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The Curve ()

When I was at Colgate in the early '80s, one of our top-ranked classmates was reputedly busted cheating, but had just been admitted to Yale Law School--the first 'Gater in a while to get in--so nothing was done about it. In Law School, in the early '90s, a group of the "good" students contacted the actual law firm from our Moot Court case and asked for help. Nothing was done about them either. Although, when I wrote a poem for the school paper--Hammurabai's Code, in which I suggested a cheat for a cheat was the apparent standard we should follow--it was accidentally published Anonymously and cause a brief firestorm of controversy. And a few years ago I wrote an eventually unpublished account of a cheating scandal at our local high school. The perpetrators involved sons of our muckraking local newspaper columnist and a mucky-muck at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, but they eventually weaseled their way out of charges too. [While a number of them even confessed to breaking into the High School to steal tests, NH has an old law that you can't be convicted based solely on your own confession, so their parents and lawyers just had them not testify against each other.] Suffice it to say, I've long lost any naivete about the purity of academia.

In this hilarious novel by Jeremy Blachman and Cameron Stracher, the fictional Manhattan Law School--situated along the banks of the toxic Gowanus Canal--serves those students who can't get into more prestigious institutions; largely taught by burn-out refugees from the legal profession. It provides them with inadequate education/training amidst horrifically decayed facilities at absurdly high costs, offering them little chance of competing for the sorts of jobs that would actually allow them to repay their exorbitant loans. Into this milieu comes our hero, idealistic young Adam Wright, who genuinely believes in the profession and the teaching of law.

He is quickly confronted with a reality that includes : uninterested students who text while he lectures; colleagues who long ago gave up trying to teach; and an administration that sees the student body as walking dollar signs and just wants to cash their tuition checks. At first he thinks he has found an ally in resisting this rot, the beautiful Laura Stapleton, with whom he begins a relationship.

But things are much worse than even Adam realizes and he soon discovers that the school is not just a diploma mill but that top grades are for sale to those students who can afford them. Appalled, Adam puts together a colorful band of allies to take on the morally bankrupt system.

The book is hilarious and the satire joyously savage. Even the characters who are not fully fleshed out are damn funny caricatures. You'll find yourself--or at least I did--casting the movie as you read. We reviewed Mr. Blachman's Anonymous Lawyer years ago and were pleasantly surprised at its originality, comedy and ultimate command of plot--the last often gets lost in comic novels. He and his co-author pull off something just as impressive here. It would have been one thing to just eviscerate the money-making scam that modern academia has largely become, but they go well beyond that to close with a really hopeful vision of what the school, its professors and its students could become if the swamp was drained. Their skepticism is not just dark and nihilistic; it is driven by a quite charming idealism of their own. They confront us with the Superfund site that is Manhattan Law School (standing in for many real institutions), but end by cleaning it up. It's a genuinely uplifting novel.


Grade: (A+)


See also:

Jeremy Blachman (2 books reviewed)
Jeremy Blachman Links:

