Law and Conversation

March 4, 2011

RIP Hazel Rowley: Biographer and storyteller

Sad news of Australian biographer Hazel Rowley’s untimely death this week at the age of 59.  Rowley wrote “Tete-a-Tete: The Tumultous Lives and Loves of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre,” “Franklin and Eleanor:  An Extraordinary Marriage,” and biographies of Australian novelist Christina Stead and American writer Richard Wright.  She knew how to tell a good story, meticulously documented her research, and was a guest on a number of talk show programs, including the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s The Book Show.

In one interview on The Book Show, Rowley memorably said she preferred her biographical subjects dead (note that dead people can’t bring actions for libel). Those interested in biography and copyright law should read her article in the winter 2009 issue of The American Scholar on French publishing law and how it affected the publication of her biography of Sartre and Beauvoir in France.

In the meantime, check out communications researcher R.C. Richards‘s Droit Blog, on which he provides thoughts on law, music, politics, business, and other matters. In a lengthy post on August 5, 2010, “Selective Retraction of Inaccurate Statements About Public Figures: A Case Study,” Richards examines a political post on Twitter containing multiple inaccurate statements as a case study in political communication.  Richards’s measured and scholarly tone is a refreshing contrast to the brainless shouting and personal attacks that abound nowadays as purported political discussions and debates.

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February 25, 2011

Mistresses in history and literature

Having posted on passion and probate law earlier this week, it seems timely to note that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s “The Book Show” featured a Canadian writer and academic, Elizabeth Abbott, speaking to host Ramona Koval about her book, “Mistresses:  A History of The Other Womanon February 24. Abbott’s book is part of a nonfiction trilogy:  she’s also published a history of marriage and one of celibacy.

History and literature have provided Abbott and others with plenty of material on the topic. Charles Dickens, who worked briefly as a law clerk and wrote many a good story having to do with lawyers and legal matters, went to great lengths to keep his mistress a secret. Writer Claire Tomalin took mere scraps Dickens left behind as clues to create a masterful narrative in her book, “The Invisible Woman:  the Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens.”

Speaking of Canadian professors, Dickens, and the law, Associate Professor Kate Sutherland of Osgood Hall Law School at York University in Toronto has started a new blog, law.arts.culture, in which she explores the intersection of law and the arts. Sutherland described Dickens’s 1844 copyright suit over “The Christmas Carol” earlier this month.  Follow her on Twitter for fascinating tweets on law and literature from her handles @lawartsculture, @LawandLit, and @katesbookblog.

On a different front, Joel Stickley’s blog, “How To Write Badly Well,” is great fun for readers and writers alike.  I particularly enjoyed his post on allowing autonomy to body parts.  Check it out!

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