A WRITER'S WIT
My Book World
Without the effective images, the colorful and useful marginalia, this book about Ruth Bader Ginsburg might be reduced to a much smaller size, yet making it far less attractive. The young authors have fully exploited the capabilities of modern printing by taking such aspects to their most interesting extremes. Not only that but they have produced a fact-filled yet engaging tome about a woman who may be the most fascinating and knowledgeable justice now sitting on the bench of the Supreme Court of the United States.
Each chapter title is penned in a splashy font that looks as if someone printed it with a black marker. The authors include an attractive timeline that demonstrates where RBG’s eighty-two-year-old life falls. They include not only interesting photographs of RBG but also those of important letters and documents. They include an effective chart of “RBG’s Women’s Rights Cases,” that illustrates what was at stake, RBG’s role, and the result. Important annotations in the margins are inked in red!
RBG’s rise is a difficult one, but once she sets her sights on something she doesn’t stop until she’s reached her goal. In fact, such an outlook guides her entire career. For example she shocks women by stating that Roe v. Wade is won too early:
“‘If only the court had acted more slowly,’ RBG said, and cut down one state law at a time the way she had gotten them to do with the jury and benefit cases. The justices could have been persuaded to build an architecture of women’s equality that could house reproductive freedom. She said the very boldness of Roe, striking down all abortion bans until viability, had ‘halted a political process that was moving in a reform direction and thereby, I believe, prolonged divisiveness and deferred stable settlement of the issue.’” (85).
But RBG does not plan to ease up on the issue. “Ten years into the Roberts court, much of what RBG has fought for remains at risk, starting with reproductive freedom. The court is poised to consider restrictions on abortion clinics that affect tens of millions of women. ‘We will never see a day when women of means are not able to get a safe abortion in this country,’ RBG told me. An abortion ban, she said, only ‘hurts women who lack the means to go someplace else.’ Public sector unions and affirmative action are already in the court’s crosshairs” (175-6).
Of legalese, or more properly, legal prose, RBG says, “‘If my opinion runs more than twenty pages,’ she said, ‘I am disturbed that I couldn’t do it shorter.’” The mantra in her chambers is ‘Get it right and keep it tight.’ She disdains legal Latin, and demands extra clarity in an opinion’s opening lines, which she hopes the public will understand. ‘If you can say it in plain English, you should,’ RBG says. Going through ‘innumerable drafts,’ the goal is to write an opinion where no sentence should need to be read twice. ‘I think that law should be a literary profession,’ RBG says, ‘and the best legal practitioners regard law as an art as well as a craft’” (121).
This Carmon/Knizhnik book is beautiful, informative, and smartly written! Buy it for your friends for birthdays, for Christmas, or for graduation from law school!
NEXT TIME: New Yorker Fiction 2016