, in turn, was inspired by The Complete Booker blog.

The Giller Prize has been awarded only since 1994, so there aren’t as many to choose from–and those with far more expertise in CanLit than I pointed out that the quality of some of the winners has been controversial. So I proposed (also by tweet) that if someone does decide to establish a challenge blog, extending the reading challenge to books that made the shortlist–to expand the choices, not to challenge participants to actually read all of them (unless they really wanted to). As on the Europa Challenge Blog, participants could choose to read 4, or 7, or 14, or any other number, for various levels of satisfaction.

Toronto literary critic Steven W. Beattie responded by linking to a recent post of his own criticizing the method for selecting Giller contenders. Follow him, @bookgaga, @janetsomerville, @jadeperreault, @lawartsculture, @GillerPrize, and, of course, @MargaretAtwood, among many other bookloving Canadians, on Twitter for incisive tweets about CanLit and more. Please follow my fellow bloggers over at The Europa Challenge Blog, too!

I was thrilled to learn this week that several of my articles that have appeared in the Illinois Bar Journal will be included in materials for upcoming CLE seminars in Illinois and Oklahoma. “Tech tools for solos” and “From Sheepskin to Shingle,” both of which appeared in the September 2009 issue of the IBJ, will be part of the materials for an Oklahoma Bar Association seminar on the basics of law office technology, while “Unbundling Explained,” published in the October 2010 IBJ, will be included in the materials for a webinar from the Illinois Institute of Continuing Legal Education on Limited Scope Representation. I had a lot of fun writing the lead article in the current (August 2011) IBJ, “To Tweet Or Not To Tweet: Twitter For Lawyers,” since as part of my preparation I got to talk to and quote a number of lawyers I follow on Twitter.

Are you reading or planning to read anything that’s unusual for you?

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