Law and Conversation

May 29, 2012

Europa Challenge review: An Accident In August

Filed under: Books and writing,Europa Challenge,fiction — Helen Gunnarsson @ 12:01 am

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Yesterday I posted a review of Laurence Cosse’s “An Accident In August,” translated by Alison Anderson and published by Europa Editions, over at the Europa Challenge Blog. Hope you’ll click on over and have a look at my other reviews there, as well as at the other Challenge bloggers’ reviews.

If you ever find yourself kidnapped and held in a tiny hotel room by a scary guy who says he just wants a ransom but may well be inclined to kill you before it’s all over, there’s a great tip that could save you in Laurence Cosse’s “An Accident In August.”

But you’ll have to read it to find out what it is. (Let’s hope no aspiring kidnappers also do so.)

Others have already explained the book’s premise: while a young woman named Lou is driving her Fiat Uno on her way home from work in Paris one night, she gets sideswiped in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel by the car carrying Princess Diana and Dodi al-Fayed. Of course, she has no idea of the identity of the other car’s passengers—not that it would necessarily have made any difference to her actions. Having no desire to be detained in an accident investigation, she continues home without stopping, thereby committing a serious crime.

Though the reader can partly understand (if not condone) why Lou makes this impulsive choice—she doesn’t want her life to change—the unique circumstances mean that the nice life she had is doomed, whether she stops or not, and whether she comes forward or not at any point afterward.

As Jennifer observed, this story of dissembling will make you feel all of the same panic, guilt, and remorse that’s going on in Lou’s head. Though I didn’t like Lou’s flight from the scene of the accident, up to a point I understood her panicked choice. When the extraordinary lengths to which she went to avoid discovery started hurting other people, though, I became very disappointed with her character.

 But that’s part of what makes Cosse’s story of the disintegration of Lou’s life so good: her character’s consistency, which she takes to extremes, makes her something of an enigma, and, as a result, this short novel is a great read. “An Accident In August” wouldn’t have the tension it has, and wouldn’t be nearly so interesting, if Lou made the same choices we readers might, or if she made the legally correct choices. And I wouldn’t have felt such disappointment in Lou if she hadn’t been three-dimensional. The book is a great choice for summer reading, perfect for the beach or a commute.

May 18, 2012

More Free CLE

Filed under: Law — Helen Gunnarsson @ 12:01 am
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The other day I urged lawyers and judges to sign up for a free trial membership in the American Bar Association, my employer. Do so, and you get to register for one free hourlong CLE webinar per month as long as you’re a member. The trial membership offer extends through August 31, but you have to sign up this month, before May 31, to take advantage of it. My employer might give me a cool prize if I recruit enough new members, so I hope you’ll sign up–the ABA is a great organization, you get all the usual member benefits in addition to the FREE CLE, and–I did say it was FREE, didn’t I?!

Lawyers in active practice always need CLE credits, and here is another nice way that you can not only get several hours of free CLE but also do some important pro bono work if you’re in the Chicago area: attend a 2.5 hour free MCLE credit training session, conducted by Cabrini-Green Legal Aid and the Cook County Public Defender, for the annual Expungement Summit on Saturday, June 2 at Apostolic Church of God (6320 S. Dorchester Ave), sponsored by the Circuit Clerk of Cook County.

Here’s more info on the summit from a CGLA e-mail:

“We need our experienced attorneys to help staff two four hour shifts (morning (~10-2) and afternoon (~2-6)) where they will advise summit attendees of their eligibility for expungement or sealing and assist those who are eligible to fill out forms.  It will very closely resemble the work we do at the Expungement Help Desk, with the differences being attendees come to us with their court dispositions verses us having to look up their record ourselves.  We’re expecting several thousand attendees and are hoping to train at over 100 private and public sector attorneys.”

This is a great opportunity to get some free CLE and do some good pro bono work at the same time. Though I can’t make the summit, I’ve been volunteering at the Expungement Help Desk at the Daley Center. It’s not glamorous and won’t garner you any headlines, but it’s a way to provide people who need it some help to get their lives on track after having made and paid for some mistakes. There but for grace and fortunate circumstances might go many of us, right?

