My pretend internet friend LizardBreath has written a review of my novella. It is an astounding piece of work. I expected no less from LizardBreath, being familiar with her skills, knowing full well that when she gets down into a subject she extracts its essence before she’s finished. When LizardBreath wants to do a hack job, that’s what she does, and does it well. I give her credit.

The novella, which can incidentally be purchased here for $1, is about my experience as a first year associate at a law firm in Chicago. It is filled with sex, drugs, and irresponsible behavior and is all based on actual facts, except for the parts I made up. It’s written in a pared-down style, which I like to employ from time to time, and can be read in an afternoon. LizardBreath read it in one evening and if I remember her correctly, she couldn’t put it down.

Back to the hack job. LizardBreath started at the base and worked her way up. She first alleged that I was writing within a genre that I didn’t know existed. I will call it the Junior Associate At A Law Firm In Chicago genre as I do not have the space or inclination to quote her tortured explanation of it. Apparently lots of people have written books about being first year associates at a law firm and all the titillating depravity which takes place therein. I hadn’t read them or seen them anywhere myself, but then again I do not claim to have the same appetite as LB and certainly do not share her scope. Unfortunately LizardBreath did not state the titles of these books within my genre or any of their authors and I could not find them via google or amazon search. I wish she had done me that service, along with the other. I’d like to be aware of my competition. But I shouldn’t complain as LizardBreath did complete a very thorough job for me, and I was begging for it.

The important thing I suppose is that LizardBreath does not like this genre because it “complain[s] about life.” The books in it, which I assume do actually exist, are either too realistic or too unrealistic. The realistic ones are petty, because being a first year associate is, according to LizardBreath, irrevocably petty. The unrealistic ones are too “pumped up with intensity.” I don’t know which category my book falls into—she never said—but either way it’s a bad one.

The hack job flowed delicately to the tip. The book is in a bad genre but is also “independently not good.” That’s because LB did not like the limited perspective from which I chose to write. It’s a first person retelling of a failed pro bono case, from a narrator who just gives the facts. LB wanted more expressions of the narrator’s feelings, but I chose to create those feelings with concrete images, sounds, and occurrences rather than simply listing them. In other words, I told a story.

I like to employ understatement. From this, LizardBreath assumes that the narrator does not have feelings. If I thought she’d do it, I would ask LizardBreath to take another pass at it and try to figure out what’s actually going on in my book. Or perhaps LizardBreath only likes the sort of writing that sums its characters up in neat little sentences (or long tortuous ones). I don’t. I don’t think people can be understood apart from the particularities of their stories, and I try to write characters who are real in that sense. I don’t give them labels. I don’t even presume to understand them myself, apart from what they would do, say, and think in the particular matters I dramatize.

I prefer to come at things concretely, and try to give the reader the appropriate feeling by putting her in place of my characters. LizardBreath doesn’t like that type of writing. She thinks it’s sociopathic. If only she knew how sad that made me feel! It might lead me to write another sad book which requires some small amount of interpretation to understand, risking another disappointment if LizardBreath, having proved in the past to always fully comprehend things, did not quite get it all the way.

LizardBreath assumes that because I wrote a novella about being a first year associate that I was not a good one. I don’t know why my legal competence is particularly relevant to the success of my book, but I am an egotistical person driven to respond that, in fact, my first year reviews were quite excellent. I would happily provide LizardBreath with a list of references from my old employer, Jenner & Block, if she has any further interest in my proficiency. I remember the place quite fondly. Many a day did we sit in merry conference rooms performing legal tasks with cheer and camaraderie and many a Friday evening did we drink free booze on the firm’s dime. I left that place a little older and grayer but wiser, to clerk for a judge in Nashville for two years. After that I worked for Quinn Emanuel, in Los Angeles, a shitty place full of assholes.

Perhaps because she thinks that any lawyer who writes a book must be a bad lawyer, LizardBreath is disappointed to find that the narrator of my book is actually good at depositions. She didn’t think a first year associate could possibly know what he knew. I don’t want to be uncharitable and ascribe this bias to LizardBreath’s own experience with depositions (especially keeping in mind how charitable LizardBreath has been in the past) but I do wish she would accept the narrator for who he is on the page. If she had wanted a story about an incompetent lawyer, I’m sure she could have written one herself.

A few small points. LizardBreath asks whether American Apparel actually sells brown fuzzy women’s underpants. I can say with certainty that they no longer do, but once did. I would send her a pair to prove it, but they’re my only ones and I’m not parting with them on the basis of a single hack job. LB is also confused on the passage of time. The story takes place over the course of a year, not a month. I think that’s pretty clear. I wasn’t hiding any balls.

LizardBreath closed by asking me not to tell anyone she had never done anything for me. I certainly won’t from now on, though I may not have given her proper credit before. All in all I am disappointed that LizardBreath did not enjoy the book as much as I enjoyed her smooth, epic hack job. I never felt her bite and had the idea she knew what she was doing, though maybe she hadn’t thought everything through. In any case I hope she will do it again soon.

She gave me a competent hack job, and I will always remember it fondly. Anyone interested can buy the novella here for a dollar. It’s called Professional Responsibility.

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