19 April 2010

The Guilt Project:
Rape, Morality, and Law

I rate this book a 3 out of 5. As a whole concept it fails, but if you read it like you would a blog - section by section without an expectation of a strongly coherent whole - it can provoke thought.

For the first two sections of this book, I was searching for some coherent theme. Expecting the book to be either about the nuts and bolts of representing rapist on appeal or a screed against the evils of the system, I found a book wherein there's a lot of stream of thought which wanders between philosophy, sociology, reality, theory, and personal affect. It keeps harrying off into stream of consciousness every time you turn a page - or even start to read a new paragraph. Generally the thoughts are interesting, but they only link together with the barest of threads.

Before I had finished reading the Introduction and Section I: Guilt and Me, I was convinced that this was a blogger who had decided to put all her blog posts together as best she could into a book. I stopped and looked up the author sure that I would find a public defender blog tied to Vanessa Place. I was wrong.

It turns out that Vanessa Place is actually an author of poems and "experimental literature." Apparently, her most famous writing is a 50,000 word 177 page book Dies: A Sentence. Why is it famous? Because she only uses one period in the entire book (on page 117). Here's an excerpt:

Not my cup of tea, but not terrible either. Still, between this and the way the Intro and Section I went, I was beginning to wonder about this lady writing appellate briefs.

No worries, in the next three sections she shows that she knows the her stuff inside and out - the way you can only know it if you've spent the time researching and arguing a subject. It's hit or miss; some sections are extremely informative while others are expositions on philosophy and sociology.

I'm torn by this book. I found parts informative and some downright fascinating. If the subsections had been broken down and been individual blog entries I would be full of praise for an insightful, well thought through blog. But as a whole book it just doesn't hang together. Balancing these two impulses out, I have rated it a 3.
5: Touched by God - a work which makes Shakespeare look infantile
4: Amazing - Instantly began rereading it and quoting it to friends
3: Worth Every Penny - a solid, interesting read, inspiring some thought and discussion with people who share similar interests
2: I Paid For It So I Finished Reading It - Some interesting parts but if I lose the book I'm not buying another copy
1: Couldn't Force My Way Thru and Burnt the Book in order to send it to the Hell it deserves
[addendum]For the record, I was given a courtesy copy of the book by a publicist, but later bought a copy for my Kindle.

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