I’d urge any lawyer with an interest in the area, or in doing something different and something good, to join the CGLA volunteers. The training sessions are May 23 and 24; you just have to attend one of them to volunteer at the summit. And then, when you have to report not only MCLE compliance but also whether you’ve done some pro bono work, you can feel very satisfied by answering “Yes!”

May 15, 2012


Filed under: CLE,Law — Helen Gunnarsson @ 9:00 am
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Lawyers, have I got a deal for and a favor to ask of you: if you are not already a member of the American Bar Association, sign up by using this link for a FREE trial membership through August 31. There is no obligation; you don’t have to provide a credit card number to sign up, and if you don’t want to continue to be a member, when the ABA sends you a bill at the end of the trial, you can just write cancel on it and send it back. (Though you might decide you like it and want to continue. I hope you will; it’s a great organization.)

In the meantime, you get all the usual member benefits, including some FREE CLE–1 webinar a month, I think. And we all have to do CLE!

What’s in it for me: as long as you use the link in this e-mail to sign up, I’ll get credit and could (but probably won’t) win a cool prize. But regardless of whether I win anything, it’s FREE to you, there is no obligation to continue, and clicking on the link will not give you a virus or subject you to spam. Deadline is May 31, but the next free member CLE webinar is this coming Monday, May 21, on cloud computing, so it makes sense to join now.

Thanks much, and please share the link with your friends!

May 4, 2012

New graphic novels

At a recent bar association function I was delighted to meet another lawyer who also loves comics and graphic novels. He was familiar with all of the writer/artists I mentioned, of course, and shares my esteem for Lynda Barry, who, in my view, is absolutely brilliant, and Alan Moore, whose “Watchmen” was my Best Book Read In 2011 (and was recommended to me by yet another lawyer).

Coincidentally, shortly afterwards I learned of two new graphic memoirs that have just come out, each from an artist I think is amazing: “My Friend Dahmer,” by John Backderf, and “Are You My Mother?” by Alison Bechdel. Each author draws or used to draw a weekly comic strip. Backderf’s is “The City,” a hilariously incisive strip that appears in a number of alternative publications; I’ve also seen his art in The Wall Street Journal and other publications. For 25 years, Bechdel drew “Dykes To Watch Out For,” which, I can attest, you didn’t have to be a lesbian to enjoy.

I can’t wait to read both memoirs. The “Dahmer” of Backderf’s title refers to THE Jeffrey Dahmer, the serial murderer/cannibal who himself was killed after he’d been in prison for a few years. Backderf knew him long before then, in high school in Akron, Ohio. They didn’t stay in touch, as he explained in a recent interview with Q’s Jian Ghomeshi, and he was as shocked as anyone when Dahmer’s atrocities hit the news in the 1990s. In Bechdel’s first graphic memoir, “Fun Home,” which was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award and won several others, she tries to make sense of her father’s concealment of his homosexuality. In her new one, she turns to her relationship with her mother.

In other comic/graphic novel news, from Canadian law professor Kate Sutherland’s Twitter stream comes this account of European legal proceedings with respect to one of Herge’s classic volumes of The Adventures of Tintin: Tintin au Congo. One of the many great comics of the mid-20th century, Tintin reflects the prejudices of his time as well. That particular installment includes matter that is outdated and appalling to our 21st century minds. As I’ve previously noted, so, of course, did many other notable publications of that era, including not only comic books but also, to name just a few examples, Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan and Venus series, Margaret Sidney’s “Five Little Peppers Midway,” and Edward Stratemeyer’s “Tom Swift” series.

As I’ve written, I never lost my childhood love of comic books. A few years ago, I discovered their history and how they’ve grown up into graphic novels. If possible, I love them now even more than when I was seven years old. Some contemporary graphic novels that I’ve found outstanding include Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie’s Aya series (Yay! Volume 4 is coming out in English in just a couple of months!!), set in the Ivory Coast, David Small’s “Stitches,” Guy DeLisle’s documentary-style books on Pyongyang, Shenzhen, and other places, and Craig Thompson’s “Blankets.”

Comic and graphic novel fans, what are your favorites, and what recently published graphic novels are you recommending? I’m always interested in adding to my TBR list.

May 1, 2012

Happy Law Day

Filed under: Law — Helen Gunnarsson @ 12:01 am
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May 1 is Law Day here in the U.S. To celebrate, read these thoughtful and sobering words from a marvelous writer, E.L. Doctorow, in The New York Times.

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