“Pleasing the Court With Intrigue”

I reviewed David Lat’s first novel Supreme Ambitions. I gave it glowing praise. I was interested, however, in what a real reviewer would write. Now, I have my answer.

Alexandra Alter has written a review for the New York Times of Lat’s novel. (“[F]or an elite niche — consisting largely of federal judges and their clerks — ‘Supreme Ambitions’ has become the most buzzed-about novel of the year.”)  The review is well worth reading, particularly because Ms. Alter is a journalist with chops and a fascinating personal background to boot.

She was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and grew up in Dhahran. She earned a college degree and master’s degrees in journalism and religion from Columbia University. She worked at The Miami Herald, covering local and national religion news. Before coming to the Times this summer, she wrote for The Wall Street Journal for the past five years. She focused on features and analytical pieces in the paper’s Friday arts and culture section. She profiled authors from Stephen King to Don DeLillo.

It seems that brother Lat has hit the big time. That makes me happy for David, and for young lawyers who are also aspiring writers.


2 responses

  1. I could say that reducing the supposed apparatus of the nation’s justice, such as it is, to smarmy tabloid fodder is not much of a public service. But that wouldn’t quite capture it.

    It’s inevitable that many of those who are ambitious – as in, hungry for status and honors – enough to wind up in the federal appeals courts can’t suddenly undergo a personality transplant, and they will continue to angle for more and more and focus on the only promotion left – the SCOTUS – while their actual day to day tasks, many involving life changing outcomes for others, are little more than annoying trifles.

    When Lat talks about “my people”, this is who he is referring to.

    Keeping a sense of humor is important. Sometimes a kind of gallows humor is the only relief from having to deal with weighty matters. It was common in the Navy, for example, for weapons officers to refer to themselves as “Dr. Death”. I’ve encountered analogous humor in the legal profession.

    But when it gets taken too far it turns really ugly, and if that kind of thinking takes hold in the judiciary we’ll wind up in a familiar Dickensian nightmare.

    I take comfort in the belief that David Lat’s “people” are not the dominant type among our elites, though of course I may be deluding myself. I wouldn’t want to do that. Not after the previous post quoting Shaw and all.

    Lat is very entertaining, but I can’t join in the hope that others will follow in his wake.

  2. You have succinctly described the modern judge on our CoA. The truth is even worse than fiction, as fiction has to make sense. Average citizens are seen as annoyances; Roberts achieves orgasm whenever he hears “ExxonMobil.”

    The rest of us have “surrendered.” But wishful thinking dies hard.

    The reviews are more disturbing than the book itself. “Disquieting insight.” “So realistic, it makes your teeth hurt.” And that is just from judges on the CoA.

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