    -AUTHOR SITE: Anonymous Lawyer (Jeremy Blachman)
    -WIKIPEDIA: Jeremy Blachman
    -BOOK SITE: Manhattan Law School
    -ESSAY ARCHIVES: Jeremy Blachman (McSweeneys)
    -ESSAY ARCHIVES: Jeremy Blachman (FanGraphs)
    -ESSAY ARCHIVES: Jeremy Blachman (The Millions)
    -ESSAY: The 51st Best Law Firm For Women? The Anonymous Lawyer Weighs In (Ashby Jones & Jeremy Blachman, Aug 12, 2009, WSJ)
    -PODCAST: Will Law School Be a Disaster? (With Jeremy Blachman and Cameron Stracher) (Jen Carl, 6/09/16, Law School Toolbox)
    -ESSAY: Fact-Checking the Candidates on ... Everything (Jeremy Blachman, December 22, 2011, New Republic)
    -ESSAY: These Are a Few of Mitt’s Favorite Things… (Jeremy Blachman, February 24, 2012, New Republic)
    -PROFILE: Revealing the Soul of a Soulless Lawyer (SARA RIMERDEC. 26, 2004, NY Times)
    -PROFILE: Virtually fiction : HLS's Blachman blogs his way to writing contract (Ken Gewertz, 6/09/05, Harvard Gazette)
    -BOOK LIST: Radar's Top Summer Reads (Radar, 6/03/16)
    -REVIEW: of The Curve (Kelly Mclaughlin,
    -REVIEW: of The Curve (Brian Dalton, Above the Law)
    -REVIEW: of The Curve (Jewish Book Council)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVE: The Curve (Good Reads)
    -REVIEW: of The Curve (Feld Thoughts)
    -REVIEW: of The Curve (Megan Laubach ’18, Princeton Alumni Weekly) 2005 LINKS: ¬ítÄ
    -BLOG: Anonymous Lawyer
    -BOOK SITE: Anonymous Lawyer (Henry Holt)
    -EXCERPT: Excerpt from Anonymous Lawyer By Jeremy Blachman
    -ESSAY: Trials and Tribulations: What to Expect While Taking the Bar Exam (JEREMY BLACHMAN, 7/13/06, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL)
    -ARCHIVES: Jeremy Blachman (Harvard Law Record)
    -ARCHIVES: "anonymous lawyer (Find Articles)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Jeremy Blachman< (Written Voices Radio)
    -PROFILE: Revealing the Soul of a Soulless Lawyer (SARA RIMER, December 26, 2004, NY Times)
    -PROFILE: Lawyer files scathing satire (Clayton Moore, July 28, 2006, Rocky Mountain News)
    -PROFILE: Anonymous Lawyer puts satire in book: Ex-law student expands his fictional blog character to skewer The Man (Jessica Berthold, March 23, 2006, Baltimore Sun)
    -PROFILE: The 'Anonymous Lawyer' publishes a book based on a blog (Correy E. Stephenson, 8/19/06, St. Louis Daily Record & St. Louis Countian)
    -PROFILE: Web site tells of woes of attorneys (C.W. Nevius, January 8, 2005, SF Chronicle)
    -ARTICLE: After (Billable) Hours: Lawyers hoping to escape drudgery trade one form of verbiage for another. (CAMERON STRACHER, March 24, 2006, Opinion Journal)
    -ARTICLE: Lafsky’s Last Laugh: Secret Legal Blogger Says ‘I’m Opinionista!’ (Anna Schneider-Mayerson, 1/23/2006, NY Observer)
    -ARTICLE: Interns? No Bloggers Need Apply (ANNA BAHNEY, May 25, 2006, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Anonymous Lawyer by Jeremy Blachman (Jocelyn McClurg, USA TODAY)
    -REVIEW: of Anonymous Lawyer (Clayton Moore, Rocky Mountain News)
    -REVIEW: of Anonymous Lawyer (SALEM MACKNEE, Charlotte Observer)
    -REVIEW: of Anonymous Lawyer (National Law Journal)
    -REVIEW: of Anonymous Lawyer (David Lat, NY Observer)
    -REVIEW: of Anonymous Lawyer (Book List)
    -REVIEW: of Anonymous Lawyer (Stuart Shiffman, Bookreporter)
    -REVIEW: of Anonymous Lawyer (Nancy Gail, BlogCritics)
    -REVIEW: of Anonymous Lawyer (Larry Gandle, Tampa Bay Online)
    -REVIEW: of Anonymous Lawyer (

Cameron Stracher Links:

    -AUTHOR SITE: Cameron Stracher
    -WIKIPEDIA: Cameron Stracher
    -INTERVIEW: Law Blog Q&A: Cameron Stracher (Peter Lattman, May 24, 2007, WSJ)
    -INTERVIEW: Q&A: Cameron Stracher, on His Darkly Comic Novel About a Troubled Law School (Adam Cohen, National Book Review)

Book-related and General Links: