Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

What if movie reviewers also reviewed law school casebooks?

Criminal Law
Written by Bill Boring and Dan Dull
1,239 pages

It should be a "Crime," and against the "Law" to print casebooks like "Criminal Law" -- A.O. Scott, New York Times CaseBook Review

"Criminal Law," the new casebook from the pens of Bill Boring and Dan Dull, opens today in law classrooms throughout the Northeast. And, like many other books in its genre, "Criminal Law" suffers from the problem of too many characters, too much action, and not enough time to build up any sympathy for any of the major players. It seemed like every ten pages, away would go the murderer, or the rapist, or the guy who tried to bring an unlicensed handgun to the discotecque. And would be replaced by another protagonist, with barely time to get to know him before he would disappear as well. If you like casebooks where one victim after another is paraded before your eyes, maybe this is the one for you. But if you like well-crafted melodrama, well, Boring and Dull have not done their jobs. What was perhaps the most baffling directorial decision was the idea to spend so much time on the judges in each of the portrayed cases. As if the man wearing the robe (and it's always a man, it seems, especially in the 1700s) is more interesting than the people at the tables or wearing the handcuffs. Judge after judge after judge, with no context for who they really are, no reason to care. Except they're there. In every scene. Constantly. For shock value, the beginning of the book does introduce some elements that are interesting to read -- but once the endless middle of the book approaches, we've been desensitized, and it's all the same. What really hurt the book was the collaboration -- Boring and Dull never quite were able to mesh their voices into one, and, in fact, their contributing authors all add other elements of inconsistency that are almost too much to tolerate. But the most egregious flaw in the book is what the authors called, "Notes and Questions." It's one thing to make an audience wade through case after case, but to ask them vexing questions and then not provide the answers -- well, that's downright "criminal." Do yourself a favor and wait until this one's out on DVD.

Excerpts from reviews around the country of "Criminal Law" --

"This book really got me excited about statutory rape!" -- Kobe Bryant

"I was disappointed we didn't make the final cut." -- Lyle and Eric Menendez

"I read the book in one sitting and loved it!" -- Your Criminal Law Professor