Thursday, December 06, 2012
On Epigraphs and Book Sales
Here's a fairly interesting review of a book called, "The Art of the Epigraph: How Great Books Begin." The review is critical of the book for collecting the epigraphs in a format that strips them from the context of the book, but both the review and the book offer plenty of interesting examples of epigraphs.
The usual advice for law review authors is to kill your epigraph. It's fair advice, insofar as the key piece of advice for law review authors is to kill as much as you can and leave just what you need. But I like an epigraph--a good one, anyway, and they're somewhat rare--even on a law review article. Readers are welcome to add their own examples of good (or bad) epigraphs on law review articles.
And, yes, this is also a back-door effort to drum up sales of my new book, First Amendment Institutions, which makes an excellent last-minute Hannukah gift. My book opens with an epigraph that had occurred to me long before I started the book itself, and that happens to be a gem of a quote for anyone interested in First Amendment institutions, intermediary institutions, pluralism, "freedom of the church," "little platoons," and so on. I won't quote it here, but it's from Dire Straits' terrific song "Telegraph Road." Here's my favorite version; enjoy.
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I'm generally in favor of epigraphs when they're drawn from primary source material-- song lyrics when you're writing about the use of others' trademarks in hip-hop; a favorite example of "blind justice" imagery if you're writing about the metaphor across legal history. Epigraphs from other authorities, like an excerpt from a court opinion or law review article on the topic about which you're writing, usually can be killed. They don't add much, and they threaten to show up the author. ("In this article I argue X. In my epigraph, [famous judge or scholar] articulated this concept/the opposing view more clearly and artfully than I ever could.")
Posted by: alex roberts | Dec 7, 2012 2:25:26 AM