Monday, May 17, 2010

Another Getting It reader

This non-U.S. reader enjoyed Getting It and thought it very funny but was also disturbed by its dark side:

"There is a feeling of Enron ... [We see the characters'] lack of morality, their dishonesty (e.g., with regard to billable hours), their lack of any interest in anything but their work (e.g., they only pretend to be interested in art or the opera) and they are interested in their work not because they are really interested in what they are doing, but only because of status reasons.

"As mentioned above, behind the humor that requires of course the characters to be exaggerated I found some really interesting truths in the book. Truths that could apply to certain parts of American society. To me, this is what makes the book really good, beyond the few hours of entertainment. Everyone is very lonely. Doberman has no one [he cares about or who cares about him]. Not only because Lyla is [often] angry with him. Even if she were not, he does not really love her. And it is unclear that she loves him (I would say she does not). The other two associates have their wives but seem to have no friends. The partner and everyone else hate the weekend, even though their workdays are quite horrible too. Most of the characters do not like their parents (and usually had miserable childhoods) and hate their parents-in-law. They do not have real friends. They meet people only for networking purposes. And raising kids is thought to be a very difficult task.

"It is unclear to me what makes them happy. What are they trying to maximize. Interestingly (and accurately I think) the lawyers do not really care about the money. They care about their status (share of the profits; say at the meeting; office; power; etc.). The women want to get married but it is unclear exactly why, because it is unclear that they want kids. As I wrote before [the characters] seem to have no friends. Work takes almost all of their time (they work on weekends), and it seems all they want is to be left alone to do something that is low brow.

"It is a really good book. I will strongly recommend it to my friends."

Here I feel compelled to step in and say on my own behalf: This was not autobiography, but a kind of social criticism. If I do end up writing a legal academic novel - and I'm starting to think about it as a possible long-term project but would want to stay light-years away from anything resembling (or at risk of being taken for) roman a clef - I am going to reverse my anti-hero, making him (in this case, as a classic incompletely reliable first-person narrator) an almost photo negative of Doberman: someone who is extremely nice and blessed with a few really good relationships but rather dim and one of nature's born losers.

UPDATE: Another reader, agreeing that it's disturbing, thinks legal ethics classes might conceivably use it (!). I responded that I am willing to show up, for my usual fee (zero), at any law school (or perhaps other?) class in the NYC Metro area at which Getting It is discussed.

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