by Sukey HowardJanuary 2012
Legal dreams and schemes
John Grisham is such a good storyteller that it’s easy to forget how much you can learn about law and justice, with all “its flaws and ambiguities,” while listening to one of his legal thrillers. In The Litigators, performed with verve and nuanced care by Dennis Boutsikaris, he seamlessly embeds the ins and outs of mass tort litigation in a can-a-young-lawyer-leave-the-big-firm-and-make-it tale. The young lawyer is David Zinc, 32 and already burned out by the drudgery at his fancy, fast-track law office. After an alcohol-fueled day of soul-searching, he literally lands on the doorstep of Finley & Figg, a pair of ambulance-chasing, down-at-the-heels street lawyers always hoping for a big case to bail them out of boredom and near-bankruptcy. What unfolds thereafter, replete with David-and-Goliath encounters with corporations, evil and benevolent, and good courtroom drama, will have you rooting for the good guys, and a bit more legally savvy, too.
THE ROCKY ROAD TO LOVE
The Marriage Plot, Jeffrey Eugenides’ highly anticipated new novel, is, despite much talk of post-modernism and deconstruction, a mostly traditional novel, with bountiful backstories, a love triangle and the coming-of-age, coming-apart, coming-to-your-senses gyrations implicit in its resolution. If Eugenides was wondering whether “the marriage plot,” so successfully used by Jane Austen and Henry James, can be central in a 21st-century novel—he makes it clear that it can. He gives us a truly contemporary look at the vagaries of love and the need to find yourself before you can find your mate. The three participants in this romantic tangle are Mitchell Grammaticus, clever and intrigued by Christian mysticism, who loves beautiful, WASPy Madeleine, who in turn loves brilliant-but-bipolar Leonard. The book follows them as they bumble through the months after their graduation in 1982, making mistakes and a few feeble moves toward adulthood. Narrator David Pittu does a fine job delineating each character.
TOP PICK IN AUDIO
If you haven’t made a literary resolution yet, please listen to Nathaniel Philbrick read his wonderfully entertaining, enlightening invitation to a great American classic, Why Read Moby-Dick. Yes, I too resisted it (a mild euphemism) in high school—but now, older and much wiser for Philbrick’s brilliant explanation and easily understood exegesis of this whale of a book, I think I know why I didn’t get it as a teenager, what I’ve missed and what wonders lie ahead in the reading. Wearing his scholarship lightly, Philbrick puts Moby-Dick’s creation in the context of conflicted, pre-Civil War America; offers insights into Melville’s life as a seaman, husband and author whose greatest book was ignored in his lifetime; and turns Melville’s Moby-meanderings into fabulous finds for an attentive reader. But it’s Philbrick’s unflagging, infectious enthusiasm and love for both book and author that stays with you.