Law and Conversation

September 23, 2011

Mental health and criminal justice: The Treatment and The Cure

Challenge ButtonI posted a review of Australian writer Peter Kocan’s “The Treatment and The Cure” over on The Europa Challenge Blog this week. Kocan’s work is a worthy addition to the canon of literature dealing with the treatment of mental illness – the criminally insane, in particular. He knows what he’s writing about: he himself was sentenced to life in prison for attempting to assassinate the Australian Labor Party leader in 1966, when he was 19. After spending around ten years in a prison asylum, he was released. Since then, he’s made a career as a writer and has won major literary awards in Australia. Hope you’ll click on over and have a look at my review. Even better, read Kocan’s autobiographical book for yourself. It’s a compelling, and chilling, story.

Treatment of the mentally ill has a long and sordid history. In recent years, some judicial systems have tried addressing offenders with mental illnesses through setting up specialty courts, which I wrote about in the April 2008 issue of the Illinois Bar Journal. Kocan’s narrator doesn’t appear to be mentally ill at all; he describes a system in which, from his point of view, treatment in the form of medication or electroshock sessions is administered more for punishment, or on whim, than for therapy.

Other memorable stories of mental illness include Joanne Greenberg’s “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden,” Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar,” and the movie based on Sylvia Nasar’s biography of Nobel laureate John Nash, “A Beautiful Mind.” Ken Kesey’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” of course, is a classic novel about a prison mental hospital made into an equally classic movie with a superb performance by Jack Nicholson.

What are you reading this weekend?

September 14, 2011

Europa Challenge post: “Departure Lounge,” by Chad Taylor

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I have a new post on The Europa Challenge Blog, on a New Zealand noir novel, “Departure Lounge,” by Chad Taylor.

Noir isn’t generally my cup of tea, and I had some issues with this story, as I detail in my post. But I’m glad I read it; it’s part of a personal campaign for expanding my mind by reading books that are out of my usual genre preferences. I could tell that reading it had the desired mind-expanding effect, for I became really uncomfortable as I read the main character’s explanation of his mental processes and work as a thief: I wanted to take this imaginary individual by the shoulders and shout at him, “Stop! What are you DOING with your life?!” Hope you’ll click on over and check out my review.

Whether you’re unfamiliar with Europa Editions or a confirmed fan, as I am, this interview on Publishing Perspectives with Europa’s editor in chief, Michael Reynolds, is also interesting reading. And reading Taylor’s book, which is set in the author’s home town of Auckland, New Zealand, reminded me that one of my favorite podcasts comes from Radio New Zealand: Saturday Morning With Kim Hill, an eclectic program on which Hill interviews guests from all over the world on topics from books to politics to cooking to art to urban planning. And subscribing is FREE–I so love the internet!

September 2, 2011

Europa Challenge Blog: The Girl on the Via Flaminia

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I’m over on the Europa Challenge Blog today with a review of Alfred Hayes’s “The Girl on the Via Flaminia.” Originally published in 1949, the story is set in Rome as World War II winds down. It’s a powerful depiction of the unforeseen personal and legal complications of a simple business arrangement between a US GI and an Italian woman. Please click on over and check it out!

Last week I posted about my delight at having my cover story in the August 2011 issue of the Illinois Bar Journal, “To Tweet Or Not To Tweet,” selected as Pick of the Week by TechnoLawyer’s BlawgWorld

This week I’m preening all over again because the ABA Journal, published by the American Bar Association, picked up my cover story for this month’s (September 2011) issue of the IBJ, “The Five Biggest Business Mistakes Lawyers Make,” for which I interviewed Wauconda, Illinois lawyer Timothy Storm. I predict that Storm’s upcoming presentation at the ISBA’s Solo and Small Firm Conference in Springfield will have lawyers standing up and shouting “AMEN!” Please click on over and read the articles–ISBA has generously made them available to the public, free of charge. If you’re an Illinois lawyer and you’re NOT an ISBA member, what are you thinking? Go join right now! (This has been an unpaid public service and self-promotional announcement 😉 )

August 24, 2011

3 summer reads about Paris, and a giveaway

Earlier this week I recommended Anna Gavalda’s “French Leave” and posted a link to my review of the novella on The Europa Challenge Blog. As summer draws to a close, here are three more light, fun books with Parisian settings for the lawyer who needs to look up after hours from deadly serious briefs and cases, or for anyone else looking for something that’s not extra work to read:

1) “Le Divorce,” “Le Mariage,” and L’Affaire,” by Diane Johnson, a US Midwestern-born (Quad Cities, USA!) writer who now lives in Paris. It’s been a while since I read these interrelated novels, but I remember them fondly for their twisty plots, engaging characters, and entertaining descriptions of French and US cultures meeting at odd angles and what seemed to my US eyes the arcane French laws respecting property. “Le Divorce” was a finalist for the 1997 National Book Awards.

2) “French Milk,” by Lucy Knisley. This graphic memoir about the young author’s monthlong trip to Paris with her mother is charming without being cloying.

3) The City Of Lights has inspired many memoirs. Of those I’ve read, the most evocative and beautifully written has to be Ernest Hemingway’s “The Moveable Feast.” A new edition came out two years ago, somewhat controversially. Though I’ve read the original edition, also posthumously published, several times, every time I think of it I want to read it again.

Europa Editions is doing a book giveaway over on The Europa Challenge Blog, and I get extra entries for blogging about and linking to it! Please click on over and enter yourself, and while you’re there, read some of the reviews of the wonderful books that Europa publishes.

Are you reading anything fun these late summer days?

August 22, 2011

Read This: French Leave, by Anna Gavalda

Challenge ButtonSummer is drawing to a close, so if you haven’t yet had the chance for a relaxing vacation or staycation, I hope you can take one. Settling down with a fun, light book is my idea of the perfect getaway–so different from statutes and court opinions!

“French Leave,” by Anna Gavalda, translated by Alison Anderson and published by Europa Editions, recently provided me with a perfect weekend escape. I’ve posted my review of this charming novella on The Europa Challenge Blog.

What are your picks for light weekend or vacation reading?

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