You may be wondering why I have not blogged about the forthcoming book Anonymous Lawyer, by Jeremy Blachman. You may not be wondering -- you may have assumed that I haven't read it or that I'm not interested in it or that I don't think you would be interested in it. If you assumed any of those things, you were mistaken.
Here's why I haven't written about it. I just counted, on my hard drive. I have 12 drafts of the book saved there. I've read it and edited it and read it again and had countless phone conversations and email exchanges with Jeremy when he was writing it. If the book were a baby, I might be one of the midwives or nurses in the birthing room. Or an aunt. I feel pretty connected to the book.
So I can't review it as a book with any real integrity. My dad read it, and liked it, and so did my housemate. Neither of them are lawyers. Both thought it was funny. I can tell you it is funny, with confidence, not just because of that but because there were still moments after reading draft after draft when I would laugh out loud. That's pretty rare for me, but the book has a lot of dark and spot on humor.
What I think is most interesting about the book is what Evan Schaeffer commented on in his review. I think it's the first book that uses a blog as a narrative vehicle, and in doing so Jeremy explores a question I find pretty compelling -- how do we know who to trust? What makes someone authentic, believeable, truthful? Anonymous Lawyer, the character, has a distinctive narrative voice and in his trumped-up, over-the-top, angry and heirarchical persona he tells exaggerated stories. But there's some kind of truth in that voice, and the blog has hit a vein. People respond. In the book, there's an active tension between the blog persona and the "real" persona (as evidenced by emails). Sometimes AL is telling the "truth" on the blog, and sometimes in the emails, and sometimes he's lying in both. The reader is faced with an unreliable narrator, and I find novels with unreliable narrators complex and interesting.
I don't think the strength of the book is its plot, or its depiction of law firm life. It's not a memoir or a thriller or a highbrow "modern literature" book and its' not intended to be a truthful depiction of the life of a corporate law partner. It's a funny, fast, novel, with a healthy dose of social commentary about heirarchy and where we find meaning. It's about our self-image and how we construct it, and how we prop up that self-image when it falters. And it's the first novel to explore, in a fairly interesting way, the way blogs do that. Blogs are private, and public. As a vehicle for an unreliable narrator the blog is very interesting, and I am not sure the cultural conversation about blogs has really started to embrace the complexity of the way people are exploring, sharing, and creating their identities online. I think the book begins that conversation in an interesting way.
On a personal note, it's been a really neat experience for me to watch Jeremy construct the book. I feel pretty certain that it will be a commercial success, and it's fun to have a friend going through the publishing process who can tell me about the ups and downs and victories and frustrations.