Law in Contemporary Society
I had trouble with Eben's discussion of Tharaud's attentiveness in Cerriere's Answer. My impression of Tharaud for the first half of the piece was that she seemed distracted by her observances, to the point where it almost felt like she was vomiting trivia or talking nervously. My sense was that he was keeping her companion at arm's length by avoiding engaging with him. I was surprised to hear this called "attentiveness." While I agree that we should cultivate the characteristic of attentiveness in ourselves, I didn't think Tharaud necessarily demonstrated that.

Could someone shed some light on this?

-- MolissaFarber - 12 Mar 2009

I think that the dialogue is somewhat distracting, but perhaps the broader purpose of her behavior is given away by the title--"Lawyerland". This is simply my own theory.

To extrapolate, Lawyerland is a place, populated by (you guessed it) lawyers, where the discussion are less about the law, than, perhaps, how lawsuits or legal disputes might turn out. Much like Robinson's character, Tharaud is much more interested in the economic relationship between the worker and her employer--in hypothesizing the outcome of a potential tort--than she is about the law itself (i.e., is this negligence on the part of the employer, contributory negligence on the part of the employee, etc?). That observation, much like the observation that Roy Cohn was a closeted homosexual and yet more than contemptuous toward gays demonstrates how an attention to detail might lead to a better explanation of his behavior. One step further, it might shed light on how his distaste of gays and communists was crucial in motivating prosecutions and securing convictions. To be an adversary to Cohn, or to the employer, or to any lawyer, these details are essential. The knowledge of "the law" is a given, and, thus, is not discussed by Tharaud.

-- KahlilWilliams - 12 Mar 2009

Perhaps the fact that it was spoken, rather than merely internalized, breaks up the dialogue and makes it feel as if she is keeping her guest "at arm's length". But that is necessary for the story to operate the way it does, right? In a real scenario she probably wouldn't seem as artificially distracted because all of that would be seamlessly integrated in her mind.

-- MichaelDignan - 13 Mar 2009

I too thought that Tharaud (and Robinson) appeared more distracted than attentive. But as Michael points out, we wouldn't react the same if her ideas were simply internal thoughts.

The structure of the Lawyerland stories helps explain why dialogue is used. In the two we have read, the author has a conversation with lawyer. If Tharaud or Robinson simply thought all of these ideas, the dialogue would likely be unneccesary and perhaps even detract from the goal of the story.

For me, then, the question is why does Joseph use this conversation structure as opposed to internal thought-examination? Perhaps the conversation allows the reader to feel like a real participant in the character's life rather than a mystical mind-reader?

-- KeithEdelman - 24 Mar 2009

I suppose it makes sense to look at the long bits of dialogue as a literary mechanism, but that seems like an oversimplification. If those "attentive" observances were meant to be inner thoughts, Joseph could have written it that way.

As far as Keith's question on why Joseph uses conversation instead of thought, I found a clue when searching for the book on Amazon. The subtitle of the book is "What Lawyers Talk About When They Talk About Law," suggesting that the book is primarily an examination of the actual talk of lawyers about the law. Perhaps the talk is more important than the thoughts? If law is the art of making things change in society using words, our focus should correctly be on the verbalized aspects of conversation.

-- MolissaFarber - 24 Mar 2009



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r7 - 07 Jan 2010 - 21:35:52 - IanSullivan
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