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Monday, April 14, 2008

Citron on "The Greening of America"

The New York Law School Law Review has a reasonably engaging new symposium on legal scholarship, and also on the connections between law and legal writing and popular writing.  It's available here.

Of particular interest, I think, is this piece by Rodger Citron on "The Personal History of [Charles Reich's] The Greening of America."  The article describes itself in part as a tale about the costs incurred by law professors who suddenly find themselves on the public stage when a piece of writing achieves popularity among the broader reading public.  Just as much, though, it is simply a social and personal history of the birth and reception of Reich's famous (notorious?) book.  It is fairly gentle about the book itself, and about Reich's later writing -- too gentle, I think.  Noting the negative reviews of Reich's subsequent book The Sorcerer of Bolinas Reef, Citron writes, "It is entirely possible that The Sorcerer was not a good book," although he gently begs to differ.  This is too much suspension of judgment.  It is not only possible, but certain, that it is a dreadful book.  Citron's piece is nevertheless very interesting, one of those pieces of social and intellectual history about legal academia, a la Kalman, that I find irresistible.

My continued interest in the lifestyles of the super-class compels me to provide this especially amusing excerpt from Citron's piece, which serves as a nice little description of how the leadership caste, when they're not busy huntin' varmints, go about advocating revolutionary new ecstatic modes of living:

Reich completed his work on The Greening of America in early 1970.  There was one major problem with the manuscript, however.  Reich's editor at Random House, Alice Mayhew, did not like it. . . . As a result, the manuscript languished in New York despite entreaties from Reich and his supporters, including Professor [Thomas] Emerson [of Yale Law School].  Reich kept his mother, Eleanor, informed of the lack of progress.  Eleanor told the story of her son's idle manuscript to Lillian Ross, a well-known writer for the New Yorker and a mother of a child at the Horace Mann School for Nursery Years, which Eleanor ran.

Ross not only wrote for the New Yorker, she was the companion of William Shawn, the editor of the New Yorker.  Although Ross was given a copy of the manuscript, she did not have a chance to read it until it was published.  Shawn read the manuscript first and was so impressed that he immediately sought to publish Reich's work . . . .

Another nice bit of radical chic from Citron's piece: Anthony Lewis's use of the phrase "hang up" in his admiring correspondence to Reich.

Read the whole thing!    

Posted by Paul Horwitz on April 14, 2008 at 04:55 PM | Permalink

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